The sunlight radiates through her eyes as she leaves school after class. The roads blast with noise as she crosses the pavements on her way home. Every step reminds her of how she used to be walking on different ramps and stages, the sunlight suddenly becoming her spotlight. It is the end of another regular school day for teener Trisha Duncan.
At the age of three, she started ramp modeling for kiddie brands like Barbie, OshKosh, Gingersnaps, etc. Since then, different companies started noticing her talent and recruited her for magazine and newspaper features and other print materials.
When she won as the My Veet Girl ambassador back in 2013, she joined I Am Meg Season 2. This opened more avenues for modeling projects. Since then she started judging pageants, giving speeches, doing commercials, video projects, and more shoots.
At 19, the commercial and print model is the fifth lupus survivor in the entire Philippines, which she admits is a miracle. This chronic, autoimmune disease caused her to momentarily leave her passion in modeling, as well as her studies. She already had scoliosis during this time.
“It’s easier for me to accept having cancer than having lupus,” Duncan sadly said, recalling her two-month stay in the hospital.
“The hospital was like home to me, my mom became so acquainted with the nurses as if they’re relatives.”
She went home daily to her family in Cainta, Rizal. Her father who works in General Santos City immediately came home as soon as he heard the bad news.
“I used to think I was really, really healthy before I got inflicted,” Duncan said as she explained that it was vegetables and not fastfood as her staple. She admitted to being a workaholic and how it affected her health that later led to lupus.
“I got sick because I was always too tired. I’ was the type who can’t stand doing nothing,” she clarified.
Lupus made her unable to think straight and incapable of speaking properly. It also affected her brain, heart, kidney, and liver. She also experienced bone marrow aspiration in which bone marrows do not produce enough blood cells. Her low platelet could have led to blood coming out of the eyes and ears. From 108 pounds, her weight dropped to 88 pounds after a few days in the hospital. She had 10 blood transfusions with several needles stuck to her hands and feet.
As terrifying as it all sounds, Trisha enjoyed her stay in the hospital because of the overwhelming number of friends she never expected she had. Blood donors were more than enough, and the excess was given to dengue patients.
A classmate, Brian Guiang, who happened to be a cancer survivor, created a website for her. This very kind act caught Duncan by surprise because she and Brian were not close in class and barely talked, except when there were assignments or he’d ask for paper.
“Everything I did then was voluntary, expecting no return. It turned out I got back more than I gave,” she realized, as she narrated how she also donated blood and raised funds for a fellow churchgoer who had leukemia.
Trisha’s two-month confinement cost around P1 million. She and her family were very grateful to I Am Meg host Maxene Magalona because of her generous contribution. With the help of anonymous donors, almost P500,000 was donated to Duncan’s bank account.
Reading about her sickness after overcoming fear, Duncan found out that lupus patients may not be able to conceive anymore, a fact that she finds difficult to accept.
“Sometimes, I wish I could’ve done things differently. I should have not overworked myself,” she realized, because she badly wanted to have children in the future.
After overcoming her illness, Duncan returned to school. She is studying Organizational Communication at De La Salle University. This was supposed to be her final year in college, but due to lupus, she has four more terms left before graduation.
“At least I know I’m near graduation again,” she said, with a smile on her face.
Looking back, Duncan reminisced her bittersweet battle against lupus.
“No doubt, I had fun during my stay in the hospital. I don’t really get sad whenever I think of my travails. It’s the pain brought by injection that was hard to endure, both physical and emotional,” she said.
Ever since she came back from the hospital, Duncan has never had cough, colds or fever. She also did not feel any muscle pains any longer.
“I now really, really take of myself. I don’t want to get back. Ever,” she affirmed.
But there’s one that Duncan hopes to get back to soon, the thing she loves doing best: modeling.