July 24, 2015
I felt the lump in my breast on May 31. It was 1:00 in the morning. My initial reaction was 'Oh no! It can't be..' Denial, right? So, I shrugged it off and hoped that it would go away.
Well, it didn't.
That night, I felt for it again. Uh-oh! still there! I realized then that I had to take this... thing seriously. But still, I hoped it would go away. The following night, IT WAS STILL THERE.
I began to feel scared. What if it's cancer? What if I'm dying pretty soon? What if... Oh my God! Oh my God!
The truth is I'm open to the idea of dying. I know that anybody can die anytime of the day or night. Now, PAIN.. that's another story. To say I don't like pain is an understatement. I hate pain. My tolerance for pain is very low. What is painful to other people is very very painful to me.
So, as I lay on my bed contemplating the idea, I started to cry. Really cry. Not my usual eyes-watering or tears-slowly-rolling-down-my cheeks cry. I wept. But not because of the idea of pain or of dying, but because of the idea that I may be leaving my children sooner than I would want to. It tore my heart apart to think that my kids might witness my pain and suffering.
I love my kids dearly. I would do everything to spare them of such agony. I wouldn't want to break their hearts from seeing me suffer and, ultimately, die, if I would, indeed, die anytime soon.
That's when I decided that if I go down, it wont be without a fight. If there is any way I could survive this ordeal, in case there will be an ordeal, I'll do it.
But the thing is.. I'm not a fighter. I never want to fight anyone or anything. I don't think I have it in me. Submitting has always been an easier option for me than arguing or pushing or nagging. I'm not a warrior. I'm just an ordinary woman who laughs, cries, pees, poos, farts and watches tv series. But for the sake of my kids, I will do the first and basic of steps, I WILL HAVE THIS LUMP CHECKED.
After procrastinating for a few hours, I finally packed the courage to go to the doctor's clinic. The doctor is actually a pediatrician who has checked on my children through the years that we became personal acquaintances and though we are not, technically, friends, we are friendly. So, when she asked why I was there, I said 'I have.. ahhh.. I think.. I felt a lump in my left breast' in my most casual tone.
The doctor asked me to unstrap my bra and felt for the lump herself. The grim expression on my doctor's usually friendly and smiling face after a series of presses all over my left and right breasts confirmed my fear. She felt it too.
She told me to sit down and said she felt a lump and that she would write a referral for me to her colleague, a surgeon, in East Avenue Medical Center. She asked me if I have any relative who has or had cancer. I nearly denied that my father died of cancer 11 years ago, and that two of his sisters died of cancer, too. But I was perfectly aware that it wouldn't do me any good, so I told her the truth. She handed me the referral and said not to waste time which for me meant.. the odds were against me.
When the doctor finally called for me in his clinic the following day, I was already what they call.. a bag of nerves. I gave him the referral and he went to work right away. He felt for the lump my doctor-friend mentioned in the referral and asked me to sit down. He confirmed that a lump was indeed there and that the next thing to be done was to have it biopsied to find out whether it was benign or malignant. He explained that I could choose between needle biopsy and excision biopsy. The former means inserting a needle into the lump and get a sample while the latter means cutting a small opening on my left breast to remove the lump to be taken to a pathologist. After learning the advantages and disadvantages of both, I chose excision biopsy and since I already had some money with me, I asked the doctor if I can have the surgery right then and he was okay with that. Then, as an afterthought, I asked him what is next if my lump turns out to be malignant. He said I could choose between removal of a quarter of my left breast and removal of my entire left breast. Pros and cons? Leaving three quarters of my left breast means there is still a chance that a new lump might grow. Okay. The entire left breast then, if in case.
The moment I felt the first slash of the scalpel on my skin I suddenly remembered that I forgot to mention to the doctor one important thing, I am hypertensive. So, I struggled so hard to keep myself calm because the moment I panic my blood pressure would surely shoot up and I might die of stroke without finding out whether I have cancer or not. I started to sing in my head, then thought of my newest crochet project, a green and gold bed sheet for my eldest daughter, then I started to think of another project, an amigurumi of Baymax, then a bolero for my other daughter, a hooded jacket for myself. When the surgery was finished, I already had about a dozen crochet projects lined up.
The doctor showed me my lump which is the size (and the color) of a grape. A big one. The big oval one with big bitter seed. Then he also asked me if I have a relative who has or had cancer, so I told him about all three of them. Then he asked me how they are now. I answered him in my most hopeless tone that they are all dead. And yes, of cancer.
Probably trying to make me feel better and hopeful, he said that I'm still young and that I look strong enough and that I will definitely respond well to treatment... JUST in case my lump is malignant. Then he wrote on the endorsement letter to be attached to the jar, where my lump was put, a note that says 't/c breast CA' which I interpreted as 'to be considered for breast cancer'. Nice.
I gave my jar to the Pathology Department and was told that the result will be available after 7-10 days. Then I walked out of the hospital.
I cried all the way home. And the entire night. And the next three days. On the fourth day I started to feel better. The fifth day I began to feel brave and bold and considered some cancer treatments (just in case). The sixth day I felt like my normal self, happy and loud. The seventh day I was back to day one, jittery and nervous. I called the Pathology Department first to find out if my result was already available. It was.
I went back to the hospital with my eldest daughter (to catch me in case I get to faint). I reached for the envelope with trembling hands. I made sure I was comfortable on the chair when I opened it. There were so many words on it which described my lump. I read them all for the sake of reading and finally came to the part that says 'There is no evidence of malignancy seen in the specimen evaluated'.
I felt my chest expand. I was happy. No, I was more than happy. I was blissful.
I waited for my doctor and gave him my result. He congratulated me but said he was not comfortable with the result. He said it was up to me but it would make him feel better if I get a second opinion. Well, it seems like he was so convinced that my lump would turn out malignant and he was having a hard time accepting that it wasn't.
So, my bubble was burst and I went home with a seed of doubt in my heart. I reread my result but instead of happiness and assurance, I felt fear.. AGAIN.
I went back to the hospital and did what my doctor told me to do. I waited for another week and got the result 'No malignancy is evident'. That night after thanking the Lord for the hundredth time, I finally slept soundly.
*For two weeks, the longest two weeks of my life so far, I pray to the Lord every single day and night. This was what I asked of him: 'Please, don't let me die yet. And if I really will die pretty soon, give me the courage to face it and accept it. Take care of my kids and help them deal with it' I would never know whether the Lord answered my prayer or it simply went the way it should be. One thing I'm sure of, though, is that GOD IS GOOD, ALL THE TIME.
July 17, 2015
This is a re-post. It originally appeared on another blog on May 07, 2014. It is re-posted for sentimental reasons.
It's summer here in the Philippines and it seems like the hottest summer so far, though we say that about every summer.
Everyone finds a way to get through the heat, from the most to the least expensive. The rich leave the country to spend the season in a much colder place while those who can afford spend almost everyday going to beaches and various resorts.
For us ordinary citizens, however, we hole up in the coziest part of the house with a pitcher of iced water permanently sitting on the table. Electric fans are turned to #3 the whole day and turned off only to cool the motor down.We are luckier than others.
I saw people toiling under the ruthless heat of the sun because they have no choice. I saw construction workers, street vendors and hired hands at the farm who labor the whole day to earn money to put food on the table.
And every time I think about them, I feel ashamed. I feel ashamed for complaining about not having enough money, about the pile of bills on my desk, about not being able to go somewhere, about the heat, about everything, when I should be grateful for what I have.
Lord, teach me to be thankful for the gift of comfort..
July 16, 2015
Last Saturday, we joined the 2014 Earth Hour. And since it was very hot inside the house with all the electric fans turned off, we preferred to stay outside while the Earth Hour was going on.
With the lights out, I suddenly remembered my childhood in the province, the quiet and peaceful nights usually spent singing and strumming guitar, playing guessing games, throwing around corny jokes and half-truths about everyone in town.
We had no gadgets to play with or watch on to keep us entertained, just the starry sky with all its secrets and mysteries. I know it’s not healthy to dwell on the past but looking back brings up happy memories to keep hopes up in order to look forward to the future..
I grew up in the province during the 80s. In those days, computers were unheard of yet. There were no gadgets except for Game N Watch which only the rich families could afford. There was no cell phone either, and even land line phones were scarce and only installed in the city which was an hour drive from our town.
So, what games did we play back then? Well, plenty! And absolutely much more enjoyable than the computer games kids play these days.
For girls, we played piko (hopscotch) on the street, we made mud pies and clay pots, Chinese garters, jump ropes and foot jump.
While for boys they played mostly black one-two-three which is simply running around and chasing each other, touching ball, luksong baka, baseball and other ball games.
For both boys and girl, we play sipa, patintero, hide-and-seek, luksong tinik, syetong, 7-up, touch the color, tug-of-war, and a lot lot more.
We may not have computer, tablet, DS, PSP, cell phone or whatever gadgets kids have today, but our childhoods were more memorable and I, for one, wouldn’t exchange mine for any piece of technological innovation.
July 15, 2015
This is a re-post. It originally appeared on another blog on March 16, 2014. It is re-posted for sentimental reasons.
On Friday night, with my two kids already asleep and I was preparing to go to bed myself, the lights went out and we were enveloped in darkness.
I waited a few moments for the electricity to come back. Few minutes, several minutes, half an hour later, it didn’t. So, I brought out the candles which I kept for such situations and felt grateful that I still have enough to last for hours. I also brought out our rechargeable light with fan. It didn’t last long, however. Probably, someone used it before and whatever power it had was just a leftover of the previous charging.
The minutes turned to hours. It seems like our subdivision or probably the entire city of Caloocan was covered by a thick suffocating blackness. It was then that I realized how dependent we become to electricity to live.
During the 80s, when I was in grade school, some remote areas in our province didn’t even have electricity and they were living just fine putting up mosquito nets at night and opening door and windows to let some air in. But right now, sleeping without electric fan is nightmare and a day without checking out the computer (which requires electricity) for social media updates is depressing.
Five hours and six pieces of big fat candles later, the power came back and we were finally able to sleep.
July 14, 2015
Ah.. They are a pain..?
Well, I happen to have nosy neighbors and they are very good in what they do. I always find them chatting about everyone and everything in the neighborhood. Every time a door opens and closes, they stop talking and look as if their lives depend on what’s going on behind that door.
What I don’t understand and probably wont for the rest of my life is their irrational desire to know what’s going on with other people’s lives. Why it drives them mad not knowing what other people do, where they go and whom they go with? And when they couldn’t get the information on their own, they need to ask the person herself. Don’t they even realize that the person isn’t talking because she doesn’t want them to know anything basically because they don’t need to?
And the worse part? Whatever they learn or whatever they think they learn, they would share to everyone else. Don’t they know I’m not interested in what they have to say about others? It’s not that I’m callous or something like that, it’s not that I don’t care even a little. It’s just that I respect other people’s privacy so I tend to stay away from their business. And that I have better use of my time than to talk with them so that they could talk about me afterwards.
I know I’m being called a snob and so unneighborly behind my back but I’d rather be that than be like them..
July 13, 2015
During the 90s, there were only a few people in our neighborhood in the province who knew how to use the sphygmomanometer, or commonly known as the BP apparatus.
Among such people was my cousin who lives in the house next to ours. One morning, right after breakfast, a neighbor a few houses away, called on him. She asked him to take the blood pressure of her husband who had been very sick for some while. My cousin packed the BP apparatus and taking my brother with him, he went to the neighbor’s house.
At first he had a really difficult time feeling for the patient’s pulse. Then, when he finally felt what he thought was the pulse, he wrapped the pressure cuff around the man’s arm and pressed the bulb repeatedly. He didn’t hear anything. So, he tried again.. Then again.. And yet again.. There was no sound. There was no blood pressure.
He took the earpiece out and said in a troubled tone…
“I’m sorry about this.. but I can’t hear any sound. He doesn’t have any blood pressure…'”
The woman who fetched him rushed towards her husband and put her ear on his chest. Then she looked up and said..
“He doesn’t have any heartbeat either..”
Well, obviously, the patient was already dead but no one realized it right away.
After a few years, when we talk about it, it sounded funny at first, the idea of taking the blood pressure of a dead man was hilarious, but when we think about a dead man lying on the bed without anybody knowing he was dead, well.. that sounds horrible..
We don’t just realize it but things like that really happen in the neighborhood.
July 12, 2015
My friend is a tricycle driver. Though he loves being a driver, he wouldn’t do it if he has a choice. I understand him, of course. Being a tricycle driver is difficult. It is tiring, it feels hot, it feels cold, it can be dangerous and a lot more. But then again, if you have no choice, then, just accept being a driver and be a good one.
So, my friend got irked when another driver approached him asking if he has smaller bills for a one hundred pesos. He said he had and handed the driver one fifty peso bill, two twenty peso bill and a ten peso coin. The driver took the money and left..
He didn’t come back.. at all. He took the money with him but didn’t give my friend back the one hundred peso bill. My friend waited. He waited until noon, then afternoon, then evening, but no… the driver just simply forgot to give him back his one hundred pesos.
Knowing how my friend worked for that money, I felt bad for him. But I also know that it wasn’t actually the money that irked him a lot, it was the attempt to outsmart him. It was the conscious effort to make a fool out of him. It was the malicious intent to rob him of his hard earned money.
Well, what can I say but there are a lot of jerks in the neighborhood..
July 11, 2015
Arman* and Julia* had been married for nearly 20 years. Without tertiary education, it had been difficult for both of them to get a job. Eventually, Arman found work as a porter in a wet market. Julia, however, didn’t find any, which was for the better as she had to stay home to take care of the kids.
Things seem to be going well. But then, Arman developed an ugly vice, drinking. Half of what he earned went to the bottle. Moreover, Julia developed an even uglier vice, card betting, and that in addition to the expanding family.
A few years after the birth of their 6th child, Arman got sick. He got it from too much alcohol. Julia was too distracted to find work. Then, she became pregnant for their 7th child.
What to do?
The family had to interfere. Arman’s parents helped him to get proper medication. And when the baby came out, the family decided to put the child up for adoption. With Arman under medication and Julia out of focus, the family sought for a distant relative who, they believe, would take care of the baby as if it were his own. Fortunately, they found one. He was a cousin who wasn’t blessed with a child of his own. He and his wife took the baby in.
That was 2 years ago. The baby has grown up to be a healthy child. Arman has gotten well and is now back to work. I just hope that Julia would get cured of her card betting and start thinking of her family.
*not real name
July 10, 2015
Last Christmas, my friend had the traditional drinking session with his buddies back home. Naturally, they got drunk. One of his drinking buddies tried to borrow my friend's motorcycle but since they were all drunk, he refused.
The night wore on and my friend got so drunk he fell asleep. He woke up late in the afternoon with a splitting headache. But there was worse than his throbbing temple. His motorcycle was gone and so was his key.
He was gripped with fear, and in his mind he begged the Lord not to let whatever was in his mind happen. But the arrival of a grim-faced friend was almost a confirmation.
As my friend feared, his drinking buddy stole his key from his pocket, rode his motorcycle and crashed against a checkpoint. He was taken to the nearest hospital but was transferred to another, bigger one because of the severity of his injuries. The motorcycle was a total wreck.
Though I am thankful that it wasn't my friend who had an accident I felt sad and bad for his drinking buddy. He should've known better than to drink and drive..
July 9, 2015
We’ve been living in our subdivision for exactly 11 years now. We moved her on February 2003. So, not surprisingly we have numerous acquaintances as is common in an ordinary community.
Among our ‘nickname-basis’ acquaintances is Don*.Well, as far as I know, Don is known around the subdivision because he is a tricycle driver, so, chances are, most of the residents know him by face.
But one thing I noticed about Don is that, he is very friendly and he assumes that he is close to everyone, especially girls. He has a habit of greeting someone and talking to her as if they are grade school classmates that sort of thing.
I also learned from others that he has a habit of hugging a ‘friend’ as he greets her with overly enthusiastic and exaggeratedly cordial '’Friend!!” which is how he calls everyone.
But on New Year’s Day, as he was waiting for passengers outside the church, he actually saw an acquaintance and as is his habit, he approached and hugged the ‘friend’ in his usual sunshiny tone. But the warmth in his voice was stopped short by the icy palm of his friend on his face. He was, in short, well.. slapped.
He immediately got on his tricycle on drove home. He never showed up for the rest of the day.
Well.. Isn’t he assuming or what?
*not real name
July 8, 2015
Fernan* is the youngest of 8 children. Their father was an austere and tough man who believed everything could be settled by fist fights. Uneducated but hardworking, the old man did not send all his children to college and none except the one who supported herself for a higher education made it through tertiary level.
When the old man got too old to work in the fields, his children began to fight among themselves over the big parcel of land their father has accumulated through hard work. So, the old man decided to divide the land. As soon as he got his part, each sibling turned his back on his family and went on with his own life, including Fernan.
All of them did well except for Berto* who happened to be a little sickly and therefore physically weak. When problem arises, Berto would try to ask help from his siblings who were willing to help him out as long as he would give them back whatever he borrowed. Berto tried, but somehow he failed to pay his siblings back so they turned their backs on him.
Then, a few years back, Fernan got sick. He needed an operation but he didn't have enough cash. He approached his much wealthier siblings who were willing to lend him money IF he would give his land as collateral for the loan. Fernan had no choice but to accept his siblings' condition. He needed to get well so that he could support his family.
That was a few years ago. Fernan is now completely recovered from his illness but his land is lost altogether to his siblings who are now enjoying the fruits of their brother's land.
I don't know but there is something sad about this. And the worst part? They are my distant relatives.
*not real name
July 7, 2015
I know several people who have issues concerning tact. I, myself, have problems controlling what comes out of my mouth every now and then. But compared when I was in my 20s, I think longer now before I talk which saves me a lot of embarrassing situations.
So, when I heard about Mr. Naga*, an old and stern preacher, I felt vindicated(?) well, better off. Mr. Naga is a severe and very outspoken preacher who felt it his Christian duty to remind each and every one of his or her fault, IN PUBLIC.
It was for this reason that my cousin, Rica* started to miss masses. She felt that he was picking on her. Then, Rica started having marital problems which led to a painful separation and which was aggravated by her miscarriage. Rica nursed her bruised and bleeding heart by refraining to talk about it with anyone except her family.
Then one day, Mr. Naga came and asked about her condition. It seems a very sweet and humane gesture.. at first. Because before he left, Mr.Naga said that Rica’s separation from her husband and her miscarriage were punishment for all her sins.
Rica hasn’t set her foot on the church again until now.
*not real name
July 6, 2015
My aunt has been living in the United States for decades now. She helped me and my cousins through college and helped my sister come to the US as well.
Last year, my aunt suddenly decided to try to file a petition for her siblings to come live with her in the US. It was such a marvelous idea my cousins sprang up to apply for their parents’ passports. But the promising world came crashing down on them when they learned their parents have no birth certificates.
Well, how did it happen that two old men near their sixties don’t have any proof of their birth?
It seems like, during that time, women usually gave birth at home and not in hospitals. As soon as the baby came out, the local midwife would ask a neighbor who was going to town to ‘have’ the baby registered at the municipal hall. Now, if this neighbor was not able to do it because he had his hands full of errands and forgot to mention the little detail to the mother, the truth would stay undiscovered until such time as this, getting a passport.
Quite common but undeniably annoying, this is an issue that we can only solve by late registration.
To avoid such inconvenience, I got copies of my children’s birth certificates early on to make sure there was no mistake in names, birthdates, names of parents and so on. Because it may sound funny if it happens to other people but seriously inconvenient when it happens to you..
July 5, 2015
This happened last year. I decided not to post about it because it made me feel very sad but for some reasons I feel I should, at least to warn other people about it.
Back in our province, washing clothes in the river is still done. One day, this young mother brought her laundry in the river. Since she had no one to leave her son with, she brought him with her. While she was doing the laundry, the boy was playing around, running by the riverbank, picking up pebbles and splashing water.
The mother probably got too busy she didn’t notice that her little boy was no longer around. She waited for a while hoping that he would come running back from his hiding place, but he didn’t, so she started looking for him.
She found his lifeless body several meters from where she was washing. It seems that he slipped on a mossy rock, fell and drowned in the knee-deep water.
If only she found him sooner.. But nobody knows, right?
July 4, 2015
Several years ago, I was getting ready for the christening of one of my goddaughters. I was almost ready when I realized I didn’t have nice shoes that would match my nice dress. I felt sorry for myself. If only I had a lot of money I could buy several pairs of shoes to match every dress I wear. But since I hadn’t, my only pair of sensible and old shoes will do.
Then I went out of the house to wait for a tricycle out of the barrio. As I was at the waiting shed, I caught sight of a trio of dirty and big-eyed children walking with, presumably, their mother towards me. I recognized her as one of those who lived in a compound somewhere in the interior of the barrio. All the kids had hollow cheeks. They were skinny and dressed in oversized old shirts and they were, all of them, barefooted.
Knowing how hot and rough the pebbles on the street were, I, impulsively, asked the mother..
“Why are they barefooted?”
“They don’t have any slippers..”
And that was that.
I looked at my old shoes and realized how ungrateful I was a while ago.
July 3, 2015
This actually happened more than eight years ago but the memory still stings.
I can’t remember which grading period it was but it was the distribution of cards. I took a short bath and rushed off to school hoping to get back to my chores as soon as possible. But of course, it wasn’t as simple as that. When I arrived there were a few parents already there apparently waiting for the class adviser. I sat beside an old woman who was supposed to get her grandson’s report card. Since I don’t talk much with people I don’t know I simply smiled at the old woman who just as simply smiled back at me much to my relief.
After a few more minutes, the teacher came out but announced first that those students who had some unpaid accounts(?), I didn’t know what it was called because it referred to PTA contribution, test paper, etc., would not have their cards released.
So, we approached the teacher one by one and she checked her list if the student is paid or not then handed the report card over. As soon as I got my daughter’s card, I got ready to leave when I heard the teacher talking to the old woman. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I didn’t need to because the voice was loud enough for me to hear. It seems like the old woman’s grandson had some unpaid stuff and that his card was being held until the account was paid.
The old woman simply nodded in understanding then waved for her grandson to come over. She explained that she could not get his report card because of some unpaid things and that she didn’t have enough money to pay it just then, and that as a matter of fact she just walked from home going to school just so she could come.
I’m not, normally, a generous person. I don’t offer help so spontaneously but my heart went out to the old woman. I opened my purse to check whether I had enough money to cover the unpaid amount and thankfully I had with me a few hundred pesos. I don’t usually carry much cash as I don’t expect to buy anything. But when I looked around for the old woman, she was already gone, probably to go home.
I tried to run after her but she probably turned an alley because I didn’t see her at all. I felt sad. I’m not rich. I don’t worship money, I believe that money is the root of all evil, but I know I need it. But at that time, more than any other, I felt how much difference a few hundred pesos can do. I felt so sad I couldn’t bring myself to be grateful for what I have. It took me a few days before I could finally set aide the memory of the old woman and her grandson. But I never forget it to this day.
July 2, 2015
I like money. Who doesn’t?
But I like it for the things it could buy and for the services it could provide for me and not for what it actually is, pieces of colored paper with the presidents’ faces on them. So, when I met people who love money for the sheer idea of money, I was.. amused?
When I have money, the first thing I usually buy is.. food. I would treat myself to a nice diner and eat. Then, when I’m stuffed, I go to bookstores, preferably one that sells second hand because they are cheaper. I would buy something to read that is good for a month or so. Then, when I still have time, I would go to the department store and shop for clothes, shoes and bags. I usually go home empty-handed. I don’t buy, I just look. Or when I do buy, I usually hunt for the cheapest of all.
Then I met Sophie and Andrea. They are the most hard working people I know. They get up at the break of dawn and go to bed as late as they could. With such unmatchable dedication to work, I wouldn’t be surprised if I find their houses overflowing with stuff they buy for themselves.
They didn’t have any. Sophie doesn’t even have a decent television set. She works like crazy but doesn’t buy anything for herself or for her family. When I ask her what she does with the money she earns, she says she counts them every day. The same goes with Andrea. They work because they love the sight and the feel of money in their hands.
Well.. what do I have to say about that? That’s… individual differences.
July 1, 2015
Last week, we received a text message from the province telling us about a terrible news. One of our neighbors, probably a distant relative, took her own life and that of her three month-old child.
Dying is sad. Killing oneself is three times more so. As the rumors went, the girl had enough of the extreme poverty that battered the lives of almost all the residents in our barrio. With mind apparently clouded by hunger, she woke up early, fetched a pail of water on which she drowned her child before she hanged herself by a rope. Probably unsure she would die instantly, she even stuck a knife on her chest making sure whoever might find her first would not be able to revive her.
People have various reactions. I only felt extreme sadness for the girl. How difficult was life that she chose death over it?