Tweeting Away

Twice Awakened

It’s been 40 minutes since I started writing this entry. I don’t quite know how to begin. I tried to make an introductory paragraph, managed to make three versions, but trashed all of them. Perhaps I ought to skip the opening and just get on with my story.

Went to PGH with my classmates and our professor today to visit cancer patients. Some of you reading this will probably see the word “cancer” and click the close button almost immediately. If you’ve read on this far I ask you not to do it. Don’t click on that X. You need to hear this. And you needn’t worry – I have no intentions of making this entry sound like an episode from a horrid soap opera. My intentions are not to depress you with a story chock-full of drama.

That’s the weird part of it, you see. I hate drama. I don’t like watching sappy, tear-jerker movies. I hate crying in front of people. And I thought I had mastered the technique of being the anti-drama queen, until today.

It was the nearest thing I had to a breakdown, I suppose. We were standing by the doorway of the first room we were to visit. A few minutes prior we had been briefed by the doctor – we were going to meet people who were sick, some of them dying. Almost all of them had no money.

I had a first glimpse of her – she was 24 years old, but her frail and skinny frame made her look like she was 12. The doctor leaned towards her bed and they were in silent conversation. My classmates and I watched through the doorway.

I couldn’t help myself after a few seconds. The tears just kept coming. And I used to be so good at holding them back. I felt horrible, because I knew it was the worst time to cry. We were there to try and give these people comfort at their dark times. To cry was the most selfish thing I could’ve done.

It took a few minutes to get my composure back. Raise your head, look out the window as if you’re admiring the view outside, anything to hold them back. After a while I was ready to meet her.

She was in pain, it was easily evident. She was dying. We introduced ourselves and we asked her questions and made stories. My classmate did most of the talking. I would’ve joined in on the conversation but I was afraid that doing so would make me cry again. And to be honest, I didn’t know what to say. So I listened. She had difficulty talking so there were times she had to spell out what she was saying by writing them on air. She had a son, he was four years old. She got married when she was nineteen. Her husband was downstairs. After a while he came into the room and we met him. He too was quite young, and was very polite and courteous towards us. He was a simple man, one you would pass by on a sidewalk and not even notice, but as he stood there by his wife he gained my respect and my admiration. I was humbled by his dignity and love.

Afterwards we went into the next room and met a middle-aged woman. She had stage 2 cancer, which meant that she didn’t look as sick or as fragile. She sat on a stool by her bed. On top of the bed was a copy of the New Testament in Filipino. Unlike the first woman we visited, she had no one watching over her. She was 43 and had never been married apparently. In the strange workings of fate, we found out that she too was from Batangas. She had been at the hospital for more than three months. I asked her questions about her life. Being a spinster was difficult, she said. She had no children to take care of her. From the time she was admitted to the hospital she’d only been visited twice by relatives, and never again. She couldn’t come back to Batangas because she didn’t have the money to pay for the bus ride home. That’s only about a little over 100 Pesos, and she couldn’t afford it.

Soon it was time to go, so we said our goodbyes. We apologized in case we disturbed her, and she said not at all, at least she had seen a kababayan.

On the way back I thought of the two women I met. I wondered about what they were like before the cancer. I like to think they had wonderful, happy lives.

I don’t think I will ever look at my life the same way again after today. And I doubt I’ll live it the same way.

9 comments:

shara said...

sometimes we need this kind of wake up call to pop the little bubble that we live in. It kinda hits you in the head hard and makes you hate yourself for being such a whiner...

When we did these kind of visits in high school, I made up my mind that the life that I'm living's is not real. Needless to say, you saw what you did because you had to - and it's up to you to make it relevant... and thanks for reminding me about this, especially at this point in my life when all I seem to do is complain about my 'situation'.

Daene said...

the experience certainly popped the bubble i've been living in my entire life. and I think all of us were affected. arthur met this male patient who was 21 years old, he had just graduated from college after taking up radiation therapy - ironic noh? now he has leukemia. it's strange how you see someone dying and your life flashes before your eyes, as if you were dying too.

we plan to make regular visits to the hospital from now on. I wish you were here, shara, you're the kind of person who would really appreciate this kind of stuff. hopefully we'll be able to take our other classmates with us as well. so many of us need this wake up call.

shara said...

might i suggest another place to visit? If you can,drop by the veteran's memorial hospital in quezon city. The soldiers who have been injured in mindanao and other movements are there... these heroes want nothing more but to be appreciated, and meeting them gives one a different perspective of war and military life. It's actually very timely, now that i'm thinking about it...

And nobody really goes there... which makes it a real-life changing experience.

Michael Arnel Honesto Amerikano (seudonimo) said...

Kumusta po kayo? I hope you and your family are in good health upon your reading my comment.

Ako po si "Michael Arnel Honesto Amerikano" (pseudonym/seudonimo). I live in the Southeast region of the United States. I am the Weblogger of Give Me Adobo or Give Me Adobo!, a Weblog about the modern, phenomenally popular Filipino culture.

Having lost my beloved father to cancer in 2001, I can attest to the fact that people around the world (especially here in the United States) need to wake up.

There are so many people either dying from or living with cancer. It is a shame many "healthy" people like ourselves do not take time to visit patients in hospitals to offer emotional and spiritual support.

Perhaps someday my fellow Christian missionary workers will visit the many hospitals in the Philippines and visit cancer patients. Just a thought I suppose.

I wonder how my fellow Christian missionary workers and I would go about planning such a great mission.

Visiting cancer patients in hospitals in the Philippines sound like a wonderful idea. Perhaps you and your friends can visit my blog and leave some suggestions. I am open to new ideas, especially ideas that foster humanitarianism and Christian volunteerism.

I have enjoyed reading your blog. You are a vaery talented Weblogger.

Would you consider visiting the Christian Prayer Warriors Web site and add your Weblog to the Blog directory? So many people need to learn about your Weblog and your life in the Philippines.

Although I am not of Filipino descent but an African-American, who was born and reared in the United States, I have many faithful Christian friends who are Filipinos.

I welcome you to join our "Circle of Friends." I hope to meet many of them each time I visit the Philippines. Won't you be one of them?

Please remeber to visit the Christian Prayer Warriors Web site and add your blog. You have a lot to add to our global community of Weblogger.

Thank you very much for your time. Nagpapasalamat po ako sa inyong napakalaking tulong sa amin. Hindi ko alam kung papaano ko po kayo mapapasalamatan sa inyong kabutihan.

Daene said...

Michael,

Thanks for visiting my blog! And thanks so much for the kind words.

As you might have already gathered from the entry, our visit to cancer patients was definitely a moving experience, one that I'd like to think expanded my views on life and the world. So many of us who are not ill and who are so fortunate should be able to have a similar experience.

I also admire your work as a Christian missionary. Hopefully your plans to visit the Philippines will push through.

And I find it really cool that you are so interested on Filipino culture! You should definitely visit the Philippines and experience the culture for yourself. I think you're quite ready - your Filipino is very good :D

Thanks again and good luck with all the work you're doing :)

NADINE said...

THE WORD "CANCER" IS SO COMMON ALREADY THAT IT ALMOST DOESN'T COME AS A SHOCK TO YOU ANYMORE WHEN YOU HEAR SOMEONE WHO HAS IT. BUT AFTER THE DOCTORS FOUND SOMETHING INSIDE ME, THAT'S WHEN IT HIT ME THAT IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE.

YOU'RE LUCKY TO HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO VISIT THOSE PEOPLE. :) THAT'S DEFINITELY A GOOD WAY TO SPEND UR SUMMER. HOPEFULLY, I COULD COME WITH U GUYS WHEN U COME BACK. I'M INTERESTED. HEHE

Princess Angel said...

even if i wasn't there, I can still feel the loneliness. =(

Daene said...

Nadez: I can only imagine how you must've felt after your medical examination. But I trust everything is okay now?

You should come with us when we go again. I bet the patients will love meeting people as cheerful and beautiful (ahem) as you. ;)

Daene said...

Angel: Yeah there was a lot of loneliness, but the patients are surprisingly cheerful and hopeful as well. Hope we can all go visit them again soon. I'd like you to be there and meet them for yourself. Maybe you and Nadez can sing for the kids! that'd rock :)