MANILA (UPDATE 2) – Feisty Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago admitted on Wednesday that she has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Joking at first, she said: "I'm the only senator who, out of boredom, has developed a relationship with a boy toy. But that is not the case, the distinction lies somewhere else."
"Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce myself to you as the only senator who has been diagnosed with lung cancer as of last week. I have cancer of the left lung, which makes it hard for me to breathe."
At first, Santiago was teary-eyed but went on to launch jokes, saying she is even “excited” she has cancer.
"I’m very excited. I’m not kidding. [I told myself] Yes! I got cancer. Because now, I’m entering another dimension of my life, that’s my attitude.”
While the cancer has reached stage 4, it is not metastatic – which means, it is not spreading.
"This is good news. When they examined my biopsy, they discovered that certain persons like myself who are very, very lucky, have been capable of genetic mutation, maybe from living a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
She said the cells in her left lung have developed a “genetic mutation” that made them impermeable to cancer and “gives them energy to fight off the cancer nearby.”
Santiago said she does not smoke nor drink. “I don’t even commit adultery. I only tell lies to my husband.”
She said her doctors do not know what caused the cancer.
She joked: "Giving trouble to my colleagues at work is one definite cause of lung cancer because I talk all the time when I should be keeping quiet. But seriously, they have no clue."
She said she is lucky that the cancer is “well-behaved.”
"I believed in discipline all my life. Even my cancer cells are showing excellent discipline," she said.
Santiago said she will undergo chemotherapy – but in the form of a tablet, which she has to take every day.
Santiago has in her medical arsenal top doctors in the country and in the world. She said her sister, who is a doctor in Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, is in touch with the top lung cancer specialist there.
Here, the senator is being attended to by former Health Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral and Dr. Ruth Divinagracia.
“With the tablet, I hope the cancer will degenerate… If it does not, I will go to Cedars Sinai, which could be a cause of grief because it’s very expensive,” she said.
How will the lung cancer affect her political career? Santiago was not straightforward this time.
“I will see. I don’t know the effect yet. I was told, in good cases, [the chemotherapy] does not affect the cancer patient anymore,” she said.
She, however, added: "There is always a chance I might croak."
She said her doctor abroad would not give her any advice about it. “I’m notorious in the international community for doing my own thing. He’s not giving any advice that I will disregard anyway.”
Santiago earlier resigned from the International Criminal Court due to chronic fatigue syndrome.
One thing is for sure, however. The senator will not back down against her enemies.
“I don’t know what the reaction of my enemies are. Maybe they’ll be happy because, on one hand, I might die and they could get rid of me. But on the other hand, I might survive and I will get rid of them,” she said.