Tuesday, March 16, 2010

why me?

Sometimes I cannot help but ask, why did this happen to me? Why did I have a tumor, a brain tumor at that? I thought it only happened to other people or to some unfortunate soul in the movies.

Is it something I did? Karma? Is it karma? Am I being punished? What did I do? Do I deserve this? Am I that bad to have had that affliction? I think there are worse people than me (according to my judgment)yet they are scot-free from any disease.

Or is it something I did not do like I did not forward the chain letter and just kept it in my inbox? Or I did not heed the signs (such as extreme head aches, loss of hearing, imbalance--- among others)that is why it became as big as this? Or were there absence of manifestations of the usual symptoms? Or is it because I did not give a coin to a beggar tugging my sleeves at the market?

Mama is blaming herself because of the tumor. "Pinabayaan kitang mauntog.... pero hindi, ..hindi kita pinabayaan". I know it is no more than her fault than mine.

I may have had the tumor since I was 11 years old. This is based on the size (5 cms by 4.68 cms, the average annual growth of the tumor (1 to 1.5 millimeters--- yes, it is a very slow growing one), and my age. Thirty-three years... long time. I think this explains my very high tolerance for pain. I grew accustomed to it through the years. (That, Dr. Gap, is your answer when you wondered allowed how I withstood the pain that came with the hydrocephalus).

I have read a lot about AN to search for the answers.But I do not have all of them. One thing is sure, that it is rare and it is sporadic. It does not choose which person it grows on. Neither does a person magnet it because of his diet or because of what he did.

With this, I rest my case and my introspection. I had it, it is a fact. Coping with it and its after effects is the most logical thing to do. Now, to the gym I go.....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

a prayer for me

Luke 4:38-40 Jesus Heals Many

Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now, Simon's
mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus
to help her.

So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up
at once and began to wait on them.

When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had
various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, healed them.

Like the three gospels, the gospel of Luke, Luke incidentally was a physician and who related this incident, talked about the miracle of healing done by the Lord Jesus Christ as he went preaching. When the words about this miracle healings spread around quickly, many believed because they saw them happen.

How about today? Some may but some may not believe this to happen. Many would attribute healing to medical science and the advanced technology we now have. However, it can not be denied that all knowledge and talents came from HIM.

So today as we are gathered to celebrate the new life that our FATHER and GOD has endowed Bits, let us come before Him as we profess the miraculous healing He had done on Bits.

Let us pray.......

MOST PRECIOUS FATHER and GOD, the GREATEST HEALER of all, we come to you once more to worship you and thank your for the many wonderful things you have done in our lives.

Thank you foremost for the lives you have given us. Thank you for health and strength. Thank you for the countless blessing showered on each one. Thank you even for the trials that come our way.

Forgive us FATHER that at many times we questioned you about these trials. However, we believe that you had reasons to give these to us because on the other hand you gave us the strength to face these.

Tonight, we specially thank You for the continuing sustenance of Bits as she went through her surgery and recovery. We believe that you are the GREATEST DOCTOR, and you touched her and healed her of her illness. Thank you fro providing all her needs. Thank you for the members of the health care team who cared for her. Thank you for all the loved ones who gave themselves and patently and lovingly stood by to give her strength as she climbed her mountain to the peak of recovery.

At this moment, we would like, once more to lift her unto you FATHER, continue to give her strength and the patience to face whatever circumstance that will come her way. FATHER, we would like to pray that if it is your will, she recovers completely from the effects of the disease she had.

There are so many things to thank you FATHER. Thank you for being faithful to us your children. And as we partake of the food set before us, may you bless all these to nourish our bodies and may you also bless the bonds of love and fellowship we have for each other.

In JESUS'S mighty name we pray, AMEN!

(Karol Ruth Licudine-Valles)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

a simple how are you will do

I am one of those who do not like going to funerals or visiting sick people, especially those who are terminally ill. I do not know what to say or what to do. I also have the feeling, sometimes, that those left behind do not really know me. At other times,I do not feel significant enough to matter especially if the one whose wake it is is popular (justification?.... hmmmmm...).

I do not know what to say or what to do. What do you say to somebody whom you know is going to die? Get well soon? Or to those left behind by a beloved? ( I think going to a wake is easier...).

But a simple "how are you?" is enough, I have discovered. Things change when viewed from the perspective of the recipient. It may not be enough to you but it is already a lot. To ask how somebody is doing is enough, to listen to his answer means even more.

To ask "what can I do to help?" may also mean very much. Even if you cannot do a lot, just the thought that somebody is willing to do something really lifts one up.

Or just your mere presence is enough. Being in the same room expresses sympathy and kinship and somehow conveys the idea that one is not going at it alone.

Or just a touch is enough to reassure a person that he is not alone in this world, that he has people who are with him as he goes through his pain, through his journey.

Yes...don't forget..... just a simple "how are you?" will do.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

therapy, therapy....

Now, Yodi (Jael, my older daughter, helps sometimes, too) and I just do the facial therapy every night. It starts with the electronic stimulation of some points on my face, then a massage, and then the facial exercises. The electronic stimulation makes my facial muscles move involuntarily, it reminds me of a fish out of the water, gasping for precious oxygen. And you should see the exercises, too... They made me feel silly in the beginning (I still feel silly, once in a while) but I have grown accustomed to them. Yodi makes it a point (he says he reserves the energy) to do my therapy. Sometimes, he is so tired that the counting makes him sleepy and his touch slackens, but he does the therapy without fail. Only on rare occasions do we skip the therapy. I like doing therapy because it eases the pain and discomfort from the numbness, it makes my speech better, and it relaxes me. Another plus is that Yodi (and Jael) and I are closer because we are doing something together (maybe ballroom dancing or Aikido or even walking can also precipitate this kind of feeling).

I had therapy for my arms and legs from April to October. Until the clinic affiliated with the hospital (just a walk away) closed shop because of higher rent. They referred me to another hospital for my therapy but I did not have somebody to take or fetch me to and from there. It was a little bit far (for me). I was not strong enough to take the jeep. Taxis are not that regular. Yodi's time did not permit it. Plus the frequent travel is not good for my eye. At least those were my reasons. Yodi wanted me to go to that hospital, try things out, and see. I agreed but we never got around that hospital.

It was also during this time that the doctor (one who specializes in physical therapy and rehabilitation...I forgot the term, but he said that it is a relatively new field) recommended that I go to a gym to supplement my going to the clinic. He wrote his recommendation and the recommended exercises and I searched for an appropriate gym (appropriate=near). Luckily, I saw Flex Gym and it is just three minutes away from our house. No crossing the street, too. The gym owner (who is an attorney and a body builder)talked to me first, interviewed me. Then he and the instructor came out with a program based on the doctor's recommendation and their experience ("rehab", they called it). Thus, I set out to build strength and endurance. They also emphasized commitment with a capital C. Yodi accompanied me to the gym during my first month. The months after that, I persuaded him to let me go alone.

On day one, we worked on my legs, chest, and biceps. On day two we worked on the back, shoulders, and triceps. I used dumbbells and machines like inclined machine press,lateral pull down, seabed cable row, military machine press and more. It is a body-building gym, so most of the equipment and most of those going there are body builders. I think I am the only one who goes there for rehab.

These days, we are mostly working on my legs. My instructor is different ever since January. He is stricter and more hands on. He sees to it that I do my exercises properly. He also pushes me by adding counts or putting on more weights. Working for the strength of my legs requires the use of four kinds of equipment and exercises (not to mention the stretching). I have improved a lot but we still have some more work to do. But it will come... it will come....I just need perseverance and time. Sometimes the perseverance wanes. But time, that I have plenty of.

forty-five turning one

Yes... yes ...I'm one... I'm one-year old today........ my bonus life.

It is just now that I am thinking, 44 is not a good number. I am not particularly superstitious, and I never thought of it that way until now. In Japanese, one of the two names of the number four is "shi" which sounds like "death".(The other is "yon" which sounds like... like...yes...."four"). As a result of this connotation, most often, in buildings in Japan, the 4th floor is non-existent or room number 4 is nowhere to be found. This is just like not counting floor number 13 in the Philippines. We do have our room number 13, though.

Forty-four, double death. Close call.

The tumor was taking over, the doctor, Dr. Gap Legaspi (the pioneer of keyhole surgery in Asia, we read over the internet) said. So he immediately admitted me(emergency admittance, he noted on his "order slip")to PGH (Philippine General Hospital) to prepare me for the operation. And, also, I was in danger of being comatose (the tumor was already pressing on my brain stem and I also had hydrocephalus) anytime. Better to be in the hospital for close monitoring.Which was just as well because I felt I did not have the energy to travel home and then back to Manila again.

The surgery was estimated to take four hours. Yet it lasted seven hours. They started to operate on me at 7 a.m. and they finished at 2 p.m. My facial nerve enveloped the tumor. It took them sometime to separate it (the doctor said that it was really stretched but they were able to save it) from the tumor. I think those were one of the longest hours for Yodi. But me, I did not feel anything. When I momentarily woke up because an attendant was transferring me to the recovery room, I thought I did not yet have the surgery.

My birthday is February 12. Yet when this date came, I was not so excited about it (is it because I do not feel like 45?). Or maybe I was, because of all the greetings but I just feel MORE excited about March 11. I also felt that it is more significant to celebrate this day.

Yes...yes... I'm one... I'm one year old today!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

taking things for granted

Do not take things for granted. We often hear this. Yet, we do not often heed this advice. Be thankful of things around you. We are often told. Yet we do not really feel gratitude within our hearts. Until something catastrophic, moving, or life-changing happens.

I used to walk with long strides and with a joyful gait. I even went up and down the stairs like I was running, till these were taken away from me. It took me five months of therapy to regain the gait (but it still is not joyful, it was just to get my heel strike back) and not to walk like a shuffling robot. I could not still run up and down the stairs but, at least now, I could alternate my feet when going up (but not when going down).

There was a time when I dreaded facial wrinkles even when I think that they give the face character. I did not have them for a while, on the right side of the face. Now I have some (still desiring more, but they will come, at the rate things are now), thank God. There was I time that I did not have them. It seemed that I had the right side botoxed. It was very smooth, devoid of wrinkles, devoid also of movement.

I also do not have, I forgot the English term, "muta" or "mukat" on my right eye.I am getting a little now (but still, again, more to be desired) with my dried up medication.

It also used to be that I can shampoo alone. It will soon be a year that I could not do this (or maybe Yodi is not permitting me to do this). Yodi shampoos my hair. I protect my eye from the shampoo and the water. This way,my eye is also protected from potential infection. Almost a year also since I soaped my face.

I am mobile and talking. Some head patients I heard of can't do this.The doctors were relieved that I can move my legs and I can walk. There was a possibility of me, because of the surgery (it was inevitable to move my brain and moving it has immobility as its consequence)and the size of my tumor, that I could possibly be a paraplegic.

Work? What work? Oh yes, I used to teach math and earn from it. Now, I can just wish of this.

Life and living. Good we still have them.

So, so ...so.... Should we be reminded (again) not to take things for granted and to be thankful of what we have?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

plastic covering my eye

People can't help but stare because I have plastic over my right eye.It reminds me of a burglarized car whose window has been temporarily covered by the owner. Children are braver, they ask me why I have plastic covering my eye.

People think that it is "medical" plastic and get surprised when I tell them that it is actually cling wrap, Reynold's cling wrap(sure seal), cut into a rectangle that covers my eyebrow down to my cheek. Enough to enclose my right eye.

It serves as my "eyelid". My right eye could not close very well, could not blink in unison with the left and it is always dry. Compounding this is that it is not manufacturing tears. So when I cry, it is just the left that has tears.But even then, the condition of my eye now is better. I can now wink. I could just do this last December. Nine months after surgery. Plus, my eye is now completely shut when I am sleeping. But still, we are not taking chances, we still cover my eye and tape three of the four sides. So that the plastic will not come off when I sleep. You see, my cornea was torn because it was overly dry. This created a horizontal scar blurring my vision. Why three of the four sides? One of my medicines (deproteinized calf-blood extract, its generic name) helps the cornea to get oxygen from the air---- trivia: I just recently found out that the cornea is the only body part that we have that does not have blood vessels and that it gets its oxygen directly from the air.

Three months after surgery, when my face was still asymmetrical and with the usual plastic over my eye, one child stared at me and I smiled at her. Yet she became more frightened and troubled. Then I reminded myself (I always keep forgetting this) that I should make laughing sounds when I do this. I looked like I was grimacing so I had to make laughing sounds. Now, I do not have to do this. I just look lopsided when I smile, but, a smile it is.

I mostly wear big sunglasses for further protection and for aesthetics (somehow I feel more beautiful when I am wearing them. But during nighttime, it is not practical to wear them) when I go out. I wear my sunglasses to the gym, even while doing the exercises and lifting weights. I get surreptitious glances from the young and healthy hunks around me, yet they do not ask anything. They are just more helpful to me, helping with the changing of the weights and giving me priority in using a machine. I oftentimes want to volunteer information but we do not really speak beyond the "pleases" and "thank yous". Yet I feel that, like you, they are also rooting for me.