Actress and two-time cancer survivor Liezl Martinez didn’t cry when doctors told her that she had the dreaded disease. The tears came instead when she began shedding hair. “I lost my hair, my eyebrows, my lashes. I was not even pale; my skin was ashen in color,” Liezl, 46, told reporters in a press briefing at The Medical City in Pasig. It was the first time the actress faced the media after her latest bout with cancer, which spread to her left lung after she successfully recovered from stage 3 breast cancer. Liezl had to undergo mastectomy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and also had to suffer through intense chemotherapy and radation therapy. “When you think about it, you might say that it’s just hair,” Liezl said. But she added that her crowning glory meant so much more to her, and probably to other cancer patients.
“It reminds you that you have cancer no matter how hard you’ve tried to carry on, or even if you have stuffed your bra to look as normal as possible,” Liezl said. This is why when the disease was found to have recurred as stage 4 cancer, hitting her lungs, Liezl begged her doctors to let her keep her hair by looking for other procedures.
“I didn’t want to lose my hair. I also didn’t want to do the chemo we had the last time because if it didn’t work the last time, why would we do it again?” Liezl said. The actress said she was lucky that her doctors tailored her treatment according to her needs using a breakthrough procedure called molecular profiling. Experts at the Medical City’s Institute of Personalized Molecular Medicine analyzed Liezl’s genes to predict her response to drugs and other therapies. Such a procedure, Liezl said, spared her from going through extensive and possibly damaging treatment which would not have worked anyway. Liezl had five chemotherapy sessions with six sessions of stem cell rescue, wherein stem cells are injected to help cells damaged by chemo to recover.
Medical City doctors Alan Paul Olavere and Samuel Bernal explained that the stem cells used in Liezl’s therapy were her own, having been extracted from her blood. Liezl meanwhile urged the public to be cautious about mushrooming stem cell centers, saying: “Definitely, I wouldn’t allow sheep or any animal stem cells in my body.” Moving forward, Liezl, who announced that her latest tests for cancer posted negative results, said she is enjoying life. “I would do whatever I could do now,” she said.
“I became so daring that I’ve done bungee jumping, scuba diving,” said the actress, who also sits as a member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. She’s planning to try skydiving next, Liezl said, adding that she’s also not closing her doors to projects, including a possible appearance in a teleserye. “I’m happy with MTRCB, I’m busy there and I am very passionate with what I’m doing. TV guestings would be okay,” she said.