The Widow’s 2 Cents

I am writing this quickly because I am forcing myself to eat and rest well for the sake of my baby, who must have been completely stressed out these past 3 weeks. I want to do more for my mom’s cancer battle, but I have to sit this one out because this tiny passenger in my tummy deserves his own chance to see the world and have a good future.

It was funny because I never had to raise funds before. Usually, I have a lot of friends who ask me for favors and I give them stuff whenever I can without charging them because they’re my friends. I don’t have a lot of cash but I help people find rakets or jobs in the internet.

I just figured that if I have the resource they need, there is no reason for me to withhold it. I decided not to post actively on Facebook for productivity purposes. I only open my public Facebook account once a year and use it for 3 to 5 days if there is something I have to post or recommend to people. Or if I have good news to share. 🙂 I don’t bother everyone else with my life’s issues these days, really. I like working more than complaining. I have grown to love the solutions-oriented approach to life and I always work like that.

I don’t have a lot of liquid cash because I am using it to prepare for my child and to help my family when they are in dire financial straits. I occasionally browse through some fund raising sites and I give whenever I am able even just a dollar or two. I am not rich, but I like helping out in my own small ways. I put up a personal blog and give tips on board exams and other useful things.

Someday, when I survive this situation, I will be writing a comprehensive tip on how to handle a loved one’s cancer diagnosis especially in the advanced stage. Here is my main principle in life: if I just have the information, I freely give it away if it helps other people.

So when things got really bad after my husband and I used up our money, I raised funds online to help save my mother’s life while waiting for approvals from financial assistance programs like PCSO and PAGCOR. The paper requirement list is very long. In my bedridden state, I find it hard to secure the barangay certificates and other documents that these financial assistance programs require. I have to arrange a courier service to send documents back and forth from my Binangonan home to my mom’s home just to complete them.

My husband and I tried to provide for all the financial requirements for the last few months. Silently, we endured the financial repercussions of a cancer diagnosis as my mother deteriorated day in and day out.

To be quite honest to you all, I was not even on strict bed rest even if that was the doctor’s requirement. I was writing articles on a freelance basis. I am in bed, lying and I have this laptop on my side. I type articles. When my stomach hurts or I feel exhausted, I stop. I just do what I am able. And well, if you have a mom with a critical condition, even if you have six fulltime jobs in the Philippines and even if you are a licensed engineer married to a lawyer, you will not be able to earn the large hospital bill money instantly.

In fact, in July alone, we already spent Php 200,000 pesos approximately for most of the expenses required. Even if he is a lawyer and I am an engineer, this advanced stage of cancer does not discriminate. It will really eat up ALL of your resources. When my childbirth money was used up as well, I started to worry. And that worry got compounded when my mother’s hospitalization requirements turned from twice a month to weekly in a matter of weeks.

By first week of August, the only thing I have left aside from our empty bank accounts are our life insurance policies and the St. Peter coffin that I purchased in case I die suddenly. I just did not want to cause inconvenience to people so when I was still single, I prepared for my death by buying a basic coffin plan and an insurance policy. I figured that when it is my turn to get old and sick, my poor son Santi will have to grieve and then I want him to have some resources to bury me with. Right now and more than ever, I have to keep those plans in mind because I don’t want my son to suffer when I get old and weak.

During my mom’s biopsy hospitalization, I had a phone call from my cousin Joan about the doctor’s therapy approach. I was informed that we need to produce a minimum of 300,000 pesos to remain in the Kidney Institute to immediately have the life saving operation. So I raised funds while running the requirements for financial assistance programs. I got half of that amount only so I was forced to discharge my mom from the Kidney Institute so that she can be transferred to PGH paying ward which will require a minimum of Php 150,000 and the money I raised is enough for that single procedure.

Why the Kidney institute? She needed the urgent biopsy and the doctor told us that it’s much faster to have it done there than wait for a line or slot in PGH. And most of the financial assistance programs rely on the biopsy result or report. Besides, when you are dealing with urgency, you don’t really look at where you are taking the dying patient. You just think of where to have it done and have it done fast.

In my bed rest, I researched doctors. The case of my mother requires a double specialization of OB gynecologist and oncologist. They’re unicorns, like neurosurgeons or other doctors with highly specific specializations. I read medical journals. Her doctor Dr. Jean Ann Toral is someone I looked up and emailed directly for her first appointment. Before I did that, I read her thesis in med school which is uploaded somewhere online and I made sure that my mom had the best care with our current resources. The old Caritas-accredited doctor in Medical City provided false hopes and a wrong diagnosis last May. Her talent fee was 15,000 per checkup. This new doctor I had for my mom to meet charges 800 pesos per checkup and can do the surgery in both Kidney Institute and PGH.

Simultaneously, I was researching the government agencies and the Philippine cancer support groups and coordinating the paper requirements for PCSO and PAGCOR. We are going to use those financial assistance programs for her subsequent expenses after the first operation. I only had to raise funds just this ONE TIME because all our joint money is gone as of first week of August and she is dying. I am not sure how long the PCSO and PAGCOR approval will take but it will just have to follow.

The priority is to save her life and extend it for a few months or provide palliative or hospice care at least if it really comes to that.

I am bedridden but I have to always find a way. And there is ALWAYS a way, no matter how hard. In this case, it meant putting my situation out there so that I can raise the funds to save her life.

Before I turned to the mercy of strangers and friends, I tried asking another loved one for financial assistance as early as June this year. At the time, I was already feeling that my money will not be enough for upcoming medical emergencies. I was right. I always think two steps ahead. I knew what was coming and I needed to brace myself so I asked her for help. I came to her because I thought she loved my mother and she promised to help. But at the height of the caregiving requirements, she ended up making things more difficult and she even asked my mother to pay at least 20,000 of the 54,000 my mother owes her even when my mom is super sick,unable to work, and completely out of options. It was because of a long standing issue about my mom’s financial habits. Long story short, my husband and I paid her off and continued to work on paying for the bills day in and day out until our resources ran dry. That’s why all our money was gone by end of July.

I was thinking of things to sell. Our car is still necessary for emergencies because we use it to pick up blood bags. And my mother will need that transportation option on standby. I still use my laptop for work. And since I am bedridden, I am relying on my phone to call people in Caloocan and coordinate things about my mother’s therapy. The book inventory needs some physical strength to type up a list and haul the books and arrange for LBC so it’s taking a while.

I hate being idle. I had this bipolar disorder diagnosis since 2011. I work fulltime and take extra jobs even if my mental illness requires me not to be stressed out in any way. I surmounted each suicidal episode. In my head, half of my brain wants to get run over by a truck. The other half of my brain is thinking: “Before you try to kill yourself, here are some of the things you need to do and the bills you need to pay so your loved ones will stay comfortable.” And that worked. It always worked. Until I got bedridden this year.

Being pregnant is not easy when you have bipolar disorder . You have to schedule your pregnancy attempts because you have to be emotionally stable, stable enough to be able to ride the waves of your mood swings without medication. All bipolar medication maintenance drugs are Class D drugs that kill fetuses. So basically, my husband and I took a leap of faith when we tried to have a baby this year. We worked on our lifestyle and diet. We got me off my medication last February and I got pregnant in May. I was supposed to have a full-time job last May 10, but during the employment medical exam requirement, we found out that I was already pregnant. We waited a very long time for this baby. So I went back to freelancing to secure the baby’s safety.

Now I am at risk of losing him. I can’t. I am going to die if I lose my baby and my mommy at the same time. I shudder to think of what I will do if that happens. So I had to fight this situation and put it out here publicly even if I run the risk of people judging me. 

I have to apologize to my unborn son for the stress I am causing. Day in and day out, I talk to my son and I say “Sorry. I tried making this pregnancy experience as relaxing as possible. But your grandma needs us to do some things too.”

I think my son is feeling my desire to work fulltime and as a result, he is already trying to come out of my uterus even at 4.5 months. I apologized to my son and I respected the requirement for me to rest in bed to save him as well. Even if I want to do more for my mom, I force myself to rest in between my fund raising efforts. 

The funny thing with the donations was that the people who helped out are also experiencing some family crisis themselves. The first donor in my campaign page was a diabetic who is undergoing some financial strain. I talked to a girl that I never talked to before in my entire life. Her mother has stage 2 of breast cancer and she donated. Another friend has a mother who has stage 4 cancer and assists me with the requirements. It’s amazing because these people are like me, they are also suffering. But they gave what they had. Even if it was a just few hundreds, it felt like it was valued at ten million pesos. It reminded me of a Bible story about a poor widow who offered 2 cents in the temple. And Jesus said it was the biggest contribution that was given because she gave all that she had. Strangers text me and encourage me. They donate and get my bank details and then day after they donate, they follow up and check “How are you?” “Stay strong” “We are praying for you.” 

I had to turn to strangers for help. Another amusing thing was that most of the people who habitually asked me for free writing and editing favors plus rakets or job opportunities or financial aid for far less urgent things suddenly disappeared. 🙂 They are nowhere to be found now. It was like I suddenly had leprosy and they refused to talk to me.  My situation provided them with discomfort. Or maybe they just found it unbelievable that I am raising funds? 🙂

It’s alright, however. I never counted the amount of help I gave to them. I never thought of their favors in the middle of my work as interruptions but just as a normal way to assist people when they are in need. I just figured that it’s how people operate and things happen and we just have to help others. As it turned out, they cease to become my friends at this very time when I have nothing left to give or when I had no more benefit to their lives. I got seenzoned by people who habitually tells me “Thanks for helping me. I owe you! Sana makabawi ako sayo someday.”  Ako pa yung napahiya kahit na sila pa yung mahilig manghingi sakin ng pabor noong hindi pa ako nagigipit. And it was the same with my mom. Some of the very people she habitually helped and benefited from her, na akala ko close sa amin, during her comfortable days suddenly disappeared nung nagtatawag na kami ng tulong. And one of them even made it more difficult for her at ginipit pa kami lalo.

Despite how I was turned away by the people I counted on to help us out (aside from my mom and baby’s lives hanging in the balance), I am STILL very happy and grateful because the huge torrent of help came from all walks of life. And it came from people I did not expect. It came from people who I thought did not care about me or my mom. It came from people who don’t habitually like my sparse Facebook posts. It came from people who are not on my frequent chat lists. It came from people I haven’t heard from in decades. It came from people who I don’t know personally, whose struggles I have not known. It came from people who knows what it’s like to be drained of everything and still have to give a dying loved one a fighting chance. 

And my eyes were OPENED for the first time in 30 years. This effort is life changing. This experience changed me permanently, and fortunately, it was for the better.

Despite the people who I helped and ignored me in this time, I will continue helping others after this whole unbelievable difficult nightmare is over. I will continue to do what I can. I still believe that when you are not dead and you have something on hand, you need to use those resources and maximize these resources. I still believe that when you are fit to work, you should work and not mooch off from other people.

I know that some people think I am not in severe poverty to raise funds. I will inevitably get judged for opening up my situation, and I will take that judgment too. But the reality of cancer is that if you are not a rich man or a well-connected person, it’s a death sentence that will take EVERYTHING you have especially if it’s an advanced stage like my mom’s.

For all the things that other people will say against me for this initiative, that does not erase the fact I was able to give my mom a fighting chance kahit kinapalan ko na yung mukha ko to the highest level to people. To be quite frank, I honestly don’t think the mere peer pressure or pride of sustaining a fake illusion of wealth or comfort with me and my husband’s local professional licenses will save my mother’s life. It’s better to be completely honest about the situation than hide it and let my mother die in a hospital because I was not able to raise the financing she required.

But these days, I no longer just bank on my self-sufficiency and self-reliability in the face of a trying time. I figured that occasionally or at least once in a blue moon, it’s okay to be tell other people about your pain, to admit without pride that you need help from other people, to REST when it’s absolutely required so that you won’t cause additional harm to other people. Like this unborn child.

I figured that if I was not bedridden when this whole thing happened, I will just do the work of saving her myself and I will always take credit for surviving each crisis, and I will become overconfident about my abilities to solve things. Some people who are not nagigipit in life are like that: they figured that they can always work it out without other people’s help and all of those who raise funds and beg for help are lazy scumbags. It’s not entirely true. This is not a raket for me. This is one of the most bold things I have done. And hopefully I will not have to do it again kasi hiyang hiya na ako sa ginawa kong pang-aabala. Pero kailangan ko lang talagang gawin para sa Mommy ko.  

This time, I say it publicly that I did not survive this situation on my own. I survived on the collective mercy of strangers, friends, and family. And it will do me well to remember this experience as I become a mother to my son.

When my son grows up, I will always tell him: when you see someone in need, no matter how you think he or she deserves the assistance, give the help that you can give no matter how small. No kind word is wasted. Don’t leave that person empty-handed. And when looking for a life partner and you have to choose between kindness and intelligence, always CHOOSE kindness. It’s a bonus if you have both. But kindness prevails. 

I will still want my child to have a good education. Kung gusto niyang mag-doctorate, hanggang kaya ko, gagastusan ko siya. But after this experience, I realized that I don’t need an overachiever son in the future. My only wish as a parent is that me and my husband can raise him to do his best but also prioritize being kind to people. It does not matter what he can or cannot do. Gusto ko lang lumaki siyang mabait na bata at matulungin sa iba katulad ng mga Good Samaritans dito sa Facebook na tumulong sa amin.

No matter what the outcome, I will always tell my son about this experience when he grows up. That he and his grandmother Lynne had a chance to live not because people achieved things or because he has a lawyer dad or an engineer mom, but mainly because people were KIND to us and we were helped when things were falling apart.

I habitually turn to the internet when I need to boost my income by taking in multiple rakets. This time, for all the filth and the wars we find online, I can really say that the power of the internet gave my mother a fighting chance to live. In spite of the bad, there are still good things here. In spite of the people who use us and desert us when things get bad, there are still people who extend a helping hand. And we must NEVER GIVE UP.

I will forever be grateful. 🙂 Thank you for saving my mother with your widow’s 2 cents love offering. And more importantly, thank you for demonstrating me that THIS thing you have done to me and my family at a great time of need is what matters more in life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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