Christian Media: Where Truth Meets You

Cancer Survivor Shows How Kindness Heals

By overcoming the odds and finding inspiration year after year, see how this cancer survivor chose to give back and live with an attitude of gratitude.


Cancer Survivor Shows How Kindness Heals

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: It’s always better to look forward to better things than to dwell on what you can’t control. Right? You just have to keep trying to get to the next level and push through it, pray about it. What we’re going through right now, it’s not easy. Before the pandemic, whatever we were going through, it’s not easy. It’s not easy. One rule of thumb that one of my nurses told me is you can stay in bed one day, if you don’t feel like getting out of bed one day, but that’s it. After that, you have to keep getting out of bed.

LP Riturban: Whether you’re hoping to heal the world or heal yourself, this podcast is here for you to highlight how kindness moves.

Nan Zapanta: Moves you to take action yourself or just makes you feel something so good, it’s contagious. You might have been touched by a simple act of kindness, you might want tips on how you connect now in your community or you just love the feeling of doing good.

LP Riturban: Welcome back everyone to Kindness Moves, a new podcast brought to you by the INC Giving Project. We’re your hosts LP and Nan.

Nan Zapanta: So today we want to bring into our conversation how to keep positive and in turn exude positivity in our daily life. You know, when circumstances around you are maybe really tough and it’s pushing you in that other direction to be negative or, or just not see things in a positive light, how we can really turn towards positivity.

LP Riturban:  So yes Nan, what we’re going to do to start off our conversation actually today is just ask our listeners, wherever you are to pause, ok. And think about the last time you were faced with a tough situation. It could be, you know, with your family, individually, maybe even in a really dire situation where you could barely see what tomorrow looked like. Now imagine that moment, the way you felt. Now replay your reaction to the things around you, the things people said, the things that happened the next day or that week, you know, did you still act with love? Do you still show compassion to those around you? Or did your reactions dictate otherwise? Did your reactions to what was happening still shine a light of positivity? That’s what we’re going to discuss today.

Nan Zapanta: Right, and those are really great points to reflect on right? The moments of adversity, and that’s what we’ll reflect on today. How we can really keep a perspective of positivity no matter what life throws at us.

LP Riturban: Yes, and to talk with us about it today, we introduce our guest from New Jersey. She is a professional in the legal services industry. She’s also a host and correspondent and a producer of INC Radio programming. Most of all, she’s also had her own share of life-changing experiences that she’s turned into motivation to do good every chance she gets and you know, just be that light. So let’s welcome Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman also known as Cat. Hello. 

Nan Zapanta: Hi Cat.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Hi, everyone. Hi, Nan and LP. So excited to be here with you guys. 

Nan Zapanta: So are we. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: What an introduction like, is that, is that my entire resume?

Nan Zapanta: What is that my LinkedIn? Is that my LinkedIn?

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Right? Wait, I really need to add some stuff. 

LP Riturban: It’s like our drum roll. So here we have today.

Nan Zapanta:  Well, we’re so excited to have you here with us. It’s been a conversation that we’ve been looking forward to, especially with that introduction, right? And we’ve, we’d really love to give our listeners a chance to hear you and give you a chance to introduce yourself.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Hi. As LP said, I am Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman. I’m known by a lot of other nicknames-Cat, Cathleya, Leah, and also Snow White as a kid. So that’s a fun one that I haven’t said in a very long time. I am from New Jersey and I do work in legal services. You know, I had to think about that one LP. You know, do I work in legal service? I do. I do. I am a passionate person. If you ever see me on social media, I have a lot of things to say. So and just, actually, just keeping it positive. I always look for silver linings. 

LP Riturban: Well, we’re glad that you’re here today. We’re reflecting on, you know, our life experiences, how it can really impact, you know, the way we react to certain things in our life. And we’re honored because you’re an example of someone who has had life-changing moments. You’ve gone through your share of experiences, like many of us have, but you have made the most of the miracles you’ve received from God. Can you share with us just a little bit about your story, take us back, if you don’t mind, as much as you’re comfortable with and to your circumstances and where you are now. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Sure, I want to start off by saying that, I think everyone, goes through a lot of things in life, right? And we’re not comparing apples to oranges, because it’s hard, everyone has their own “hard.” So my story brings us back to right after college, well, wasn’t right after, a few years after college. And you know, after college, after you graduate, you finally get “the” job. You’re like, wow, I finally made it, I have my profession, I have a regular paycheck, I don’t have to ask mom and dad for money. I’m traveling, I’m seeing the world. I’m buying my own stuff. And at the time, I was engaged. So everything was fun, fresh. And you know, there was no ceiling. The sky was the limit. And I was very active, of course, in my in church duties. But there’s just a lot going on as people in their 20s have, right? There’s a lot. You’re just busy, right? So, just always, busy, you’re always doing, you’re always doing something, you’re staying up for no reason. Just hanging out having fun. So it’s really the prime of your life. “You’ve arrived” is the moment that I think of. It’s the moment that I arrived, and part of that moment was being diagnosed with cancer–surprisingly. I get a lot of questions like well, maybe it runs in your family, maybe it’s…you know, when you’re in the thick of things, and you’re having the time of your life and something like this happens to you;it’s like the needle off the record. Everything stops, it’s quiet. It’s a moment where you have tough and honest conversations with yourself and with God. You know, when I was diagnosed with cancer, and it was a surprise, although I had thought of, when we’re young, we think we’re invincible. Right? We think we’re invincible. I’m twen… I’m in my twenties, I have all this energy, my skin is awesome, my hair is great, I got highlights, I got these awesome heels. Like, I have all these things. I’m so pretty, you know, like all those–I mean, just that’s a generalization that wasn’t me. But that’s just a generalization. That’s, that’s just the attitude that 20 year olds have. And, and you know, we’re not exempt from that. So when you don’t pay attention to things happening to your body. You know, you get a surprise. And that’s what happened to me. So I was busy with my life, and I wasn’t paying attention. So what I thought was just going to be like, here’s a cream or here’s, you know, here’s something–turned out to be cancer. 

Nan Zapanta: Wow.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yeah turned out, you know, I thought it’s like, oh, maybe we’ll have like a little procedure. And then it turned out to be something super major. Right? 

LP Riturban: Yeah. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: And at 26 it’s not something you really think about. So, needle-off-the-record moment, and then you have these long, unending conversations with God about what’s happening in your life. And thinking back now, you know, I never asked why. I never asked why, why is this happening? I, instead, even then, because at the time, I didn’t know what my prognosis was, you know, doctors can never guarantee that they got everything, that everything went away, even with eight rounds of chemo or radiation, whatever the treatment is, they can never guarantee what it is. And I decided, since they say, they give you the math, they give you the odds, they say your percentage of survival is this. And if you do this, then your percentage will increase; kind of feels like getting a loan, right? So you have to calculate the mortgage. So those are, those are your options. And if you do this thing, it’ll take you, you know, this, this time to heal. And these are the side effects you can have. So it’s a lot of math in that sense. So rather than ask why and spend time in anger, because again, I didn’t know how long I had, before things, you know how things were going to turn out. I said, “Why would I spend that time being angry, resentful, bitter? Why would I question what’s happening in my life?”

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: 

Why don’t I just, you know, I looked at my parents, I moved back home, and I looked at my parents and my family, and everyone’s so worried. It’s like, why shouldn’t I just embrace them while I can? Right? Before chemo starts, before I might be isolated, before whatever happens, happens–why don’t I just do that? Why don’t I enjoy my taste buds while I still have them, you know, enjoy the things that I enjoy within reason, of course.

LP Riturban: The things that you can control. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes

Nan Zapanta: Yeah

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yeah, exactly. And  just be grateful for every moment. Not gonna lie, it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t easy not to be in tears, realizing that you’re not in control of what’s happening. You have options but you’re not in control. You know, because you have to choose, it’s either this or this. You can’t choose not to do anything. And during those times, you also have to put on a brave face. I think for people who are diagnosed with cancer, they spend most of their time consoling others, which is ironic. But at the same time, you know, the more that I talked about it with other people and telling them that everything was going to be fine, I was also reassuring myself that it’s going to be fine. Like, do I, and I thought to myself, “Do I actually believe it’s going to be fine?” And, you know, this is not going to be a secret for anyone who’s a caregiver, you know, you cry in the shower. So that’s where, that’s where I cried, you know, couldn’t tell if it was the, it was me crying or the shower, so, which is also funny, but it’s also the only time I could ever be alone because everyone was hovering over like, “Are you ok?”

LP Riturban: Yeah.

Nan Zapanta: Yeah.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: It’s like, I’m not hungry anymore. Thanks.

LP Riturban: And I love how you say that, because there’s so many people who experienced just that. You know, you explain that when you were at the time of your life, that you experienced this, there was no ceiling and you feel like the sky’s the limit and things otherwise are great. Like a lot of people who are diagnosed with something who undergo a certain type of loss, whether it’s the loss of certainty for your future, you know, the loss of control; It’s a point of loss at that point. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: You’re absolutely right. It is. it is. 

LP Riturban: And like you said, you choose to, okay at this point of loss, what will I now gain? What choice will I now make? Will I just choose to just be grateful and focus on the good and focus on what is in front of me and what I can do to help others? And I love how you said that because it is you know, you’re you’re trying to be brave and, and it is a form of reassurance to yourself as well. Thank you for starting the conversation with that and allowing us to…

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman:  Well your introduction actually already made me like, kind of cry about it thinking about, thinking about the past. It’s you know, it’s so rare since it’s so long ago for me and I’m not gonna reveal my age but it was so long ago even, even I think just for my, my mind to heal that it seems like a whole other lifetime that I went through this. Of course, there are daily reminders of the things I’ve had to face, but I don’t actively think about how did I get here? You know? Because I don’t know, I don’t know where I put that. Because it’s, it’s in a place where I can now say that I love that part about my life because if God didn’t get my attention, where would I have ended up? How much better off am I? That’s what I think. That I am here, the way I am now. So…

Nan Zapanta: If I could just chime in here, when you’re describing the situation that you were in and that uncertainty when you’re like telling everyone, “Oh yeah, no, everything will be okay.” But you know, deep in your heart, you, you didn’t know for sure. If it would be right? 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: No, no.

Nan Zapanta: But like, the courage that is needed when you face that kind of adversity, it’s, it’s really inspiring, you know, and, and I know that those, like yourself, who have faced a situation with like, that gravity, can only fully appreciate it the way you did. But yeah, I just, I just wanted to point out that, that that is very inspiring, and you’re an inspiration, you know, and thank God for your recovery, for the strength that you have. Honestly, I would have never guessed that you went through such, such a really trying moment in your life; especially with the energy you have, the positivity, the smile, you know, I would have never have guessed it. So I think that’s why you’re really meant to be here today on Kindness Moves. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: You know… 

Nan Zapanta: And we know that every day, you’re trying to find a way to make the most of your time. So that’s really inspiring.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman:  Thank you for saying that. I actually had to think about how did I exude that kind of energy, that positivity. And it really, I didn’t do it by myself of course. My biggest cheerleaders were my parents. And, you know, my parents are very hard workers. They’re very ambitious for me as well. So I don’t want to take all the credit. It wasn’t just me. But I mean, there were those moments where I had to get dragged, not literally, but mentally and emotionally to treatment. There were those moments where I said to my mom’s like, Mom, I don’t want to do this anymore. Like I, I feel unwell all the time. I’m bald, my skin is gray, I don’t like looking at myself in the mirror. And, and she said, “Anak, you have to keep trying. You can’t lose even though you feel like you’re losing, you’re actually winning because you’re already halfway through.” So it wasn’t just me. So I just want to say thanks mom and dad. Yay mom and dad. And my siblings–my brother who shaved my head. He said, we’re not going to wait for your hair to start falling out even though I always had long hair. And then when I was diagnosed, the doctor said, “All right, this chemo treatment stuff will make your hair fall out.” I said, “Is there a way to delay it? Because I love my hair.” 

LP Riturban: And you mentioned that earlier because at that point in your life [it] was important. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: It was. It’s your identity, right? Like, how can they recognize me if I, yeah, and so I cut my hair very short, that pixie cut, but then it started falling out. And my brother’s like, “You know what, let’s let’s do this now, let’s get ahead of it. And that way, you don’t have to see all that hair and your bed and your pillow. And you know, you can use the lint remover as much as you want. But it won’t be full so you won’t be as scared,” or something like that. So my brother Abelia. So, yes, I didn’t do it by myself. 

Nan Zapanta: You know having that kind of support system and even a brother that, that will not necessarily take it lightly but he’s you know, he’s he’s really making the effort to make it an experience that you could go through as, as easily as possible. And you know, he shows his love that way. And I can feel it, even the way you describe it. So it’s, it’s really interesting, because when we think about our family, we don’t really realize that some of them that maybe wouldn’t have stepped up in that way in the past, it kind of gives them a jolt of kindness. I don’t know what it is like, I don’t know your brother personally. But I know I know people in my life that where they face these moments, and then suddenly, they’re filled with this kindness that I had never seen before. And I think it’s nice to see when that kind of surfaces. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: 

Yeah. I also mentioned that because they’re also going through it with me. 

Nan Zapanta: Right? 

LP Riturban: Yeah.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: A lot of the times, people get stuck in their head when they’re going through a grave or a tragedy like this. Some people call it a tragedy. They only think that they’re going through it, but their loved ones are also going through it with them, their friends watching their journey, you know, when you have to watch someone, you can’t help them except to say, “You’re doing good, good job, you know, you got that one treatment down, you know, seven more to go.”, or whatever it is, you know, so they’re going through it with you. So that’s all I wanted to point out.

LP Riturban: Yeah. It kind of just proves too that no matter what age we are, or what part of the process of that journey that we’re in, we will need each other. Like, yeah, we’ll rely on each other no matter who you are, in that circle of the experience, we will all share it together in one way or another. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes. And your and your small act of kindness will make a difference whether you know it or not. So that’s why you should keep doing it. 

Nan Zapanta: That brings me to another question I had, when you’re referring to acts of kindness and stuff–we clearly see that your, part of your motivation, obviously, is your family, you know, they’re there, the love that they have for you. And forgive me for being a bit stereotypical, but you’re on the East Coast, right? LP and I are on the West Coast. You know, the stereotype is, oh, we’re, we’re here on the west coast; it’s sunny, we’re super, super bubbly, super nice. And on the East Coast, everyone is like, really harsh and, and all that, right? So if, and again, correct me if I’m wrong, and I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but in the East Coast, it’s very matter-of-fact, um, generally speaking. So when you’re in, in a, in a culture, you can clearly see the cultures are a little bit different from the East Coast to the West Coast. How is it that you’re still able to maintain positivity on top of, you know, this, this situation that you’re facing, and still participate in INC Giving activities? You know, where do you find your motivation to do those kinds of things?

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: That is such a funny comment to make Nan about the culture of the East Coast. And for my East Coast peeps, I want to say we’re also very nice, just a little more direct. But we also go at a much faster pace. Everything is just very fast here. So you know, it’s like a snap of a finger. It’s like money is time and time is money. So that’s kind of the attitude in the northern area. But doesn’t mean that we’re not kind to each other, doesn’t mean that someone doesn’t hold the door open for you, although you might have others who are quite the opposite more times than not. And here, you know, people are very independent. They just have to get to where they’re going and that’s it. That itself is a positive energy, right? Like, I’m here, I’m in New York, I’m doing the thing that I want to do and I’m awesome. If that doesn’t count [as] positivity, I don’t know what does. It just, it just steps on other people. sometimes. I will admit that. That might be the difference between west and east coast. Everyone in California was like, “Hey, how are you?” Yeah, maybe in a coffee shop here in the city you’re like, “Is my coffee ready? Gotta go. Bye. Thanks.”

LP Riturban: 

We wanted to converse. Yeah, no, yeah? 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: No, don’t talk to your barista. Barista has got other coffee to make. Actually, I want to say right now it’s raining really hard. And in weather like this, if we were outside it really, it really bums out people, it really brings down their energy and it kind of makes them down and grumpy. I mean, this is definitely soup weather. This is the “I want to stay inside.” And rain here comes in sideways. So if you’re walking in the city, your bottom part of you is going to be wet. So that adds to the grumpiness. But it doesn’t mean that people don’t want to help other people. You know, there’s this misconception that you can’t ask a New Yorker for directions because they won’t give it to you. Well, half the time they’re not from New York. That’s why they can’t give it to you. But if they can help you, they usually do. So… 

LP Riturban:  Tell us about those moments that you see it. And you’re surprised by it too. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Ok. All right, I get asked for directions all the time in New York City, by tourists, and by even people who are from the area but not from Manhattan. And I have no idea–I can’t, I’m the worst with directions. So it’s really a terrible choice for them to come to me and to say “Hi, could you help me? I don’t know where I’m going.” I’m like, let me pull out my phone and let’s look together. So when I have that time, I will do it, you know? I will point them in the direction where they can get directions like if you enter that coffee shop, they can tell you which, which side you’re supposed to be on and I’m not the best with [the] subway either. And so if I know the line, then I’ll say, you’re on the wrong line, you need to switch lines. But to be honest, if someone comes in a subway car and asked a question out loud like that to the entire car, I guarantee you I will not be the only one trying to yell back, someone will interrupt me actually, is usually the experience and say that “Nah nah, you got to go on the other side of the track up the stairs on the other side and get on the you know, the four or five, six line.” Or something like that. 

LP Riturban: See and that in itself is help. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes. It is. It doesn’t sound like…

LP Riturban: They’re yelling at me but that is their form of help.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: It’s just, it just comes in loud. Maybe that’s the difference. You are soft spoken on the west coast and very smiley, and on the East Coast, we’re loud and direct and make sure we don’t have to repeat ourselves. We say it really loud. So maybe that’s why.

Nan Zapanta: I think that’s what it is. There’s, there’s all flavors of kindness, right? There’s all flavors of kindness. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Absolutely. So, how do I, how do I practice kindness? I mean, it’s, it’s really the little things–holding the door open for someone with a stroller; holding the door open for an older person or letting, letting them go first–getting out of the way for someone. Half the time, that’s, that’s the thing in, in Manhattan is, you need to get out of the way so someone else can get by, otherwise, you will feel them come by you.

LP Riturban:  So being aware of your surroundings, in a way that other people might need a little more help than you at that moment. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes. Right. I mean, I’m never going to pick up anyone’s groceries without asking them first, although I have, I do have, I mean in my area in New Jersey, people are less jumpy, and less suspicious of people. So I have helped some elderly shoppers in the supermarket; just to get their groceries on the cart, you know? Yeah, so just, just that little thing and it shocks them. But, you know, I think of my parents and I think of my older relatives when I see those people, it’s like, oh I wish someone was here to help them because it looks, it’s tiring. You know, it’s tiring. So other things that I have done with my friends, just hanging out in the city, you know, there are certain areas in the city that have a lot of homeless people. Parks are not excluded. So whenever I can never finish my fries. So anywhere we go, my fries or my leftover food, I will offer it to someone, whether or not they’re asking if I just see them and maybe they’re passed out or like just sitting there watching people walk by I’ll ask them if they want fries. 

LP Riturban: In that particular moment I remember, we were there for the INC Giving show. We went to, we went to a famous burger joint, a famous burger place that everyone wants to go to in New York City. And I forget what happened but it was like the order got doubled or something. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: We had too many fries, everyone got fries. We had so, we had I think like eight bags of fries to giveaway.

LP Riturban: And that was it. We were there. And the producers and I, we were just like okay, what do we do? And then all of you were so quick. Oh, easy. There’s so many people who need that right now. Give it to us. We’ll take care of it.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: It was, it was a cold, surprisingly cold day. I remember we had to get you guys gloves and some scarves. No, it was surprisingly cold in general. I think even for us, we’re like, wow it’s cold today. But yeah, so it’s really the hardest time when it’s cold in the city, and those people have nowhere to go. So you know, I’m not gonna eat the fries. I mean, if they want it, they can have it. One other act of kindness, which is sometimes a little controversial or some, some friends have preferences, are the street performers. Right? I love music. I love music, I will stop and if it’s okay, I will film them if they’re okay with it. Half the time they are looking for donations. But sometimes they’re not. And even the ones on the subway, or they just sometimes, they just come in and they don’t ask for it. They just sing and they go right through and I’ll have to wave them down, like hey, that was a great song. That’s a different kind of kindness. Because they’re performing. But I mean, one act of kindness is to acknowledge that someone is there. 

LP Riturban: To just pause. To be able to pause and listen to them.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Or just to say hello. In New York City, you don’t have time to have a full on conversation with strangers in the subway. But what if they’re trying to get your attention, you just say hello, they’ll be okay with it, and they’ll stop. Right. So, even with our own friends, they just want you to acknowledge what they said. Right? They, you don’t need say it. It’s like those emojis or emoticons on social media, those in the time of pandemic, are so important now, because that’s really the only way that we’re interacting with our friends. There was one post in particular lately, that came up as a memory. And I think LP brought it up before, I think I tried four or five times to donate blood. Every time we have an INC Giving event and I always get rejected. 

LP Riturban: I finally had my first experience, and it was beautiful, just because like that, you know, I’ve tried and tried and tried and it’s like nope.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes. It’s like, whether it’s at the, at the questionnaire or at the screening, or somewhere along the lines. So for years, I’ve been trying to give blood. And finally I was able to give blood. And I was so excited. I didn’t know I was gonna feel kind of woozy at the end. But I was so excited to do it. And this time, my nurse, and I have to say, they had been there all day. So they were tired. And they hadn’t taken a break, even though we tried to feed them, offer them food and things. And she wasn’t really smiling. And so I felt like, I had to share. I was like, I’m so excited to give blood, you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to do this. It’s been years. And as a cancer survivor, I’m not allowed to give blood for the first five years after my treatment is over. So that was the first thing and and so this has been this is already maybe eight years out or nine years out from when I was first diagnosed. So, and I was telling her this, I was just chattering, so, so excited. And I was also nervous, because she was putting all this stuff on my arm. Even though I mean, I’m a patient, so I know what they’re doing. But just to go through it kind of also triggered my PTSD and I was like, getting a little nervous. But you know, I’m not getting treatment, I’m giving it out. So I’m helping. So that’s what I was focusing on. And I was trying to give myself a pep talk. And I mentioned that I’m a cancer survivor. And she was trying to reassure me actually, at the time, she’s like, you know, this is gonna be okay. Don’t worry about it. It’s just you know, it’s a bigger needle than what you might not be used to when you get your blood tested. I said I am a cancer survivor. I know the drill. And she’s like you are and then we started talking. And it turns out that her mom was also going through the same treatment. And she’s like, How are you so positive? And I said, How could you not be positive? If I was your mom and I saw my daughter doing this for people, you’re a nurse, you’re taking care of her. Why wouldn’t I be happy to be your mom and to fight; to fight for more time with you. And so it was, uh, it was a heartfelt conversation. She said thank you for hearing her out because she feels like her mom wasn’t fighting to get better. And I said, sometimes we get tired. And that’s okay, you know, you can be tired one day. One rule of thumb that one of my nurses told me is you can stay in bed one day, if you don’t feel like getting out of bed one day, but that’s it. After that, you have to keep getting out of bed, otherwise, you will never get out of bed. 

Nan Zapanta:  Cat, you kind of mentioned something in the beginning of our podcast that you reminded me of it again, right now, when you’re talking about this whole experience with that nurse. Everyone’s going through their own kind of “hard,” right, like, and I feel like, you’re doing all these acts of kindness and some of them, most people would just think are “Oh, these were really small acts of kindness.” But I think you’re highlighting perfectly that it’s not like you have to go, you know, super extravagant and do this big old act of kindness that’s really big and major. But the fact that you are accumulating, these acts of kindness, like on a daily basis, are making an impact. And I think it’s really cool. Because, again, like what you said, you don’t know what people might be going through in their life. So when you think of it that way, how are these small acts of kindness, this accumulation of kindness, really helping others heal, you know, because some of them might even be going through a similar situation that you are going through personally, right? So, you know, how are these acts of kindness helping people heal? 

Cathleya Fajardo-Deguzman: I think it’s always the little things that matter. Number one, the daily things that happen to us, when we live with people, our family members, our friends, it’s the little things that accumulate and pile up, right? In my profession, I work in legal services. That is why we have cases that come in, because there are all these little unkind things that happened over a length of time. And then it finally came to a head, right? Someone couldn’t take it anymore. And therefore we have a lawsuit. So, or we have, we have angry people, let’s just call the angry people. And most of the time, that’s why we have conflict, because there are all these little things that happen to us that we don’t talk about, or that we don’t realize we’re doing and it hurts other people’s feelings. So I think it’s always about the little things, Nan. And when we express kindness, you’re absolutely right, this doesn’t have to be a dramatic thing. I know, everyone’s on social media. So a lot of people think, well, if I can’t post on social media, then I won’t do it. But what is the motivation there? Do you want the attention? Well, then post your comment. “Hello. How are you?”on social media and see how many people come back to you and or say, “Hi, I just want to wish you a good day,” and so many people will like that, will respond to it. But it’s always the little things Nan, I think that matter. And they do all add up to the big thing, right? And it’s always also about consistency. When I’m outside and there are people there that I don’t even know, I’ll just say “Hello, good morning. Good morning. How are you? Good morning. Have a good day.” I’ll always wish people “Have a great Monday.” You’ll see on my posts. “Happy Friday, folks.” I know some people think that it’s like “Is she really like that in real life?” Like I am.

LP Riturban: We have gotten that as well. And yeah, you  know, on the topic of keeping a perspective of positivity, like, things happen in our life. And yeah, people question it, like, “Are you really that happy?” you know, “Is that genuine?”

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes. 

LP Riturban: For all the people, you know that do question it. You said it. Why not? 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Well, here’s the thing. All right. So let’s do some real talk. Times are hard. Everyone has a lot of concerns. Not just first world problems, right? This pandemic has affected everyone globally. I have friends and loved ones in faraway places in developing countries that don’t have access to medical care that we have here. I mean, this is just the daily checklist, right? When you check in on the people that you love, you ask them, “How are you?” if they’re not feeling well. Okay. “Did you take your temperature?” That’s always the first question.” Do you have a fever?” Right? “Did you drink any water?” It’s about 103 degrees in the Philippines right now. “Are you hot? Are you cold?” I mean, there, there are all these things that we worry about before we even think about ourselves. Before we think about, am I going to make the rent this month? Am I going to make the mortgage, the car payment? I know for parents who’ve lost their jobs. I mean, it’s all over the country and in the world. How am I going to feed my family? So I’m not saying that things aren’t hard. And I do acknowledge that on, it’s always about social media–and I do acknowledge that and I do try to give a balanced comment. I always say I’m not saying that it’s easy. But it’s always better to look forward to better things than to dwell on what you can’t control. Right? You just have to keep trying to get to the next level and push through it. Pray about it, have your comfort food, whatever you can to get through the day, because it’s not easy. What we’re going through right now, it’s not easy. Before the pandemic, whatever we were going through, not easy. It’s not easy.

LP Riturban:  And if I can just ask you personally Cat. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Sure 

LP Riturban: You tell people it’s not easy. And we all say that to encourage each other. You personally, now that you have been through all of this, and you know, your personal experiences, what you see around you, for those that you help, you have a platform that you are blessed with to use, and you inspire other people. Personally, what gets you out of bed? What motivates you to look at a situation and pass on what the world could tell you to do and say “No, I’m going to go this route.” 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: That is a good question, LP. I was just thinking it’s like, someone has asked me recently do I really believe in what I do, what I say, what I post, and it’s coming from a place of love–and so your question is a good one. Because it, it really relates, and what is my motivation when I actually jump out of bed in the morning, and hit the floor with two feet is, I’m alive. I literally, I jumped out of bed, I’m alive. I can breathe, I have all my hair. 

LP Riturban: It’s the little things.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: It is no, but it is. It’s, it’s this, you know, for a long time, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. Because what I saw in my reflection wasn’t what I, what was there even when I was well. It was what I had seen for a year or two, in treatment. So when I tell you that I, you know, I’m excited about my hair, I’m excited about my hair. But, but the thing that makes me get out of bed in the morning with that kind of energy and that kind of enthusiasm is I think about–what can I do to make things better? What can I do to improve the lives of my, my husband, my family, my friends, who can I help today? Because when I was going through that whole cancer situation, and and you know, it doesn’t end at treatment, you’re a cancer patient for the next five years after that. So I was constantly in hospitals, and that was the energy that I got from my caregivers, my nurses, you know, all the doctors is they’re always saying, you know, Cat, you’re already halfway through. Good for you, and they would applaud and they pat you on the back. And really, they told me that the more positive you are, the faster you’ll heal. And you know, as a 26 year old, I was like, I gotta get out of here really, really fast because I have stuff to do, I have stuff to do, I have a life to live. This is just and I took this as a pause in my life, this is not going to be for the rest of my life, this is going to be for right now and maybe for six months or a year. But this is just a pause, and then we’re going to pick up and continue, I’m going to get married, and I’m going to keep going on with my life. So when I decide to go against the grain, or to go against what the popular ideas are in reacting, it’s always because there’s always hope. As long as you wake up in the morning, there’s always hope. You can make different decisions, you can change your life, you can smile, you can say hello, you know, you can. I mean, people think that it’s hard. And sometimes you are in a place where you can’t do that. But when you do it, and other people see, although with the mask it’s a little difficult, but you know, when you do it, like in a video conference, it changes the mood, and it makes you feel better, who doesn’t want to feel good? It feels good, to feel good. And when you do those small things when you wave, I mean because we can’t see each other smiling in masks, but if you wave to your neighbor, and I mean, it makes a difference in their… 

LP Riturban: To acknowledge them.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: …In their life. To be seen, to be heard to, wow, this is kind of heavy guys. I always feel like I’m gonna start crying in a second again. 

Nan Zapanta: No, no you know what? You’re totally right. And you’ve said it in different ways but I think it really is just being consistent with your kindness, big or small, right? It’s, it’s just being consistently kind and remembering what your kindness does to everyone, and you know I really do thank you for bringing that up. And while we are on the topic of keeping our perspective of positivity and making kindness moves and just being inspired by kindness; we’re gonna go ahead and take a quick break from our chat with Cat. And we’re going to catch up with another INC Giving Kindness Ambassador, a young lady who really is doing all of this that we’ve discussed today, in her own way and at a very young age as well. 

LP Riturban: For almost a decade after being diagnosed with AML or acute myeloid leukemia, and even recently undergoing a kidney transplant. She’s a warrior as well. She’s making the most of God’s blessings by living a lifestyle motivated by compassion and doing good for others. Here’s what Myla Cunanan from Northern California had to say.

Myla Cunanan: Hi I’m Myla Cunanan and I’m 17 years old. And thank you so much for having me here today.

Myla Cunanan: I’ve been doing great. It’s almost been a year since my kidney transplant. So I’ll be going in for a one year biopsy soon. I’m cancer free, and taken off a lot of my meds now, 

Myla Cunanan: So recently, on my 17th birthday, we held an arts and crafts drive for UCSF, where, is one of the hospitals I’ve stayed at for a while. And that is where I got my bone marrow transplant. They would always give me like arts and crafts, and just things to do when I was bored. So we just  really wanted to give back, so my mom posted on Facebook that we were holding this drive. And at first I was thinking that there wasn’t going to be a lot to donate, but a lot of friends and family actually donated which is really nice.

Myla Cunanan: I think it’s important, because INC Giving projects, they’re very inspiring to me. They’re like very simple ones too, just like giving out groceries or donating, they’re very inspiring. And that’s what also inspires me to give out and give back.

Myla Cunanan: At least once a year, we would hold bone marrow drives to help register people and sign them up to be a bone marrow donor, and it’s such an easy thing to do, and we just really want to help people find their match.

Myla Cunanan: Just helping others just make(s) me really happy.

Myla Cunanan: My joy comes from a lot of things. You know, my joy comes from my family and friends, when I’m helping others, and most importantly I think my joy comes from our Almighty God. 

Myla Cunanan: He always has a purpose for us and things happen for a reason in our lives. 

Myla Cunanan: Always be positive and always trust in God. Because when you put your trust in God, He could do many miracles in your life. Like for me, I was blessed with a new kidney. So just always trust in God and what He can do for you.

Myla Cunanan: You know I’ve been through so much already and God is always with me so I’m ready for anything.  

LP Riturban: Thank you so much Myla for sharing with us your amazing update! We’re so honored to hear, not only of her strength to battle this, but her willingness to make moves to rise above and beyond this part of her life and really make it so memorable for her family and even for strangers, so thank you Myla.

Nan Zapanta: Yes, totally. And, you know, getting back to our discussion. It’s great to hear how Myla is doing, but also back to our discussion here with Cat, you know, we’ve been so blessed to hear from Cat. If you’re just joining us, we have Cathleya Fajardo-Deguzman, joining us, also known as Cat. Also a true warrior and leader of keeping a positive outlook despite whatever odds may come your way, right, so we’re really blessed to have you today. Again, just want to say thank you and kind of pick up our conversation.

LP Riturban: Yeah and it’s so humbling because to know that you know whatever age you may be, whatever time in your life and circumstance that something unexpected can hit, our conversation has brought us today to us making that choice to either dwell in it or get up every single day and take one step to look at the positive and focus on the good in our life and that God has blessed us with, because like you mentioned earlier, if we can go back, your motivation you said was that you’re alive, and you’re blessed with another chance. You referenced a post that you did years ago for your first time that you’re able to give blood and you’ve wrote in that post that you’re grateful to have a second chance of life, and to be able to use that experience, and now drive it forward in everything that you do whether it’s with work, whether it’s your career, your family–you use it. And there’s so many people who can say otherwise. I just want to say that you brought up earlier; I got emotional because I’ve got brought back to my experience of, not cancer, but my daughter had a heart condition and a seemingly very positive moment in someone’s life, like you said your 20s, where things are thriving and you’re making memories, you know, it’s the addition of a child, a blessing in our life and something like this happens and you’re brought back to that–okay how will I react towards the situation in the circumstance that God give[s] me? What will I do with it? And like you said it took lots of conversations with God. But you know it was that choice to say, “Okay, this is, this is fine. And it’s going to be okay.” And we are now going to use this blessing. And thank God she’s okay and we’re going to be happy about this and grateful and move forward.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: You just, you, you have to be grateful for whatever it is that you have in front of you, and I think a lot of times people, and I mean we get, I get caught up in it as well; we actually are looking forward more to what we are going to get rather than what’s in front of us. So, if you appreciate what you have in front of you then you don’t feel like you’re lacking, and you’re excited, right, and so when you look at what you have and you say oh well I have this plate of fun. Who can I share it with? Right? If that’s how you look at it, then that’s what, that’s exactly what happens, you know, with me on social media and things like that. You know, this pandemic really is the “hard” that everyone has suffered together, you know? You know, medical conditions aside and I’m so glad that your daughter, I was, I was told that story when she was born, and she was in my prayers so I’m glad that your daughter is okay so when I see her on screen with you, I get really emotional and I get excited to see her especially when she gives you a hard time, so–good for you. She’s a fighter. She’s a fighter.

LP Riturban: I’m reminded, you know you have to, you said earlier, you have to look back. You don’t even get to look back so, so often. But when you finally do, you realize that there’s so much more to give because of that experience. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes. 

LP Riturban: There’s so much more to learn from and, and I’m reminded okay, I keep telling myself I need to go back to the hospitals, and I need to say thank you to those caregivers and medical practitioners, you know all the little things. Myla, she inspired us, she does that on a daily basis every time she goes back in for her check-ins and she looks at the experiences as okay I’m gonna go in today for my, whether it’s dialysis before or just her normal check ins–who am I going to meet today? Who am I going to get to share my faith with? 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Exactly. 

LP Riturban: Who am I going to have fun with today and make smile? So we’re very grateful for individuals like yourself for sharing your story with us .

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yeah, so just to circle back I just want to say what something that Nan had said earlier and LP, what we’ve been talking about is, you don’t know what someone else has gone through, and you don’t know what they’re going through, they might smile at you, but inside they might be weeping and they’re just trying to get through one more day. That is what I think about when I see my friends, people that I work with, we can only see what’s on the surface. Even some of our closest friends don’t tell us what’s happening. And so, you know I shout them out every so often on social media and say for my friends who can’t talk about it, but I know what’s happening, because you know your friends you know your, you know your family, they can’t talk about it, because it’s just too hard. I’m thinking about you and I’m sending you positive vibes. Kindness is also an expression of love, so if you love someone, you will always choose kindness before anything else. I’m gonna cry again.

LP Riturban: 

We do have one more question for you. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman:  Okay, okay. 

LP Riturban: From this beautiful conversation. If you could go back to back in time, to either the moment that you were 26, you know, and you were going through this, or anything else, again, like we said this year has been a universal “hard” for everyone. If you can go back to any of those moments, what would you tell yourself, knowing what you now know?

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: That’s a good question. I’ve seen that post on social media and we always joke. We always make a joke about it right? We joke about it. So if I could go back to that moment, I would tell myself it’s going to be hard, but you’re tough. You have everything you need to get through this. Cry as much as you want. Your hair will grow back. And don’t stop reaching for what you want when this is over. This is a long journey, and you’re going to be happy. So I think that’s what I would tell myself, I don’t know if I’d believe myself but that’s what I would tell myself. At the time that you’re going through it, one day you will be happy. And everything is going to make sense to you, even if it doesn’t make sense for a long time. And there’s always hope.

LP Riturban: I’m sure that message right there for someone who’s going through it right now, will be able to take it and listen and say okay I’m gonna believe this. That said, you know what, we could just end right there.

Nan Zapanta: Sorry, I don’t want to make you a liar LP, I know you said this is the last question. I did, I did have one question. Because I know in the beginning we said oh you know we don’t we don’t have to, to necessarily answer this specific question, but I’m just curious now, especially with the outlook that you have, how did your faith help you with this? 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Real talk. 

Nan Zapanta: Yeah real talk. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: We’ll talk about our faith. As someone who grew up very religious. I was raised that way. My parents are also very active in their church duties. I was a leader. Also, many things at the time, while I was fabulous, you know, or whatever, whatever that, that part of your life that you call your twenties. When I was living it up. We have a lot of information. We have a lot of things that we do when we say our prayers, when we do our activities, we have a lot of that but at that moment where I was suddenly struck with illness. I knew that I had to talk to God about it, because there was no one else who can tell me about it. There was no one else who could reassure me about what was happening. Yeah, everyone was telling me, You’re gonna be okay, you’re young, you’re gonna pull through, this is not that serious. Well, it was serious, right? When the, cancer is a serious thing. There are a lot of serious illnesses out there, some are chronic but, you know, the ones that that are fatal, it’s cancer is one of them so I knew that I also had to make my apologies for not always doing the things that, that I was expected to, And I also had to say my thank-yous. That was the biggest thing for me. I decided to say thank you God. I might only be twenty-six, I might only have twenty-six years of life. But thank you for my family, thank you for all these wonderful experiences–just thank you. I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful that I’ve had this life. And I couldn’t ask for anything more, because if it’s, that’s all that He wanted for me, I’m good. There was–because at that point in time it’s, you’re not in control. All you can do is appreciate every morning you wake up. That’s probably why I still appreciate waking up in the morning, because at the time that I was sick, I was afraid to go to sleep because I was afraid that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. So I would never go to sleep and they would tell me you have to sleep because your body needs to heal from all the treatment and I, I wasn’t sleeping and because I was afraid I wasn’t gonna wake up and I would miss, I would miss everything that was happening. So the turning point, one of the turning points I want to say in my treatment, regarding my faith is listening to my father’s prayers for me. Most kids don’t hear their parents’ prayers for them, right, because it’s private. Maybe it’s between the husband and the wife or the two parents, or you know a single parent, they, those are a conversation between them and God but when I heard my parents’ prayers, especially my father for me, before all my procedures, all my treatment, it was part of our relationship that I had never seen before, that I’ve never experienced before. And to hear such an outpouring of gratitude, love, but most of all concern–it really filled me with hope. When I heard my father praying for my recovery, because he believed that I was going to get through it, and he was entrusting me to God, that God was going to get me through it because of all the things that I had done in service. So, trusting that I was in the place I was supposed to be, and I was doing the thing that I was supposed to do. That part about my faith really helped calm me and helped me be optimistic about the future. Because whether it was the last time I close my eyes I knew that I would wake up to something better.

Nan Zapanta: Wow.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: I will tell you people have asked me, like how are you able to get through that and for the long time I couldn’t answer. I said I don’t know how I got through it, but really it was my faith. And I wasn’t ready to say it because I didn’t know, like there’s so much trauma that goes through, and not just cancer patients but anyone who survived something like that, you know you have survivor’s guilt because you know people have died from it, and I wanted to say I used to be a hotline volunteer…

LP Riturban: Oh really?

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: …for patients, you know, newly diagnosed patients, and there would be women crying on the phone, you know, talking about, I don’t know how to tell my family. Like, you haven’t told your family; that you have stage four breast cancer? You know, like, you don’t have that much time before you start your treatments and some women who didn’t want to get the treatment and whose families have fallen apart because they are in treatment. They’ve been abandoned by their loved ones because their loved ones can’t take the stress like…

LP Riturban: Yeah. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: And I think about our faith. We have an infrastructure, a built in infrastructure to help support us in these kinds of times. 

Nan Zapanta: Yeah.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: We have a built in support group, they will show up at your door with flowers and food, and they will talk to you. And that’s exactly what happened to my family. My family didn’t want to talk about it and then all of a sudden, all these things, and they’re like, they want to see you. I’m like, I don’t want to see anyone mom. Like, I’m bald. I don’t want to see anyone but thank them, please thank them for sending flowers and teddy bears and food and whatever.

LP Riturban: But then you look at it, like you said, you had that experience of, you know, volunteering with the hotline and you see other perspectives. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes, absolutely. 

LP Riturban: What other people had and did not have. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman:  Yes. 

LP Riturban: And you’re able to then put into perspective and compare to yours and ok, “I have the world.” 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Yes right. And for our faith, that’s one of the reasons why I post so much positive stuff. People who have been through something tragic, know what it’s like to be on the other side, and that’s really what moves them to come out of their comfort zone and be extra kind. You know I can’t imagine the horror stories that our frontliners have. But whenever I see any one of them, I’ll always be super extra. I’ll even send them cupcakes. I see them. I do. I ask them where they work and I will send them cupcakes. I’ll send them cookies. When I tell you the trauma of last year, the sirens never stopped in my area, all day, all night. So anyway, but that’s, that’s the story of faith, Nan.

Nan Zapanta: Thank you so much and we really do want to say thank you, like, sincerely thank you for sharing so much with us you know it’s really been not only enjoyable because you’re such a fun person, but also I can relate to a lot of the things that you’re, you’re mentioning. My mom went through a similar thing, and you know her time ended. God, God chose to let her rest and it really, um, it’s different. It’s different for us having our faith, having family around us, having that infrastructure and, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing your story with us. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: Nan. Thank you for, I wasn’t aware about your mom. 

Nan Zapanta: Oh thank you. Everything is a part of God’s plan, right, and it really is. I know it’s such a…

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: No, I agree with you and it’s, it’s hard to not think that it’s so an overused anecdote or idiom, like, but really, everything that you’ve experienced gets you ready for a moment like this.  It’s like why did I live through cancer? To do this! To be here with you guys and talk about how awesome it is to be alive.

Nan Zapanta: There you go. Yeah, yeah. 

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: It’s so weird. It’s hard to explain to people. 

Nan Zapanta: Right.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: It is connected and we just, we just all package it up everyday. It was God’s plan. 

Nan Zapanta: Exactly.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: This is what was meant to happen, so yes.

LP Riturban: Yes, thank you again Cat.

Cathleya Fajardo- Deguzman: I love being here. 

Nan Zapanta: Thank you so much for sharing your story and joining us today we really really appreciate it. In our next episodes, we are going to sit down and really think and look back on what taking a chance on kindness can really do, you know, what doors can it open for us and for even those that are around us and how it can be a lasting impact if we decide to take a chance on kindness.

LP Riturban: Please stay tuned for more conversations like what we just had with Cat. We’re so grateful for all of our guests on Kindness Moves, again, there’s so much more to come. So if you’re not already doing so, follow the official INC Giving Project account on Instagram @incgivingproject. Thank you again. Thank you for tuning in, I’m Lois Paula.

Nan Zapanta: And I’m Nan. For more tips and ideas on how you can make kindness truly contagious, please visit Listen to more episodes on Google podcast, Apple podcast, Spotify, and the INC media mobile app for iOS and Android. And please remember to subscribe or follow us to know when the newest episodes are available.

LP Riturban:  So remember, act now. Make your move, to do good, because kindness matters; it’s meaningful; it motivates; kindness moves.