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Mother with mandibular tumor to undergo surgery in Taiwan

April 13, 2017 | Jamaica Digo

Sarah Dayday tells the Tzu Chi volunteers how the tumor on her jaw started during the latter’s visit. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

Story Highlights

  • Sarah Dayday, 45, carries a swelling on her jaw since 2014. Four years before this, she had a bad tooth removed by a mystic using a piece of spoon. Sarah removed the following aching teeth on her own.

  • Tzu Chi Foundation will sponsor Sarah Dayday’s needed surgery. She flew to Taipei, Taiwan on April 14 and is scheduled to undergo a surgery on April 19 at the Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital.


We live in an age of advanced medicine and healthcare, yet people in remote areas are still clinging either in the power of mystics or in self-medication whenever they fell ill. These practices are a result of culture and extreme poverty. But sometimes, instead of being treated, relying on these lead into something worse.

Sarah Dayday, 45, strokes her left face. Having removed the cloth mask that she usually wore to hide the tumor hanging from her left jaw, she feels exposed. It was three years ago when the swelling started but Sarah still remembers it like it happened only yesterday. She remembers the aching tooth, the mystic, and the piece of spoon that turned her quiet life in Bantayan Island, Cebu upside down.

It was 2010 and news of a visiting mystic from Leyte circulated in the island village. It was very timely, Sarah thought, as she had been suffering from a terrible toothache for days. There was no dental clinic in the island and Sarah usually removes her bad tooth on her own. But that time, she sought help from the spiritual healer.

Chanting ancient prayers, the mystic used a spoon to push Sarah’s aching tooth until it came off. No medicines were prescribed after the ritual. Immediately after that day, Sarah carried on with the chores of fetching water and washing her family’s laundry.

Two months later, another tooth became tender. Sarah removed it all on her own as well as the next tooth after that, and the one after that.

In 2012, Sarah noticed a swelling on her left jaw, located just under the ear. Pain killers helped ease the ache but in 2013, she got pregnant with her sixth child. Although the swelling persisted, with a baby to think of, taking medicines were no longer an option.

A year later, the swelling has grown so big it’s impossible to pretend it doesn’t exist. It took its toll on Sarah’s speech. “My voice doesn’t sound like mine anymore,” she laments.

Even the simple chores of swallowing or brushing her teeth is a struggle. Most days, the mass also throbs with pain that Sarah couldn’t bring herself to sleep.

However, to endure it was all that Sarah could do for healthcare is a luxury in the island. In fact, Sarah had already lost two children because of inadequate health facilities to serve the villagers in the island, nor did her family has the money to have the kids treated.

Sarah’s 12-year-old son, Joel, died in 2014. He had a mass on his nape and it was connected to his spine. He was bedridden for two years until death took him. The following year, another child, Cindy, 8, passed away. She had dwarfism and a string of complications, among them is a heart problem and malnutrition.

Taking into account the fate of her children, Sarah stopped hoping she will get better. “The city is far from our village and we don’t have the money for the transportation fare,” says Sarah. “Instead, whenever I am in pain, I took pain killers.”

Sarah’s husband is the breadwinner of the family. He earns Php200-300 as a caretaker of a small tourist boat. Bantayan Island is a famous tourist spot in Cebu.

To somehow help in their expenses, Sarah collects scrap plastic bottles and other junks in the beach to sell at the mainland. On a good month, she earns Php500.

In December 2016, a German tourist saw Sarah and felt deep compassion for her. The tourist sponsored her transportation fare and consultation fee with a dentist in Lahug, Cebu. The dentist advised Sarah to undergo an urgent surgery for her mandibular tumor, or the swelling on her jaw. But the tourist’s help could only go so far and since the family didn’t have the money for a costly medical operation either, Sarah’s fate remained up in the air.

Days passed. Sarah tried her best to live normally; but the unusual swelling on her jaw makes her a constant subject of talks in the village.

One day, Sarah received a call. The woman on the other end of the line introduced herself as a Tzu Chi volunteer. Sarah didn’t know what a Tzu Chi volunteer is. But the woman said they have heard about Sarah’s case through a dentist in Cebu. The woman inquired, “Would Sarah allow Tzu Chi to help her have an operation?”

Sarah could not respond. Her tears were already falling.

On February 13, 2017 Sarah and her sister-in-law, Elin, flew to Manila from Cebu. Sarah underwent consultations with Tzu Chi International Medical Association (TIMA) dentists who advised that she undergo a surgery at the Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital in Taiwan.

Sarah and her sister waited as Tzu Chi arranged their documents. Then on April 14, just before the break of dawn, Sarah and Elin flew to Taipei.

“I feel so happy that I will be operated because this tumor has been a big burden to me and I have been suffering for a long time because of this,” Sarah says, crying.

Tzu Chi volunteer Jennylind Romero, who accompanied Sarah to the airport, feels deeply for the patient’s misery. “It is sad that just because they did not have the money for the right medication, the result was even more serious,” says Jennylind. “When I asked Sarah, she told me she will be the happiest person when the operation becomes a success.”

Jennylind was praying the same thing.

Sarah is currently in Taipei awaiting her surgery, which is scheduled on April 19. The operation is expected to cost NT$500,000, or over Php800, 000. After the surgery, Sarah will have to stay in the hospital for a month to ensure her complete recovery.

  • Sarah Dayday and her sister-in-law, Elin, talk with Tzu Chi volunteer Conchita Tan days before Sarah flies to Taiwan for the surgery. Tan advises Dayday to have faith in the ability of the doctors at the Tzu Chi Hospital, saying this is important in ensuring the operation will become successful.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • With her tumor, the simple act of swallowing has become a struggle for Sarah Dayday. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Sarah Dayday shows the Tzu Chi volunteers her Identification Cards, which contain photos of her before a tumor grew on her jaw. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Sarah Dayday suffers from a tumor on her jaw for the last three years, likely caused by a dental infection.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • At past 10 p.m. on April 13, Sarah Dayday, her sister-in-law Elin, and Tzu Chi volunteer Jennylind Romero leave the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM) in Banawe, Quezon City to catch the plane that will take the patient to Taiwan【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Tzu Chi volunteer Jennylind Romero accompanies Sarah Dayday and her sister-in-law to the airport. Romero advises Dayday to remain positive and pray for the success of the surgery. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】

  • Sarah Dayday waves goodbye to Tzu Chi volunteer Jennylind Romero before entering the airport. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】