Archive for July, 2009

Have you ever seen a Jackson Pratt drain?  It’s a suction drainage device used to pull excess fluid from the body. It’s a flexible plastic bulb shaped like a hand-grenade and connects to an internal plastic tube.

The first time I noticed the JP drain attached to my left side near my surgery, I was surprised. At first the fluids were more of a diluted blood then gradually, they turned into an orange color. I was fascinated and kept playing with it at some moments of boredom in the hospital.  The nurses regulary drained and measured the fluid.  I fondly called it  my granada or bala but it was kind of uncomfortable when you walked because it was heavy too if it was not emptied of the fluids inside.  I kept asking the nurse what it was called and I also kept forgetting it, oh, so it reminded me of Michael Jackson (only because of its name).  They only removed it a day before I was released from the hospital. Oh gosh, it was quite long, the remaining  tube attached inside my body.


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The stark truth is that I was afraid. I was afraid of going under the knife again. Nine years ago, I had my first major surgery due to endemetriosis.  My  OB-gynecologist had to do a total hysterectomy to prevent further damage to my reproductive system.  I accepted that wholeheartedly and I recovered pretty fast. But when you knew that another surgery would be a life-changing one, everything comes into focus.  The only thing that kept me sane during those dark days was my complete and unwavering faith in the Lord.  This line kept playing in my head, “let go and let God take charge of my life for me”.

I entered Chinese General Hospital and Medical Center on July 12th at around 2:30pm with a bouquet of fresh and gorgeous flowers waiting for me at the information desk.  It was personally delivered by one of my friends at Multiply, Mary An.  She knew that I love flowers and her sweet gestures made me smile.  How thoughtful!  It was an uncomfortable night of taking laxatives and undergoing water enema.

July 13, 2009  – Monday

Had my first IV starting at 7am, I was no longer allowed to eat any solid food, not even a drop of water.  My high school friends came to visit – Vicky, Beth, Lor, Edna and Liza.  Another night of extensive water enema and taking another bottle of laxatives.  If there is one thing which was very hard for me to tolerate, it was the process of drinking a bottle of castor oil.

I received several inspirational texts from close friends. They offered prayers and masses for me.

July 14, 2009 – Tuesday

I was fetched from my room at exactly 6am, was taken at the O.R. at the 2nd floor.  I was a bit groggy by then but I still managed to pray mentally while the monitor attached to my arm had its steady beep.  At 7:15am, I saw Dr. Ang’s face (he is my oncologist).  My journey has begun.  I knew nothing until I woke up at 12:15pm at the recovery room and saw Dr. dela Cruz (my cardiologist), one of the kindest if not the kindest doctor I’ve ever encountered.  It was three hours of agony watching the clock until 3pm.  My blood pressure has dramatically dropped down so I had to stay there for a while.  I had chills and aching body. I’ve been operated on before at the UST Hospital but nothing can compare to the noise, loud laughter and loud talks in CGH’s recovery room.  It seemed that they were quite indifferent to the plight of recovering patients.  Or was I just too sensitive, seeking silence while my body ached?  The nurse assigned to me was even “suplada”, to search for a better word.  I was taken to my room at 3:15pm.  That’s right, I kept watching the clock like a hawk watching its prey.

It was the longest night I ever had in my life. Aside from back pains, guarded movements because of my surgery (they did a resection of my colon, aptly called sigmoidectomy), I experienced the worst stomach pain/hyper acidity due to no food intake.  It was my third day of abstaining from food. Ate Violy (my  sis-in-law) arrived from San Antonio and she sat with me the whole night, alternating with the hubby.  The room where I was initially assigned to had a defective air conditioning.  I survived the night just turning my head from side to side, uttering a silent prayer that my agony would end.

July 15, 2009 – Wednesday

My daughter, mom my brother and sis-in-law came for a visit.  Blessed relief, I was able to transfer to another room and it was cool.  My daughter  stayed with me for two days and one night so hubby could go home to rest.  With still three bottles of IV attached to both arms, I woke in the middle of the night with my left arm in pain. The IV bottle was empty.  How neglectful could they be? I could not sleep the rest of the night because every time my eyes opened, it was almost always drawn to the IV bottle attached to me. Luckily, the nurse was able to aspirate it.

July 16, 2009  – Thursday

Alden came for a lightning visit despite the heavy rains and typhoon.  Thursday night was a repeat of the previous one – my IV got clogged and it was more painful. I was waiting for the assigned nurse just to make a simple apology to no avail.  She even told me that they might have to transfer it to my right arm. I flared up! I would understand if it only happened once, but two nights in a row, that’s negligence on their part right?

Next came the male nurse and a resident intern.  It took them almost two hours to locate a good vein (after two attempts, pumuputok at lumolobo yung vein ko). I have small veins, the rest almost invisible. That’s why I am afraid of needles, they never seem to get it in one shot.  I have half a dozen needle marks in my two hands, two of which still bear bluish mark while another one has turned yellow.  All my medications the first five days of surgery were injectables – pain reliever, antibiotics, medicine for hyperacidity etc. It’s my 5th day of no food, no liquids etc.

July 17, 2009 – Friday

I could turn sideways, walk a step or two, could text all my friends back since my left hand was free.  I lived through all those inspirational texts, messages of concern, mass offerings and constant prayers from friends and family.  Special thanks go to my five high school friends, Lor, Edna, Vicky, Liza and Beth, Mary An, my Multiply friend who always get in touch, Alma, a fellow Flipper who prayed for me during my operation, Lovell, who never fails to text me almost everyday and offering mass for me too and to Tobbie, another friend from KSA. Thank you so much for considering me as your older sister. And to all my other online friends and relatives who constantly prayed for me, thanks!  My thanks to Dahil, another best friend from the US who called me up at the hospital and Wing, a former neighbor and friend who now resides in Virginia, my sis-in-law, Ate Edna together with her kids who came for a visit despite the continuing rains, Sr. Thea, a friend since my teen years for those words of encouragement, my two other angels, Jomari, our neighbor and my son Josef for volunteering to donate blood so I could be operated on. I guess, it’s now a standing policy of every hospital for a patient to have at least two blood donors (of any type of blood) before they would schedule you for operation.

July 18, 2009 – Saturday

Alleluia!  I could now take one teaspoon of water every hour.  Blessed, blessed improvement from several days of parched and cracked lips.  Now, I realized that those daily  rituals which we often  ignore like drinking water become manna from heaven whe you are denied of it for a long time.  I saw the sun’s rays behind the blue curtains at the wide windows, signalling a day of new hope. I could walk around my room now, sit for an hour or two in the two plastic chairs provided by the hospital. I even tried sitting at the small bed provided for patient’s companion. It felt uncomfortable because it was so low.

My high school friends came back for another visit, so thoughtful. I spent an hour listening to them recall our high school days together. Lovell came by despite a very hectic schedule, he just planed in from Davao and had to attend a whole day Saturday class in UST.  Nothing could beat a few moments of happiness when you are surrounded by people who truly cares.  I spent the night a little more comfortable than the previous nights before.

Sunday onwards until I was discharged from the hospital were days of recuperating, slowly gaining strength despite the limited intake of food.  I was only allowed soft diet until a few days after I left the hospital.  My best friend Karen and her hubby visited me Sunday morning. I am back at home now, enjoying a brief respite from the dark days and nights of having my sigmoid resection.  Two days ago, I learned from my oncologist that I am on Stage 3 so there is really no choice for me but to undergo a minimum of six sessions of chemotherapy to a maximum of eight.  And as I’ve said before, I am enjoying the brief time which I call my “pre-chemo days”. And I really, really thank God for being always there for me. More than ever I felt His presence during those days and nights that I can’t sleep, thinking of nothing in particular but to get well and enjoy life again.

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Caught the hubby staring at me with that thoughtful and somewhat puzzled look.  “Have I grown horns?”, I asked.  Then he said, “You are so brave”.  I understood what he meant.

Lately, some friends called me up, what a pleasant surprise.  They were one in saying, all will be well in the end.  But of course, what else would I believe?  So I told them, I am living my life now, one day at a time.  Life sometimes gives us an endless series of problems.  It’s the process of  accepting and solving our problems that gives life its meaning. We become stronger, we grow mentally and spiritually.  Most of us have a tendency to ignore our fears, thinking that when we ignore them, they would just banish from our lives. We deny, we procrastinate, we think of something  other than what is at hand.  The road is long and the path is thorny but it is our faith that will surely carry us through. I always believe that God won’t give us crosses that we can’t bear.

Life is beautiful. Life is a challenge – problems are meant to be overcome.  So I’m living my life one day at a time, relying on the  power of a  loving God.

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Silence creeps into the night

Yet I hear whispers –

A man’s voice singing lullaby

The song brought back an excruciating pain

of yesterday’s joys and laughter.

Silence is there to be understood

Implanting a ray of hope –

Tomorrow, I would break my fast early

and meet the dawn.

The party is waiting

the drinks are turning cold

What a pandemonium!

A loud cry was heard

And silence was broken.

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I’ve finally finished packing.  I had quite a long list on what to bring  to the hospital when I check in tomorrow.  Whoa! I feel like I am having a short vacation, one would think  it  would be a long one, I have to bring a number of night wears because I don’t feel comfortable wearing the typical open-back hospital gown.  It is some sort of anathema to me having to walk around with your bottom sticking out for all the world to see.  And it’s never comfortable enough that you know it was previously worn by another person. As I have always said in my previous posts, I am not an OC but I make it a point to have everything ready when I need it.  I live by the girl scout motto, you see!

What books do I need to read there?  There’s my daily devotional book,   Bible Diary  2009 given by a close friend, Simple Moments by Fr. Jerry Orbos and maybe, just maybe, another chance to reread Tuesdays with Morrie, a personal favorite.  I’ve been laboring with one of Nelson de Mille’s thriller Wildfire. It’s quite a little boring compared to his previous thrillers like Plum Islands and Lion’s Game. I have enough of Islamic attacks and US retaliation plots.  I need something soul-uplifting and inspirational.  How I wish I could bring with me Rod Mckuen’s poetry.

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One song can spark a moment,
One flower can wake the dream
One tree can start a forest,
One bird can herald spring.

One smile begins a friendship,
One handclasp lifts a soul.
One star can guide a ship at sea,
One word can frame the goal

One vote can change a nation,
One sunbeam lights a room
One candle wipes out darkness,
One laugh will conquer gloom.

One step must start each journey.
One word must start each prayer.
One hope will raise our spirits,
One touch can show you care.

One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know what’s true,

One life can make a difference,
You see, it’s up to you!

– Author Unknown-

Just sharing……be inspired!

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Don’t get me wrong, sharing my plight is some sort of catharsis for me. It makes the pain easier to bear.  Now, I believe that you will really know your true friends when you are at your lowest.  Some may turn their backs on you, some may empathize but the people who truly care won’t hesitate to say a few words of comfort and assure you of their prayers that you badly need.  And as I’ve always said, I rather have a few friends who are sincerely praying for my health than have a hundred who would just tolerate what is happening in my life. It hurts sometimes that those you expect most to understand would not even say a word.

Finally, I am scheduled to undergo that much needed surgery come Tuesday morning. After almost a month of going back several times to my doctors and being cleared of all the pre-op requirements, after all the anguish of knowing that I am not hundred percent fit, I really hope I could overcome it all.  Only God is the greatest healer and the greatest doctor but I am also praying for my oncologist, my cardiologist and all the people who would take charge of my surgery. Lord, guide them all.

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