What were you doing when you were six years old?
Cosplayer Alexa Gabriel didn't have a normal childhood. She didn't go out to play with her friends, celebrate her birthday, or go on vacation with her family.
At that age, Alexa was nursing a broken heart after her Japanese mother, who was 41 years old then, died of breast cancer. She had to accept the fact that her mom was never coming back.
"I was living in Japan when she died, and I was forced to live here in the Philippines with my dad. That was really hard for me because I didn't know how to speak Tagalog back then or even English and I was very young and I didn't even know what was happening," 22-year-old Alexa told migme.
She's grateful for her two sisters who showered her with love and care, but Alexa admitted that there were times when she felt alone. "It's like you're on your own. I felt alienated," she said.
She missed her life in Japan so much that she turned to something that will bring her closer to the place she still calls home-she keeps herself busy by designing cosplay costumes and modelling.
"When I think of cosplay, I think of Japan, so instead of wallowing in grief, sewing and designing costumes became my outlet to express myself."
Higher cancer risk
Alexa's mother is not the only one in her family who battled cancer. Her maternal grandmother also lost her fight to breast cancer, and sadly, it didn't stop there.
Three years ago, Alexa's father was diagnosed with an early stage of bone cancer. Alexa knows that she and her siblings need to take care of their health even more as there's a high chance that they might get the Big C, too.
"It's really in our genes. My siblings and I are at risk. My eldest sister regularly goes to the doctor for check-ups. My last check-up was last year, we did some blood tests."
Alexa also tries to eat healthy and avoid too much stress. She encourages everyone to see the doctor regularly, because cancer can strike at any age.
"You don't feel the effects of cancer right away. You'll probably feel the symptoms when it's already at its peak, when it has already spread, so it is very important to be aware and take precautions," she said.
Alexa's love for her mom is one of the reasons why she agreed to share her story.
She said: "I miss her and I love her. I promised her that in my own way little way, I'd help those who are going through the same experience. 'Be strong'-I know that's what my mother would like me to tell those who are suffering from cancer. Be strong."