Beauty pageant for cancer patients boosts awareness, self-esteem

World Today

This month, the world observed International Childhood Cancer Day, an event that aims to reduce deaths and eliminate the pain and suffering of young patients. This week in Mexico City, one group is doing its part to help, by boosting their self-esteem.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock tells us more.

Melanie Ruiz, just 11-years-old, has been battling Leukemia since the age of three. She said she hates needles and has endured months of long hospital stays, aggressive chemotherapy and isolation from her family. But for the past few weeks, she’s had a distraction from all that. She’s been preparing to compete in a beauty pageant.

Along with 11 other girls, all of them also battling childhood cancer, she’s taking to the stage in front of a star-studded Mexico City theater.

Organizers said this cancer patient beauty pageant is the first of its kind in the world, and is held primarily to boost these young girls’ self-esteem, helping them and their families focus on positivity in the face of grave illness. But it brings awareness too, about childhood cancer – and raises important funds to fight it.

The contestants, many of them terminal, tell their stories on stage. Melanie doesn’t speak much, but her family does the talking for her.

“We’ve been through some very difficult times, because our father left us,” Melanie’s sister, Jessica, said. “We got to the point where our mother didn’t have enough money to take her to the hospital, and I had to take the responsibility, because I wanted to save my sister’s life.”

The event was founded by Doctor Jesus Galeana, a pediatric oncologist who said mental health is vital when combatting cancer.

“This event is about saving lives — raising awareness and making sure the girls are happy and feel accepted by society instead of rejected and dehumanized,” Galeana said. “The majority of our patients, both children and adults, don’t die as a result of the illness. They die as a result of depression caused by an indifferent society.”

For Melanie, the experience has been a joyful one, accompanied by her mother every step of the way.

“These things happen for a reason,” Melanie’s mother, Alicia Duran, said. “My daughter needed this pagent to raise her self-esteem, because this illness destroys it. And while the body changes with the treatment, the girls still see themselves as they were before, and this event helps them to become motivated, and see just how beautiful they really are.”

The pageant ends with the crowning of just one queen, but in a sense all 12 contestants are winners, through an experience that has brought them a psychological boost — that just might make all the difference.