She was warm, friendly, and articulate. Had I not been updated about her health battle, I would have simply looked at the smiling 13-year-old Zoey Taberna as an ordinary teenager. She is the eldest daughter of broadcast journalist and radio anchor Anthony “Ka Tunying” Taberna and his wife, entrepreneur, and producer Rossel.
At the “Press Play” relaunch event of the Taberna Group of Companies last July 31, young Zoey looked lovely in an off-shoulder dress that looked identical to what her mom and sister Helga were wearing. The family had a lot of reasons to celebrate that night – Rossel’s birthday, Tune In Kay Tunying Youtube channel launch, Catering by KT launch, the return of Outbox Media, and Zoey’s healing.
Zoey confirmed that she is now cancer-free after her almost three-year battle. In 2019, she was diagnosed with leukemia and initial treatments went well. Unfortunately, Zoey’s case turned into a more dangerous and fatal form in December 2021. The situation eventually led to a bone marrow transplant in Singapore. Zoey’s younger sister Helga became her donor.
“It’s actually like a blood transfusion po. They took her stem cell and then they transferred it to me after they wiped out all of the cells in my bone marrow po,” Zoey explained to us the procedure that she and her sister underwent. “Her blood is basically in my body,” she added.
Well-mannered, the young survivor peppers her sentences with the customary po and opo even when answering in English.
“Sometimes, I still cannot believe that I went through like that po. Like sometimes, I just think that when I wake up, everything is going to be rewound to 2019 and all these are just part of a dream,” Zoey opened up about realizing the gravity of her and her family’s ordeal and the temporary disbelief that she conquered it.
Ka Tunying and his wife Rossel revealed during the launch how they almost sold a house to shoulder Zoey’s medical expenses. But help, through the kindness of a lot of people, started pouring in. Faith in humanity and in God kept the Tabernas going. They held on to each other and surrendered everything to God.
“I fought for my family and for God,” Zoey shared how she overcame the fears of the unknown. While she knew how some people who went through a similar battle ended up dying, Zoey still powered through, reassured of her parents and sister’s love. She added, “Almost everything I did po was not for myself but for my loved ones. That was my mindset.”
Aside from her family and God, Zoey also turned to entertainment for a much-needed boost. She said, “I found comfort din po in KPop. I’ve been very interested in Korean pop culture since 2017 or 2018. Specifically BTS po. BTS, ENHYPHEN, those groups po, they helped me.” Also on her list of things that made her happy during her days at the hospital are American series Friends and Grey’s Anatomy.
As things are starting to shape up for Zoey, the third year junior high school student is looking forward to experiencing school in the flesh. “I just really want everything to be back to normal because even if I’m cancer-free po, there’s still a pandemic. I just want to be able to experience high school in person because the entire time po that I’ve been in high school po, it’s been online. And I want to experience life po in general.” Zoey’s eyes sparkled with hope and excitement as she talked about what lies ahead.
The aspiring writer and music producer hopes to lift the spirits of others who may still be going through what she went through. She wishes to tell anyone struggling, “You can do it. Just keep your faith. Don’t lose hope and just keep on praying no matter what your religion is, or even if you don’t have one. Take as much help as you can from your family and your doctors.”
It was easy to forget that our interviewee was a 13-year-old as she sounded so wise beyond her years. I just snapped back to reality when Zoey shared how, recently, she and her sister were only allowed by their mom and dad to use their gadgets after turning in their 500-word essays on any topic that they like.
I hope Zoey gets to write her own story one day so that more people will be blessed by a life that is filled with small acts of love that led to a big miracle.
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