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Gratitude

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I’m just so forgetful.  I keep forgetting that God is good all the time.  I’m so ashamed.

I’ve heard that before you’re born, God plants his purpose for you deep in your heart.  It is something that you are passionate about and something that you long to fulfill.  After decades of trying to decipher my purpose, I believe I have finally unearthed it.  My purpose is both very exciting and very scary.  Overly ambitious.  I’m in denial and I’m still trying to shove it back to the deepest recesses of my heart but it just keeps coming back to the surface.  But its flowchart is very clear in my head.  I have a great plan!  But every time I take a step to fulfill my purpose, I’m pulled 10 steps back.  It’s very frustrating and I’m losing hope.  I shy away from God because I’m such a disappointment.  At the same time, I am angry.  Angry at myself and angry at God.  I’m sorry Lord, I just need time.   I hold on to this:  “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever (Psalm 138:8).”

And just when I’m about to give up, he nudges me with his loving hands.  Thank you, Lord.  Forgive me for doubting you.  You have given me a blessing today which will put me on my way to fulfill my purpose.  My heart is bursting.  To God be the glory!

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Humor in the Clinic

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“Aaaack! They’re coming!” we scream as we see wide-eyed, eager freshmen trooping towards our door.  Yes, it’s enrollment time once again and an average of 50 to 100 freshmen mob me daily for their baseline medical history and physical exam.  Despite the dizziness, near-fainting episodes, body pain, hoarseness, gastritis (due to missed meals), UTI (due to infrequent pee breaks) and varicose veins (due to prolonged standing/sitting) that this brings, we still get to see the humor in our job.

SCENARIO 1:  Students filling out the medical form.

Student A:  Status: In a relationship.

Student B:  Status:  It’s complicated.

Student C:  Sex:  2x a week.

Student D:  Personal history, other diseases: Romantic heart disease.

SCENARIO 2:  During the interview.

Dentist: “What’s your phone…” (was not able to finish her sentence)

Student:  Says with pride, “Samsung!”

Me:  “What’s your number?” (student left the contact number blank)

Student: “I’m sorry Doc, I already have a girlfriend!”

SCENARIO 3:  The visual acuity test.

Nurse:  “Cover your eye and read the letters from the chart.”

Student:  Covers BOTH eyes.

Nurse:  “Kindly read the letters on the 8th line.”

Student 1:  “defpotec!!!”  (read as D-E-F-P-O-T-E-C)

Student 2:  “8!”

SCENARIO 4:  The audiometric exam.

Young Nurse:  “You have to press the button when you hear a sound so that the bulb will light up, okay?”

Student:  Nods.

5 minutes later and the student has not pressed the button after the nurse’s numerous attempts.

Young Nurse:  Repeats the instructions.  “Let’s try again!”

5 minutes later, still no pressing of the button or lighting of the bulb.

Young Nurse:  Frustrated.  “YOU HAVE TO PRESS THE BUTTON WHEN YOU HEAR A SOUND!!!”

Student:  Eyes brimming with tears.

Senior Nurse:  Says to no one in particular while writing on the logbook,  “Oh by the way, I forgot to plug in the audio! Can somebody plug that in?”

SCENARIO 5:  During the physical examination.

Me: “Okay, I will now listen to your heart.”

Student:  “Oh no Doc, I’m brokenhearted!”

Doctor 2:  Checking the ears of a male Marine Engineering student, “Okay son, good news, your hymen is intact.”

Student:  Confused.

Doctor 2: “Oh my, I’m sorry!  I mean your eardrums are intact.”

SCENARIO 6:  Checking the throat.

Student comes in with a giant purse and sits on the chair beside my table waiting for her physical exam.

Me:  Woozy and near-syncopal after examining a huge wave of students.  “Okay, are you ready? Open…your bag.”

Student: Bewildered but opened her bag anyway.

Me:  “Oh I’m sorry!!! Open your mouth!”

Laughs from all around the clinic.

It’s still true… Laughter is the BEST medicine.  Thank God!

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Summer Rain

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When we were in grade school, we were taught that in the Philippines, we had two seasons:  The dry (summer) and the wet (rainy) season.  Hey, it’s summer!!! So why is it raining?

Actually, we all know why: Climate change.  It rains during the summer and it’s still hot during the rainy season.  But still, this did not stop our company from having an outing.

The sun was scorching when we arrived at our destination, Terrazas de Punta Fuego in Nasugbu, Batangas.  The heat made me want to jump in the pool in my street clothes! It didn’t surprise me when I felt big drops of sweat run down my forehead, neck, and back.  My naturally wavy hair couldn’t be restrained from poofing up.  I looked like a poodle who just finished working out at the gym (hence, no pictures of me will be shown).

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We were served welcome drinks as we were led to our cabanas.  After we settled into our cabana, I sneaked out to do some picture-taking of the place before we got busy.  They had an infinity pool, a kiddie pool, and a wading pool with a fountain at the center under a canopy of palm trees and fire trees.  Blue tiles lined the pool and just looking at the pool made me feel refreshed already.  I promised myself to change into my bathing suit and dive in as soon as I finished taking pictures.  I quickly made my way to the beach to finish my task.  The beach had semi-fine white sand with little ghost crabs flitting about.  There were colorful flags lining the beach that flew lazily in the wind.  There was also a jet ski and a motorboat with a banana boat in tow parked on the water’s edge.  A volleyball net was set up near the cabanas ready for use.

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Most of my workmates were already heading to the beach and lining up for the water activities. Since it was my first time to join the company outing, I didn’t know that mornings were spent at the beach and afternoons were spent in the pool.  I didn’t feel confident about my swimming skills to participate in the water activities so I decided to wait in the cabana and read from my tablet.  A while later, one of my workmates was injured when their banana boat turned over.  She had a golf ball-sized swelling on her temple.  I had her put ice on it but I knew her to be hypertensive so I had to watch her closely.

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After a sumptuous lunch, l got ready for my swim.  And then… it rained!!! Large raindrops fell on our cabana and lightning cut across the sky.  My workmates who were already swimming in the beach and in the pool were politely asked by the staff to get out of the water for safety reasons.  Sigh.  Foiled plan.  It was a blessing in disguise though because I got to do what I did best, zone out.  The air was no longer humid and it had quite a comfy temperature.  I put on my earphones, turned on my music and read a book.  I almost dozed off when I was told by a workmate that the rain had stopped and we could now proceed to the beach/pool.  I checked the clock… almost time to go.  I said, “Go ahead, I think I’ll just enjoy the scenery, ” which I did.

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There will always be a next time.  But hey, the rain will always be welcome.

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He Only Takes the Best

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As tomorrow is Mother’s Day, I would like to share with you something that I wrote way back in 2009 to honor my mother.

“On August 10, it will be my Mom’s 11th birthday in heaven.

I remember back in UST med school, several of my classmates’ parents died. While waiting for Anatomy lab to start, my group mates and I had a discussion about it. I told them, “If given a choice, I would like to go first before my parents.”  Then a group mate said, “That’s selfish. Think of how your parents will feel if you die? They would be devastated. Would you want them to suffer? It’s not right for parents to bury their children. Think about it.” I pondered over it for a while, then said, “I guess you’re right.”

Several months later, my Mom died.

My Mom was born on January 13, 1941.  She was the fourth in a brood of seven. From what I gathered from my titas, my Mom was shy, quiet and a bit sickly when she was little. When she was a teenager, she moved with my aunt to Cavite to help take care of her nieces and nephews and to go to college. She graduated from PWU with two degrees: BS Accounting and BS Banking and Finance. Yes, she was a math wizard. Side story: My physics teacher in UPIS, Mrs. Yap, once asked me, “Jennifer, what was your mother’s course in college?” I told her. She said, “Oh…”  I asked her why she asked.  She said, “Because your dad, your aunts, and your siblings were all my students and they really were NOT good in math.  You’re the only one who is!”  Going back, my Mom was also a working student. She worked in Customs as a clerk and went to school in the evenings. Little did she know that she would meet my father at the workplace.  My father was as thin as a stick during those days; hence his nickname at work, “butiki” or lizard.  They got married on July 14, 1964 and had the three of us.

Everyone can claim that their mother is the best but I really, truly believe that I had the best Mom. When I was little, I loved cuddling with her before going to sleep. I would look up at her and admire her face. She was so beautiful. I could not take my eyes away from her ‘til I fell asleep. In her arms, I felt so loved, safe, and secure. I always had nice dreams because of her, cotton candy, milk shakes, floating clouds, and Fiesta Carnival. Sometimes, she would tell me of her dreams. She told me, “Jen, when your teacher asks you what you want to be when you grow up, you’ll say you want to be a doctor, okay?” Being only 3 years old, I said yes.

As I grew older, I saw how determined she was to give us a better life than she had. She even had me believe that we were rich even if we weren’t because I never felt lacking in material things. If I told her that I needed something for school or for my Hello Kitty collection, she would promptly give them to me the same day. She always put our needs before hers. The three of us would have the latest clothes, shoes, bags, and toys while I often saw her with worn clothes, torn bags and scruffy shoes. Whenever we ate out, she would not order and would just wait for us to finish eating. Whatever was left, she ate.

She taught me the value of money and opened a Banco Filipino Savers account for me. At an early age, I was already hoarding money into my bank account. I saved some of my allowance and whatever I got from Christmas and my birthday. One day when I was older, we went to Rustan’s Cubao. I asked her if we could go to the shoes section. Thinking that I wanted new shoes, she held my hand and led me there. When we got there, I pulled her arm and went to Lady Rustan’s. I pointed at the pair of black suede pumps with two straps and dainty black ribbons. She said, “Jen, you’re too young for that. Maybe when you’re older, okay?” I said, “No, Mommy. This is for you.  I’m going to buy you shoes.  Look at your shoes, they’re already worn out!”  She didn’t say anything but picked up the shoe and tried it on. She had tears in her eyes but I pretended not to see. She only wore those shoes to work on Fridays and on special occasions.

I was determined to show her how appreciative I was of her. I knew that doing well in school would make her happy. I bagged several medals and awards for her. And even if I didn’t want to be a doctor, I went on to med school. During my first year in med, I had a difficult time adjusting to the commute and long hours of studying. When I got home from school, I just wanted to take a bath and drift off to sleep. She and my sister would occupy the whole of my single bed so that I wouldn’t be tempted to sleep while I was studying. Oftentimes, she slept on my bed. After studying, I would lay beside her like I did when I was little. Our hard work paid off…I became a scholar and was on the Dean’s List. She was so happy!

Just before second year med, my robust mother began having abdominal pain around her navel. She also felt unusually tired, like a “melting candle” she said. Soon after, she began vomiting whatever she ate. We thought she just had gastroenteritis but after this had been going on for more than 2 weeks, we decided to seek consult. She was admitted and underwent several tests, blood tests, barium swallow, barium enema, abdominal x-rays, ultrasound, and CT scans. Diagnosis: Pancreatic cancer with metastasis to the liver. We were in disbelief. “Doc, how long before …?” “At most 6 months. I’m sorry,” he said. “Her management would only include procedures that would make her feel comfortable.” We cried. We cried individually. We cried as a family.

My father, sister, and I “lived” in her hospital room. My aunt and her husband also slept over. My brother, his wife and kids were there every chance they got. Friends and relatives always filled the room every weekend. Those who were teary-eyed excused themselves to cry in the bathroom or outside the room. In the evenings, my sister and I would sing her favorite church songs like “Here I am Lord,” “I love you Lord,” “He is Lord” and “In His time.” We had mass in her room every Sunday. We even brought her to Father Corsie. We prayed for her healing.

Mommy’s health slowly deteriorated. Despite this, she was still concerned about how well I was doing in school, if we had eaten or had a place to sleep in her room, and if we still had money to pay for the hospital bills. Later on, she was no longer able to get up from bed. She lost weight and was in and out of consciousness. In one of her waking moments, she asked me, “Jen, am I dying?” I choked back the tears and said, “Yes, Mommy.” She looked at me and said bravely, “Okay.” We cried.

One time, Mommy had just awakened and seemed to be in a pensive mood. I was studying on the sofa at that time. She beckoned to me. I held her hand. She said, “Jen, aren’t you going with me?” I looked at her curiously. I didn’t quite understand what she said. Then it hit me. I said, “Ma, I do want to go with you but I still have some things to do here. You want me to be doctor, right?” She looked down on our clasped hands and said, “Okay.” Shortly after, she slipped into a coma. At that time, we no longer prayed for her healing but for the Lord to relieve her of her suffering.

On August 9, 1998, Sunday, after the mass, our whole family went to her one by one and talked to her. We told her how much we loved her. We asked for her forgiveness. We thanked her for all that she had done for us and for all the sacrifices she had made. And finally, we told her that it was okay for her to go.

On the midnight of August 10, 1998, I saw her take in her last breath. Just one inhalation…and she was gone.”

I still miss you Ma.  I love you.

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Solitude

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There are times when I crave to be alone, especially after a busy week of work and daily chores. This is the time when I recharge and let my mind wander and let my heart feel what it feels.  Today, I gave myself the gift of solitude.

Since the cleaning of my pickup’s a/c  has been long overdue, I started my day by bringing “Greenie” to Frigidzone at Kalayaan Avenue.  The shop had a small customers’ lounge so I brought a book to read while I waited for my pickup.  The lounge’s a/c was on full blast and I was quite comfy sitting alone on the wooden bench.   I never got around to reading the book though because I was fascinated by the shop’s “Aspin” (asong Pinoy/local dog).  She was a short-haired, medium-sized, brown dog with black, floppy ears, and a pointed black nose.  She looked like a supervisor, sniffing at the customers and their cars and just walking around and observing the goings-on in the shop.  After her “rounds”, she plopped down at the entrance of the lounge with her body parallel to the glass door.  She actually blocked the doorway!  Then it occurred to me… she was trying to cool herself down with what little air that leaked out from under the door.  As time passed, people started to come in.  I was amazed at how people respected the dog and took extra care to step over her and not disturb her.  I realized two things:  1.  The dog was really smart.  2.  There is still good in people.  3.  I should’ve left the book at home (‘coz it was heavy and it was more fun to watch the world).

Next stop for “Greenie Day”… change oil.    I went to a nearby Petron gas station at Katipunan Avenue which had a mini-mall complete with restaurants, a convenience store, a barber shop, a bank, and Starbucks.  I deposited my pickup at the basement and proceeded to Jollibee (the #1 local hamburger franchise).  I got myself a hotdog, fries, and Sarsi (rootbeer).  I took a table at the second floor as the first floor was just wild with activity.  I ate slowly and immersed myself with people-watching.  Across my table, there was a woman in her 30s or 40s who appeared to be studying for an exam.  I tried to peek at what she was reading and saw some pictures of x-rays.  My guess was that she was studying for the medical boards.  I felt her anxiety.  In another table, there was a family of three, a mom, a daughter, and a son with a man who was in his 60s.  The family didn’t talk to the man much and I figured that he must’ve been their driver.  He looked tired and sad and I felt a bit sorry for him.  Then there was another family with a little girl who looked so happy and excited as she ate her spaghetti and chicken.  I heard my phone’s text alert and it was time to fetch Greenie.

It felt good to spend some time by myself.  It gave me a chance to be an outsider/observer. Sometimes, I get so caught up in myself and my concerns that I forget that other people had problems of their own and feelings that go with them.  I forget that I am a mere speck in this universe and there are things which are bigger than me.  I forget to count my blessings and thank God.  Not everybody appreciate solitude but for me, it’s a welcome treat.  Try it!

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