Caregiver with terminal cancer raises money to see son
Caregiver with terminal cancer raises money to see son
By Dyan Ruiz
A caregiver with terminal cancer is raising money to bring her son from the Philippines so she can be with him in Canada.
Edna Aldovino left the Philippines when her son was five years old to work abroad in 1999. Since then, she has worked in four countries to support her son, Kenneth. She came to Canada to work as a caregiver in 2009 and never stopped working to support him, even when she found out in 2011 that she had breast cancer. She persisted in supporting him until the cancer began to spread, first to her liver then to her brain. Now she’s too sick to travel and her only desire is to see her son.
“If the doctors say my life is less than two years, I’m hoping that I can stay with my son. That’s my only wish,” she said in an emotional interview with The Philippine Reporter in her small apartment near Bathurst and Wilson.
“I left him when he was five years [old] and he was a little baby at the time and now I’m not beside him. So until the rest of my life, I want to be with him so that we can spend happy hours with each other because we never experienced it– staying a long time. One month is the longest and it’s not enough for us,” she said. Aldovino would only see her son on her vacations between working as a domestic worker first in Taiwan, then Kuwait, Singapore, Hong Kong and finally Canada.
“I need him,” she said. “When he’s beside me, my mind is not thinking, ‘he’s in Philippines.’ He’s alone. And I know also for myself he can give me a little bit more strength to fight for this,” she said.
The Thorncliffe Neighborhood Office is accepting donations to help bring her son to Canada under a Visitor’s VISA and to help Aldovino with her needs as she is no longer able to work.
She was first diagnosed with cancer in February 2011 when she noticed a lump in her breast. But she thought she was lucky because the son of the elderly man she was the caregiver for worked at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. She had surgery only a month after discovering the cancerous growth.
“But when I was in chemotherapy, after my surgery, my breast cancer has already metastasized. It had transferred to my liver. And while I was on radiation for my liver, it transferred again to my head and brain.”
“This cancer is like patong patong. Not one at a time. It’s one after the other. That’s why I can’t recover,” she said.
“As far as the weaknesses, I only started feeling weak last March when I started having surgery for my brain, but before I would go for chemotherapy and radiation, but I’m still working day and night,” she said.
“But when it comes everything stopped,” she said gesturing to her head her voice weakening. “Too much pain. That’s why this time I’m really asking for help for my son,” she said in a whisper, tears filling her eyes.
Her son, Kenneth, is now 19-years-old and is in third year university studying criminology.
When Aldovino first left the Philippines, her husband was working as a policeman, “but his salary is not enough for all of us. Even though I only have one kid. So I asked him if he would allow me to go abroad and he said OK so I tried,” she said. She separated from her husband three years later and since then has been the sole breadwinner for her son.
09 through the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), she came through an agency, “but it was release upon arrival. When I came I didn’t have work,” she said.
When caregivers come to Canada, applications are supposed to be filled out by their future employer, where the caregiver will be a live-in nanny for children or personal support worker for the elderly or disabled. Sometimes when the caregiver arrives in Canada, she discovers that the employer on his or her papers no longer wants to hire the caregiver. In other instances, recruitment agencies have been known to fill out fraudulent paperwork to collect fees.
Edna stayed in Canada for almost a year before she could find someone who was willing to hire her with the proper arrangement under the LCP.
She finished her work requirement in April 2013, just months before the maximum allowed time. A caregiver must work the equivalent of two years full-time within four years to be able to become a permanent resident.
She applied for permanent residence soon after with her son listed as a dependent. A past change to the LCP has removed the requirement for a second medical exam. The change was called the “Juana Tejada Law” named after a caregiver who had cancer and fought to change the law so that caregivers would not be disqualified for permanent residence if they were sick.
As for her son, Ahmed Hussein, Director of Programs and Services at the Thorncliffe Neighborhood Office said that they are worried that the Visitor VISA they helped her complete for Kenneth may not be approved. He said he was concerned that because Kennneth is no longer a minor, it is less likely he will be approved for a visit.
The Office still has not heard from the Philippine Embassy about Kenneth’s visit.
This spring, the Office helped the family of Maricon Gerente, a caregiver who had suffered a brain tumor and was in a coma while she was granted permanent residence and her daughters were brought to Canada. This was made possible through the efforts of Gerente’s former employers, Jodie and Eli Gilbert, and staff at the Office. As part of the fundraising, the Gilberts collected Air Miles to bring Gerente’s daughters to Canada.
The Gilberts have donated Air Miles not used for the Gerente girls to help bring Kenneth to Canada.
Aileen Bazon Tan, Gerente’s cousin who will be taking care of her daughters now that she has died, contacted Aldovino’s new friends to ask if they can help. Oakville resident Jonathan Banzuela was at her house when The Philippine Reporter interviewed Aldovino, as he had been nearly every day that week.
“My friends and I have been coming here because when we came here we found out that she was all by herself and no one really coming by. Of course all her friends are also at work, so we understood that,” Banzuela said.
“Like her, I have one son,” he said. “I lost my wife two years ago, so I know the feeling of being alone all of a sudden.
He just met Aldovino a few weeks ago and now is among her most ardent supporters and closest friends. “We’re just somebody from Oakville who wants to help. We’re not part of any organization. We were contacted and asked if we could pitch in,” he said.
As part of Kenneth’s visitor VISA application, he signed the letter of support that he will be responsible for Kenneth financially and “of course, because of Edna, the well-being of Kenneth while he’s here.”
The Thorncliffe Filipino Canadian Senior Club has raised money to pay for Kenneth’s visitor application, but more funds will be needed to take care of Aldovino’s expenses as she is no longer able to work.
Aldovino feels better now that she has her new friends. “Sometimes I’m in pain, but when I call them, it’s OK,” she said. They’ve helped her with getting food and even if they’re working, they call her if she’s going to the hospital. They told her about the free transportation to her treatments from the Cancer Society. She used to take the bus to the hospital.
“I’m so thankful for everyone who’s helping me right now who have a heart to help me because I know that I can’t do it alone, I’m only one,” she said.
“They treat me like a family and that’s what I need. Ever since, I feel alone. I’m only one here. And I’m so happy that everyone is here and I’m really not alone and I feel it now,” Aldovino said.
While some things are improving, she continues to yearn for her son.
She did not tell him how serious her cancer was until this May when she had brain surgery, “because I don’t want him to affect his studies,” she said.
When she finally told him how serious the cancer was “he didn’t say anything to me,” she said crying even harder than before. “And he didn’t talk at all. But when I talked to his girlfriend, it was emotional. That’s why I don’t want him to know what is totally the truth. In the first place, I want to tell him when he is here already, I wanted to tell personally.”
He knows now and “that’s why he wants to come over here. He wants to look after me,” she said. “I told him doctors know everything but only God knows how long we stay.”
“It’s a long time already that I never saw him and maybe somebody can help to bring him,” she said between tears. “He’ll give me a lot if he’s beside me because I miss him,” she said, “My last vacation was 2011. It’s a long time already. That time I’m not sick. It’s a different situation now.”
For more details about donations, call Bala Shan at the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO) 416-421-1495, ext 232, or e-mail him at email@example.com.
Cheques can be made payable to Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office (TNO). Indicate “Edna Aldovino funds” in the memo section of the cheque and mail or deliver it to Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, 28 Overlea Blvd (Lower Level), Toronto ON, M4H 1B6.
The Office is also organizing a support group for Edna. For more information on joining the support group, contact Maria Leynes at 647-296-6204 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.