How Can I Pray For You?

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Today, I got an email from someone I didn’t know but who turned out to be a Donor Care Specialist from World Vision.

I would get emails from World Vision (http://www.worldvision.org.ph) from time to time after I signed up as a child sponsor, mostly updates about the child and his community or their programs.  But today’s email was simple and was all about me.

Our dear sponsor,

A blessed day!

I hope you and your family are safe and warm after the typhoon.

I am just dropping a note to ask how you’ve been and how can we pray for you?

Please let me know if there’s anything I could assist you with. I’d be very glad to be of help and get to know you better as the one currently handling your sponsorship account.

Thank you and God bless you!

It’s just so wonderful to be sent this email, to be asked this question, no matter if this is a standard email sent to thousands of their sponsors!

Now it’s my turn.  How can I pray for you today?

Disconnected

IMG_0015I live in a country visited by typhoons at least twenty times a year. Today, we experienced yet another strong one, Typhoon Rammasun or Glenda as we call it. I have seen them all but I can never get used to it. The sound of the howling wind and the sight of frantically swaying trees and all kinds of debris flying always keep me worried, no matter how prepared I think I am.

We lost power starting around 3am and wanting to conserve my batteries, I would only occasionally check my phone and Facebook for messages. I was unable to sleep but couldn’t do much around the house in the absence of electricity, save for some cooking.

I got used to getting hooked to all kinds of electronic devices. I’d work on my laptop and check my social networking sites, while listening to music or watching TV. Today, I had nothing. I didn’t want to spend precious battery juice on non-emergency reasons. But I could not complain. I was dry, still comfortable and with food, compared to others who are battling the elements or sharing cramped space in an evacuation centre. And really, I welcomed being disconnected from the world.

My daughter and I read books instead. And I told her stories of how, when I spent time as a kid in a small town in Surigao del Sur, we never really had electricity. We would all have dinner by 6pm and by 7pm, we’d all be in bed. The only exception would be when there was a full moon, and we kids would all be out playing on the street, sometimes barefoot. We didn’t have television, we had transistor radios running on batteries. Our refrigerator was powered by gas, I remember seeing a square gas canister with a flame placed under the ref. Our lights were called suga, improvised lamps made of glass jars containing gas, their tin covers pierced to make space for a rag wick. Those with a little more money had Petromax, a brighter, pressurised lamp. There were no gadgets, but there were Pinoy comics. And we spent time talking to friends face to face, not thru texts or FaceTime! We might have been lacking from what the big cities have (from which I originally came from) but looking back now, all I remember is having a great time despite the lack of modern comforts!

Writing this has triggered many good memories of growing up in the province. Perhaps I should start writing about them, when life was still simple, yet exciting, and we were still disconnected.

My Robotic Surgery Experience

I hesitated about writing on something as personal as a major surgical procedure but thought that my experience could possibly help a lot of women looking for alternative procedures to remove a bothersome uterine myoma.  This post might be long so unless you’re a female or know of anyone who might be having this problem and can’t decide what to do, then you’re better off not reading this.

My growth was discovered around three years ago, when it was still about 5cm in circumference.  But because it didn’t really bother me at that time, I paid no attention to it especially as I read somewhere that growths like this are 99% benign. However, between that period and early January of this year, my myoma steadily grew and brought problems such that I had to undergo a D&C with blood transfusion plus another stay in the hospital three months ago for another four bags of blood when my hemoglobin count dropped to 5.6.  I also got myself injected with Luprolex to stop bleeding in October and November last year, while I thought about the inevitable operation and at the same time, prepared my body for surgery.

I was scared of open surgery, remembering my recovery time after a forced C-section to deliver my daughter 11 years ago.  More than that, I didn’t know how fast my body can heal this time, as I am older now.  I also have work scheduled a month after the surgery, plus long-distance travel two months post-op.  And so, I did a lot of online research for alternatives to open surgery and stumbled upon the da Vinci Robotic surgery option. Fortunately, one such machine is available at St. Luke’s Bonifacio Global City.  The doctor does hand movements on a console with a 10x magnified view of my insides, while the robotic arms inside the body mimic the doctor’s hand movements.

It took awhile to schedule an appointment with one of the only two local doctors listed in the da Vinci Surgery website.  By the time I met with her, I had done all possible research I could online and have already made up my mind that I would go for this option.  Compared to open surgery, this minimally invasive procedure involves 3-4 cuts between 1.5- 2cm. in size, less blood loss, less risk and faster recovery.  In the US, I read patients’ stories about getting out of the hospital the same day as the surgery, or the following day.  Of course, nothing is guaranteed but the more I read about the da Vinci Robotic surgery, the more I became convinced that this is the right option for me.  What’s left for me to find out is whether I am a good candidate for it and whether I can afford the procedure.

dvs_hd_surgeon450Photo credit : http://www.intuitivesurgical.com/products/davinci_surgical_system/davinci_surgical_system_s/

After going through my history and examining me, I was told I am eligible for the procedure.  I spent the two weeks after the initial consultation on other tests and clearances needed for surgery, plus another follow-up session with my OB-Gyn to go over my test results and questions I needed to be reassured on.  Finally, we were able to schedule the procedure on February 8 at 4pm.  A few days before the operation, I cleaned my house thoroughly, did the grocery for two weeks, and went thru financial documents with my partner.  The night before, I changed my bed sheets, and packed a small bag with toiletries, sanitary pads, a towel, a going-home outfit, oversized underwear and my laptop.

I checked in at the hospital on the morning of the procedure.  Immediately, I was put on bowel prep and started fasting at 8am.  Because I had a lot of help online, particularly thru http://www.hystersisters.com, I knew not to eat heavy and difficult-to-digest-food a few days before the operation. Before the IV was put in, I was also able to bathe myself using the special wash provided by the hospital (forgot what it’s called!). I also didn’t have a hard time waiting for my 2pm wheel-in to the pre-operating room, and a few minutes before that, my partner, daughter and I gathered in prayer for a successful operation.

With compression socks worn, everything was set for the 4pm schedule.  But the doctor was late, the nurses said she might have been caught up in an emergency delivery as she had patients due to give birth that week.  This time, I grew impatient as I wanted to have it done and over with, so I could go back to my room around 10am.  Fortunately, I had two nurses, and unlike the regular floors, the care here is 2 nurses to 1 patient, and they kept on checking on me and updating me with the arrival of the surgical team. I don’t know what time it was when they finally said my doctor has arrived and we have to move to the main operating room. As soon as I entered the OR, all I could say was it just seems I am in a movie set (as that was how it looked to me), with bright overhead lights and lots of machines inside, including that plastic-covered da Vinci Robot.  The last thing I remembered about going inside the room was transferring to a narrower bed and reminding the doctor to keep my ovaries.

I woke up a few hours later in the recovery room. Unlike my C-section experience when I woke up shivering in a dark, recovery room at Makati Med, it was bright this time and I woke up seeing the nurse beside my bed.  I was relieved because aside from the procedure, I was actually scared to wake up alone in the recovery room. I was told the surgery took 5 1/2 hours. At 2am, Sunday, they finally brought me back to my room and I was happy to see my family. Then my partner showed me a picture of what the doctor got from my body and it’s so gross I won’t even put it up here.  I remember saying it looks like it weighs a kilo and am glad to lose that weight! Then I asked that my hospital gown be lifted and wonder of wonders, I only had four, very small bandages on my tummy! No need for oversized panties, a regular bikini would do!

On Sunday, the first day after surgery (or I’d say a few hours after surgery), I was asked to move from side to side in order to help me pass gas.  There was no pain at all from the stitches, although they still had me on pain relievers via IV.  I was also with a catheter.  The discomfort came from a hugely distended belly, as they had to pump gas into my stomach during the operation.  It felt heavy, hard to the touch, making my movements difficult.  Towards the afternoon, I was able to sit beside the bed, stand up and walk a few steps, and started burping.  But although I was cleared to eat regular meals after the surgery, I wasn’t really eating, but was sipping lots of water.

Monday lunchtime, they took out the catheter and the IV.  Two hours after, I went to the toilet to pee, still assisted.  Then I started walking longer, pacing the entire length of the room numerous times.  By late afternoon, I started to pass gas.  By nighttime, I was able to go to the bathroom unassisted.  I was still taking pain relievers orally.  Two days post-op, I felt like I was 7 months pregnant, tummy still big and filled with gas.  But I was walking straight, not hunched over.

Tuesday morning, I had the appetite to eat the arroz a la cubana meal the hospital served.  I dressed up to go home, and packed my things for an 11am check out.  Doctor came in, change my dressing, and we took pictures of my very small incisions.  Leaving the room, I sat on a wheelchair to go to lunch at Cafe Via Mare at the ground floor, and walked from the entrance to a table way deep inside the restaurant.  The ride back home was uneventful, except I took the time to get into my seat and had to support my tummy when we ran into potholes and humps as I wasn’t wearing an abdominal binder.  Arriving home, I had an easy time going up a flight of stairs to my unit, plus another flight of stairs to my bedroom.  I went down again to have dinner. Tuesday was also the last day I took a pain reliever.

Fourth day post-op, I cooked dinner. And did some work online.

Fifth day post-op, I added washing dishes to my list.

Sixth day post-op, I watched a concert at the PICC. The walk from the driveway to the concert hall, and back all the way to the parking across the street, was of considerable distance. Towards the end of the concert, I was up on my feet, dancing as light as I can. Okay, okay, that wasn’t really my kind of dancing!

Seventh day post-op, I watched the opening of the PI Jazzfest at the Bonifacio High Street, restraining myself hard not to join the Escola de Samba de Manila dancers and the Guarana band.

Eight day post-op, I was up on my feet for five hours, covering two floors of the SMX Convention Center, looking for good deals at The Philippine Travel Mart.

Ninth day post-op, I went back to my doctor for a check up.  She took out my bandages, didn’t cover them again as they were healed and completely dry.  She gave me clearance to drive and travel, but no lifting of heavy objects above 20 lbs.  Eight weeks post surgery, she said I could do whatever I want, however strenuous the activity is.

It’s been almost two weeks after my surgery and if not for the tiny incisions, I could easily forget that I had undergone this procedure.  In fact, I’m almost sure the scars will all be gone in a month or two! I think this is the downside, feeling strong enough a few days after the surgery that one might think she can go back right away to a regular schedule.  I’m not pushing it though but believe me, my post-surgery experience with the Da Vinci robot is far more pleasant and the recovery, quicker.  Making the decision was a matter of deciding on cost versus peace of mind and faster recovery.  How much?  Be prepared to spend a little over half a million pesos.  But it’s really worth it.

Still on Themes & Coming Back

It’s funny how my last post on this blog, written almost a year ago, was about changing the theme of the blog. Here I am again, with no posts for 11 months, and the first thing I did was to change the theme again!  I can’t seem to settle for a look that I really want.  But I will live with this new theme for now, and hope to focus on sharing adventures instead.

A lot has happened to me during the months I wasn’t writing.  I am on my second wind, breathing easier now that I have stopped and left the too-hectic corporate merry-go-round of 23 years.  There’s life beyond the confines of the office and I am discovering it, embracing it, paving new roads to who knows where!

Already, I have done four big travels in a year, whereas before I’d be lucky if I could get a straight two weeks off from work.  I have attended to a major physical wellness project, the one that has been put off for almost two years. What’s also amazing is that this leap of faith to unemployment has brought more meaningful work, partnerships and more, and has provided for our needs.  Indeed, life is good, guaranteed by the big boss from above!

Sunspot Theme for the Sunshine Blog

Bear with me please.  I am trying out this new theme.  I like its colors and I think the theme’s name, Sunspot, is a match to my blog’s title.

But I will let you in on a little secret.  I have been attempting to write for an hour and a half now.  Can’t seem to decide what to write about.  So I started writing about three different topics but still could not organize my thoughts for each one.  I didn’t think I should force the issue, so I looked instead at the available free themes and played around.  And this is the result. For now.

I should be back in a day or two.  In the meantime, do you like this new look?

Should You Bad Mouth Your Ex In front of your Kid?

I just can’t resist writing about this as one of the Philippines’ famous celebrities is at it again. I won’t go into the details as it is already a shame that what she had done recently is once again front page news.  But an interesting question from all the assumptions that can be had is : should you talk bad about your ex to your kid?

I’ll be honest and say that is very hard to resist especially when you caught the ex fooling around, or he has not done anything by way of supporting the child. In a single parent household, it is always so tempting to get the sympathy and undivided love of a child by picturing the single parent as the martyr in the situation, the one that was betrayed and left with the sole burden of taking care of the child in all aspects.  Countless times, I have bitten my tongue, caught myself at the very moment when the desire to badmouth the ex was so strong.  With God’s grace and a resolve not to open my mouth when I have nothing good to say, I think I am doing perfectly fine.

I asked my ex to leave our house, repeatedly hurt and knowing that I have reached the limit of my patience and forgiveness.  Hours after I dropped the bomb, I realized how selfish I was, thinking only of myself, and not about the year and a half old baby who was going to be deprived of a father.  But me and him, we were already a hopeless case.  But I was not going to get in the way of our child and her father developing their own relationship.

And so, it was open-door policy for him.  He could come any time, as long as he does not bring her out of the house unless accompanied by my mom.  He had full visitation rights and that wasn’t by order of a court.  Just the acceptance and tolerance of a mom who understands that no matter what has happened, they will always be father and daughter.

Whether he exercises his right to visit her anytime is entirely up to him.  What he does to build that relationship and maintain it is entirely up to him.  Sadly, he has not shown nor made her feel what it is to have a real, caring and loving father whose presence and support can be felt.  And guess what? I don’t have to say anything, I don’t have to utter one single bad word about him.  The child knows, the child feels, and she will make her own decisions as far as their relationship is concerned.

What I just hope to do is to teach her not to have feelings of resentment, and that each parent has a different way of showing his/her love.  I recount to her the good times when she was still a baby and when her dad was an active co-parent.  She might not really remember things but I can feel that she loves hearing these stories, it makes her feel that she was loved by her dad.  And I love it when she hugs me real tight when I tell her that God has given me a bottomless well of love to give her, so I could make up for daddy’s part.

The Decluttering Project

What I’m most excited about in the next few days is finally having the time to declutter and redecorate my home. I haven’t really had the time to do this major task except for my once-a-year spring cleaning which frankly isn’t enough considering I have so many areas to fix. 

I have made some prep work last year and it was a great start.  The main thing was not to bring in any more clutter into the house.  And so I avoided shopping, I didn’t hang out at the malls.  Unless it was something I absolutely needed, I didn’t buy it.  This applied to household items, clothes, bags, shoes, accessories.  Both for the kid and me.  Even the word SALE lost its magic on me.

On the rare occasion that we needed to reward ourselves with small gifts, we followed a rule that I started imposing when my kid started collecting toys.  If we bought one new item, we have to get rid of one item in our closet. One toy in, one toy out! Also, the kid has been taught to give away toys and clothes that she will no longer use to our favorite children’s charity at least once a year.  

This worked for me too :  instead of a major and time-consuming spring cleaning, I opted to have mini-decluttering sessions at least once a month.  It varied from 2 hours to half a day to a whole day of removing stuff I haven’t used for a year.  Once, I joined a yard sale and earned money for a month’s worth of groceries and gas.  Some bigger items posted on Facebook were also quickly snapped up by friends.

A portable shredder also did wonders as I got rid of many years of accumulated bills and other documents not worth keeping.

I am looking forward to a scheduled two weeks of cleaning and clearing up the house and hopefully, be left with only what’s necessary for our daily existence plus the occasional entertaining.  One room will be converted into an office, while another one will be made a guest room.  I’m so excited it’s like I am being transported back to the time I first moved into this house.

But sorry folks, no before and after pics! You can however, share tips to help me do this decluttering project!