Hello everyone. Due to a few unforeseen complications that have come up, we had to shut down this campaign on Tuesday, May 15th, 2018. We would like to thank everyone for the tremendous outpouring of love and support you all have given, and we assure everyone that Lily, Yas, and The Horde are all well and the early closing of this campaign is not due to yet another medical crisis.
To update everyone on the current situation, the Kidney Transplant has been postponed because the donor backed out. But we have not lost hope and will try to keep everyone updated. For now, we're taking a breather.
My family and I would like to give our heartfelt thank you, for the outpouring of love and support from friends, family and strangers alike. I am awed, slightly embarrassed, humbled and deeply grateful. It has underlined what I have always known to be true: that despite these crises we are facing, my family and I are incredibly blessed.
My thanks to the incredible gofundme team: Matt Raymundo aka The Dude, Laurie Raymundo, our Social Media Exploder and our Funds Captain, Maia Raymundo. This was an amazing thing you did for us. I love you guys so much!
Wow...I feel like an Oscar winner.
Meet my cousin, Lily Nichols. She's not the type to ask for help, even in circumstances as extraordinary as these, so we're doing so for her.
Lily, 49, has worked for the past 20+ years as a voice actor in Manila and has become one of the most sought-after vocal talents in the Philippines. If you live in the country, you've most likely heard her voice before. She has given life to everything from ads, to airline safety videos, to cartoons and TV shows, to documentaries.
Lily is also living with cancer. She was diagnosed in 2016 with stage 4 invasive ductal carcinoma, which metastasized to her spine in 2017 after she had undergone chemotherapy and a dual mastectomy. She has since finished radiation therapy and is now on chemotherapy again to strengthen her spine: 60ml of Denosumab every 29 days for 1 year. The drug costs Php30,000 (just under $600 USD) per 60-ml vial. "The vials of this witch's brew do not come cheap," says Lily. "My oncologist said I won't lose my hair this time but...I could lose my teeth. Needless to say, I'd rather lose the hair. And let's call it Cancer of the Wallet while we're at it."
I would also like to introduce her husband, Yas Villanueva. Yas, 42, is a former seaman who gave up roaming the world to come home and start a family. Years ago, he established a small business that provides security for establishments in need all over Manila, as well as for the occasional high-profile concert. This is very much a family organization, and Yas seems to have made a habit of hiring only the most gentlemanly of he-men to reside in the rough-and-tumble world of Manila, as evidenced by the many times he and his employees have gone out of their way to assist members of our own immediate family in our times of need.
Yas also has end-stage renal failure due to polycystic kidney disease. His kidneys failed in 2014 and he has been on dialysis 3 times a week ever since. Dialysis costs him and his family about Php40,000 - 45,000 (around $780 - $880 USD) a month. His maintenance medications cost roughly the same per month. A cousin has offered to donate a kidney and they have passed all the required tests and cross matches. The life-saving and life-changing kidney transplant will cost around Php1.2 million (roughly $25,000 USD) for the procedure alone. Yas is tentatively scheduled to have a nephrectomy on April 3 (2018) at St. Luke's Medical Center in the Philippines. This means they will be removing one kidney before they can do the transplant, because his kidneys are so enlarged there's no room for the new one. This procedure is estimated to cost about Php160,000 (around $3,100 USD). An additional Php200,000 (just under $4,000 USD) will be needed for Yas' anti-rejection drugs after the surgery. While the family is getting financial aid from a government health plan and from the hospital itself, all the tests, Yas' regular dialysis sessions, and his maintenance meds, have been steadily draining their finances. On top of all this, the family will also be financially supporting Yas' donor, who turned down his next work contract so he could stay home and donate his "bean".
And finally, to, as Lily says, "put a radio-active cherry on this toxic ice cream sundae that is our life at the moment," her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's last year. "She has one offspring. Me. She is divorced from my dad (who resides in the US) and lives in Dumaguete City in the Philippines. There is no home-for-the-aged there, let alone proper hospice care for cases like hers. She lives in a pre-World-War I house which she adamantly refuses to leave. I was lucky enough to find a care-giver who watches over her (despite having a glass of water dumped on her on her first day) and understands when her weekly salary sometimes comes in a day (or two) late. Fortunately, aside from the Alzheimer's (and a couple of gall stones) my mother is as healthy as a horse."
Any one of these three medical crises alone would wreak havoc on most families. However, Lily and Yas have managed to meet each new development with a strength and grace - and, not to mention, humor - that continues to defy explanation.
Lastly, I am pleased to introduce "The Horde," named so more for their sheer size in number than for their demeanor, as they are individually and collectively infinitely more charming than their group name implies. From left to right, they are Uri-El (AKA Bonita Belle), 12; Hedwig (no, she is not named after Harry Potter's owl), 17; Gabri-El (AKA Padaday), 15; Rapha-Elli (AKA Pikoy), 13; and Mika-El (AKA Kaboom), 16.
The two eldest, Hedwig and Mika-El, graduated from Junior High this March, and will be moving on to Senior High. Lily and Yas have been planning for years to send all of The Horde to Lily's alma mater, Silliman University in Dumaguete. This will be considerably cheaper than schools in Manila, while still ensuring the same quality of education - or in some areas, arguably, even surpassing it. However, due to all of the aforementioned expenses currently bombarding this rather extraordinary family, finances will be stretched thin for the foreseeable future, making even Silliman just out of reach for the two eldest of The Horde. "Both my husband and I were raised by teachers (his mom and my grandma)," says Lily. "Having them stop school for the meantime is NOT an option."
Tuition costs for the first year will be Php57,796.10 ($1,133 USD). As they will be living away from their immediate family, Silliman will require that they live on-campus, which means a cost of Php15,000 (under $300 USD) for on-campus lodging per semester. Finally, meals will come up to about Php22,320 (around $430 USD) per semester. This totals just over Php110,000 ($2,157 USD) per Horde-ling for the first year, or Php220,000 ($4,313 USD) in total, which brings us to the goal for this campaign.
While the total dollar value of all these costs may seem relatively manageable to readers in the first world, we would like to stress that conditions are very different for earners of the Philippine Peso. To provide some context, for one to land a job with a regular monthly salary of Php20,000 (just under $400), one would generally be considered extremely lucky. To add to this, both Lily and Yas have been considerably less productive than normal since the onset of these circumstances, as can only be expected.
Whatever money raised by this campaign will help fund Yas' anti-rejection medication and part of the procedures, as well as help provide a cushion should any complications occur. The government aid covers only part of the cost of the transplant.
Additionally, should this campaign be truly successful, any funds left over after Yas clears the operation and subsequent recovery will go directly to funding the first year of Senior High for Hedwig and Mika-El. The academic year in the Philippines begins in early June, so funds will be desperately needed well before that.
Lily herself in closing:
"Bottom line here is, my husband needs to survive. I'm already Met...there is no bright pink ribbon shining at the end of the tunnel for me.
He needs to get that transplant, survive it, stay healthy, and live long. Or long enough. If not for himself, then for these 5 kids who still need their parents...even just one parent...to usher them into adulthood.
And that's our story."