Monday, September 27, 2004

Litany Torture

We went to the cemetery yesterday for the 1 year anniversary of a friend's passing. There were a number of his family and friends gathered round his grave admiring his spanking new tombstone. We then began to say our prayers led by one of our 'senior' Pinay friends. It was allright until we got onto the part when she said - "Let's pray the rosary". I thought - oh no! not the rosary and the litany *here*!! We were all standing half freezing from drizzly cold windy weather and she wants us to say a loooong prayer? Well our late friend's Anglican relatives must not have known what's coming. By the second mystery they must have thought, 'what are these Catholics praying so long for? They can't make him come back from the grave?!' hehehe!

By the third mystery my 3 year old daughter was asking us - 'why does she keep repeating the same thing?' God must be quite irritated with all the repeating chants of prayers we Catholics do. It must be a way of badgering him with whatever we are asking for in the hope that he/she will say - 'Oh allright! You can have it then!'

It brought back a lot of childhood memories of mine when we kids were forced to kneel through a litany of prayers during padasal (prayer party) for someone expired. How I get too twitchy and utterly bored with the drone of "Aba Ginoong Maria nakapupuno ka ng alkansya ..." (Hail Mary). I am often pinupulikat (have pins and needles) from the torturous long time sitting and kneeling. But at least that torture was only once in a while unless there is a bad case of septugenarian expiration club deciding to hold a party in heaven then we would be praying almost every 2-3 weeks. Well the other torture that I dread even more as a child is to have to sit through a Sunday mass. Man, that was really excruciating especially that Father Abueg is known to have a sideline of curing insomnia. I would often slouch on the wooden bench then eventually be down on the ground. Then graduating to sitting on the upholstered luhuran (kneeling plank) after a while I would be lying prone on it looking at the cobwebs underneath the benches and if that doesn't amuse me I would soon be rolling at the back of the feet of the people in the pew in front. By that time my Tita have pinched me already in my singit (what's singit in English?) so I would sit bolt upright on the bench. And I would start the cycle all over again.

But then just when I was about to give in and surrender, I would hear chimes of little bells and a single toll of the big bell and Father Abueg raising that white round thing. Hallelujiah!! I am resurrected from the dead like Lazarus. I am giddly happy for I know that the more interesting songs are coming (which I sing at the top of my voice) and most of all uwian na (time to go home) !! Ahh what a great relief!

I wonder if all this experience is of any use. Perhaps I could apply as a spy for MI5? Best qualification - well experienced in prayer torture, can foil any chants any repetitions at any length of time. Mwe he he he!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Confessions of a Blog Addict

It's official, I'm addicted to blogs - whether reading them or blogging itself - I can't tear myself away from the damn PC ! Take my internet access away !! Is there a Blogaholic Anonymous somewhere to help me? Maybe I could make out like Bruce the Shark: 'Hello my name is Celia. It's been 3 minutes (on my honor) since I blogged ... Let's say the pledge - I am a nice person not a mindless blogging machine. If I am to continue this image I must first change myself. Blogs are info-sites not obsessions.' Oooh, how can I not make myself click on blogs - help please !!

On another completely unrelated thing, I woke up in the middle of the night last night and looked at the digital clock on the bedside table. It said - 3:33 am. Nothing wrong with that except that I woke up at exactly the same time the night before at 3:33! About a week before that I remember waking up at 2:22 am! There are quite a number of times (pun intended) in the last few months when I look at the clock and I would often have these repeating numbers: 11:11, 12:12, 4:44, etc. What's happening? Am I just being paranoid? Or is there something about this repeating patterns? If I wake up again tonight at 3:33 I wonder what I would do? Ni-nu-ni-nu ! Calling occupants of interplanetary craft ...

Friday, September 17, 2004

I’ve got MG – and it’s not a sports car ! (part 2)

Surgery and Relapse:

I was scheduled to have surgery at
St. Anthony’s Hospital on the 19th of August 2003. At this point I have learned to accept my fate. Grief they say goes thru 5 stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I believe this also applies to people confronted with something traumatic. I certainly went thru the first 4 all at the same time. When I realised the operation is something really necessary then I began to relax and accept the fact that it is in my best interest to do this. Now I truly know what Christians say as “leaving it up to God”. I cannot do anything else, I prepared myself physically, mentally, emotionally. I prepared my family for whatever is inevitable. I have complete confidence in my doctors. Everything else is up to God. I have a very strong gut feel at the time that if I chose to I have a chance to “exit” this world during operation. But I love my husband and my children and I don’t want them to grow up not knowing me. So I prayed that whatever God chooses I will abide for I know it is for the best but if He asks me, I choose to live.

I was prepped for the operation at 8:30 AM. No breakfast, just a tiny sip of water. They transferred me from my bed to a bed trolley by pumping an inflatable bed underneath me then sliding me over to the other one (that was fun!). I was wheeled in the operating prep room and given an anesthetic which within less than a minute knocked me out completely. So I have no recollection whatsoever of their cutting and embroidering my chest.

I woke up in the ICU unit with my husband by my side. He said the doctor told him it was successful. Hooray ! Only thing he regretted he said was ‘why didn’t they put silicones on both sides while they were at it’! The cheek! Sira ulo talaga. Don’t worry nabatukan ko na siya (I gave him a good smacking on the head). It was succesful I had no complications and the good news is that the more than 2-inches in diameter tumor they took out was benign. But my goodness, after the operation it was so *bloody painful* !! Konting galaw ko lang – aray! (It was so painful everytime I move). The breathing tubes they put in me caused me to produce sputum (plema) which means I cough no matter how hard I tried not to. Coughing means sudden expansion of your chest. This caused me the most pain. Laughing also does this but I would prefer the latter than the former. I got a foot long scar on my chest and three small ones at the bottom where drains were connected. These drains were so *%^&$@#! painful when they were removed. And they have to do it one at a time so the pain was times 3 ! I sure am glad I’m over that. The field of medicine is really making big strides on this type of operation. Years ago this is a big deal but now it is quite routine and they have very high success rate. Also one nice thing in the hospital is that most of my nurses were Pinays kaya okay na okay. I always have someone to chat with and they’re extra caring to me.

I was quite sensitive to the anesthesia so for several days I was nauseaus and dizzy. I stayed for 1 week in the hospital and in that time I could see a big difference in my eyes and speech. My eyes which were always droopy before were back to normal and I was chatting away in record speed. Despite the pains I had a nice time there. I was well taken cared of by the doctors and staff.

I got back home to recuperate where I was worried because my youngest is only 2 ½ at the time and sometimes she still wants to be carried which I definitely cannot do. It’s a good thing my sister from Florida came to care for me for a month. She was a real big help for me and my family. My MG was not recurring yet big time but I could feel it as my wound was healing it was coming back. My wound was fine except it has keloid. Not a pretty sight. I was half expecting this because it runs in my mother’s family. It can be a problem when I shop for clothes I can’t wear v-necked or plunging necklines anymore (as if I have something to ‘show’).

Then I had major relapse, I accompanied my sister a week before she was due to leave to Harrods and central London to do some shopping. When we got home I felt so incredibly tired and sleepy. By the next day I couldn’t focus my eyes and was so blurred that when I drive I just guess (tinatantiya) on how far I am from the pavement, cars in front, etc. This was very dangerous don’t try that at home folks. I couldn’t do much around the house. I would start something after a few minutes I would be very dizzy or have a headache from the dizziness. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t watch TV, I couldn’t smile very well. Eating was a problem as I can’t chew well and would choke easily (but in a way it helped me lose weight). I was so depressed because after the surgery I thought I was completely cured. Even before the surgery my MG was not as bad as this. No wonder back then when I was telling my doctor about the wonderful improvements I had after the operation he just smiled and said “We’ll see.” The removal of the thymus gland and the tumor, it turned out, have more of a long term effect so you cannot observe immediate sustained benefits from it. I theorised that other members of my immune system simply took over once they realised that my thymus gland is gone and carried on producing too much antibodies. I was deteriorating rapidly that the
Mestinon tablets I was taking has no effect anymore. I was then put on a course of steroids (Prednisolone) and Azathioprine. Even that did not take effect immediately. It took probably 2 months before I got reasonable benefit out of it.

These were dark times. I tried to start work again in early November 2003 but I couldn’t really hack it. I couldn’t go on meetings I would be very embarassed because of my slurred speech, I couldn’t stare long enough on the computer monitor. I had to take another month off which my manager kindly gave me. I was off work for about 4 months in total and I am very grateful that my company gave me full pay throughout. I did not pay a pence for my operation and treatments because of the private medical insurance my company provided – for that I am very grateful as well. Even the huge number of drugs I take are all free. The NHS issued me a medical exception card. They give this to people whose condition is chronic. I realised that if this happened to me while I was in the Philippines, either I could have died from not being able to afford treatments or could be drowning in debt. God is still looking after me.

The steroids as anticipated made me always thirsty, moon faced, and bloated making me look like the twin sister of the
Michelin Man. But it did make me feel good. I felt like superwoman that I could do anything. I was super sipag (hard-working) around the house. I am currently gradually being weaned off it and I hope to complete it in good time. There are a lot of side effects from it, besides the ones I mentioned it also raised my blood sugar. I have to be careful of what I eat and was even advised to diet which is very very hard to do when you are on steroids. By January 2005 I hope I will be only on 5mg of the corticosteroids and am looking forward to having my MG remain in remission.

My current medications are (as of Sept 2004):
Thyroxine 100mcg, Mestinon 30mg (2x/day), Prednisolone (7.5mg/12.5mg alternate days), Azathioprine 50mg (3x/day), Fosamax 70mg(1x/week). I was advised to continue with my current level of Prednisolone for 3 months then reduce it by 2.5mg and do this for another 3 months.

I am currently on remission and hope to continue being so. I realised I have a lot to be thankful for but mostly for the love and support that my family and friends have given me. There’s no way that surgery will not be successful I’ve got an army of friends and relatives praying for me! I thank God for looking after me and giving me another chance. I thank God that my body decided to get well and I hope I can take good care of it and give me more years of service. Despite everything and all the problems that I had - life is worth living. Thank you everyone and God bless.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Catholic Dictionary (part 1)

After that makabagbag damdaming (dramatic) post about my MG let's pause for some silly jokes I dug from my baul (chest) of old emails. Sorry for this dictionary, I only got the ones for letters E-M. Here's the first installment, letters E-G:

Here is the first installment of selections stolen without permision from _Papal Bull_, 'A Humorous Dictionary for Catholics' by Dean Sullivan published by Simon and Schuster:

Easter---1. The day you see Catholics you haven't seen since Chistmas
----------2. The day when Christ's body was missing and all the children are worried about is finding the missing chocolate eggs.

ecumenism---The practice of unity among Christian whereby Catholics cut Protestants some slack for being close.

Egypt---the country which created the first form of writing:

hieroglyphics---the basis for all medical prescriptions.

envy --- The sin Catholics commit when they think of non-Catholics who get to remain seated during their church services.

eternity---The time between Communion and the end of Mass.

evangelists, TV--- Preachers with miraculous power---the ability to squeeze dollars out of the penniless.

Eve--- The only wife who never had to worry about the "other woman"

everlasting life--- What a Catholic will need to understand all the changes since Vatican II.

faith---Giving God the benefit of the doubt on the question "Can God make a rock so big that even He, Himself, cannot lift it"?

fast---God's diet plan

fishers of men----A description of the Apostles who trawled for souls.

folk mass---The type of liturgy celebrated at the church of Saints Peter, Paul and Mary.

Friday, Good---The day of the crucifiction of Jesus---which makes you wonder what a Messiah's got to do to make it a Bad Friday.

Garden of Eden---Where Adam and Eve dug us a hole.

God---The Supreme Being who knows everything, including why the Howells brought so many clothes for a three hour tour.

Godparent--- A person who has to baby-sit on request.

Golden Rule---The most painful thing a nun can hit you with.

Good Samaritan---A guy who today would probably get arrested and left in jail until "60 minutes" did a story on him.

Gospel--A term that means "Good news"-----even though the homily always follows.

guilt--- Agonizing paranoia somewhere along the lines of "God will get me for what I did" It racks the brain, twists the emotions, and turns the stomach until the person's a physical wreck--and God's job is already done.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

I’ve got MG - and it’s not a sports car ! (part 1)

I shamelessly stole that title from a personal webpage whose links I can’t find anymore. So whoever you are … thanks for the idea.

Yessireee, I’ve got
Myasthenia Gravis or MG for short. This means I sometimes have any or all of the following things: drooping eyelids, double vision, blurred vision, slurred speech (ngo-ngo at bulol), difficulty in swallowing, chewing and breathing, and general weakness of the arms and legs. It’s not so bad these days especially since my doctor put me on medications, I only experience very mild episodes of the above symptoms when I am very stressed or very tired. He said I am in ‘remission’. I do hope I will continue to be in the future.

The Diagnosis and Pre-operation times:

The very first time I felt my MG around late March 2003 is when I was at work and I was talking to a colleague on the phone. Suddenly I couldn’t speak, my jaws felt like lead I couldn’t lift or move my tongue. I thought I was having a stroke and I really panicked. So off I went to my GP (general practitioner) who referred me to a neurologist who in turn put me through lots of tests including one where they put electrodes on your face and mildly electrocute you – I forgot what it’s called. But worse was one test where they pierced a long needle thru my forearm and electrocute me via fingertips. Naku ang sakit nun. It was really painful. These and blood tests confirmed to my doctor that I have MG which is an autoimmune disease affecting my muscles. In plain speak, my body is producing too much antibodies which are attacking or blocking the tiny proteins that sends messages from the brain to the muscles to contract, expand, or move. Kinda like ‘shoot the messenger’ eh?

Then came the MRI scan where I felt so claustrophobic I kept twitching that the images did not come too clear. But the scans were cool looking, all coloured and I could see a good dissection of my body side view and top view. I didn’t know it then but he suspected I had a tumor. So he made me go through a CT scan and it was there that they saw I have a thymoma (tumor in the thymus gland). I thought, what is a
thymus gland? Until then I didn’t know I have one. Apparently MG exists in 50% of cases of thymoma.

MG they said can be caused by prolonged physical or mental or emotional stress. I have always been stressed being a working mother. But I have to admit during that time I have been under probably one of the most stressful times of my life. My father who visited us here in UK suffered a stroke. He was in hospital for about 3 months. The shock and the worry about my father really put me thru a lot. Plus I was leading a project at work that was anything but smooth. On top that, doing a lot of things around the house and caring for 3 kids, one of whom was only 2 years old, I have to rush almost every night to the hospital to see how my father is doing, bring him Pinoy food, etc. And then we have to move house. Added to that, my relationship with my husband at that time was going down the drain. Additionally, he was made redundant consequently further worry on the finances. So you could see how much I had on my plate at that time. Besides these outside factors, physiologically I think I was a perfect candidate for MG since I already have other autoimmune problems. I have
hypothyroidism since age 11 and psoriasis. Probably God was saying – well you asked for it so here it is ! Funny, a few months before I was diagnosed I heard this inner voice telling me that I have a pretty stable life (sometimes boring actually) that I need something to spice it up. I was not betting that it would come out like this.

Now that they know that I have a thymoma, they quickly arranged for me to have a thymectomy (removal of the thymus gland) within 2 weeks! That’s the advantage of having private medical insurance things move very quickly unlike when you have to go through the govt’s National Health Insurance (NHS) it’s free but the waiting time is so long it means you have to wait for months even a year. Teka nasan na ba ako, where was I? The operation, they wanted it right away because they are worried that my MG might worsen and it will complicate the operation. I really got scared because they have to cut thru the
sternum so it’s like having an open heart surgery - a major surgery.

On a side note, I noticed that surgeons here are titled Mr. not Dr. I asked my neurologist about it. He said it’s just the tradition here and no need for me to worry because he said the surgeon is not just anybody that walked in from the pub. He is indeed a qualified doctor/surgeon except he’s not called ‘doctor’. Hmmm, I tell you these Brits are a strange lot!

I really don’t want to go ahead with the surgery I was patently scared. My doctors said that whether I have an MG or not, the fact that I have a tumor there means that it definitely have to be removed before it enlarges further and press on the other organs with the main concern that it might be malignant. Anyhow, I prayed and meditated and I eventually followed this voice I heard saying – “you’re going to be all right don’t worry”. So I decided to go ahead.

I hear this “voice” usually during my most difficult times. It is different from the noisy static of my everyday paranoid thoughts. It is calm, authoritative, and from experience speaks the truth so I know I better follow it. Is it God? It is my inner voice? It is the ‘force’? Is it an alien :-) ? Beam me up Scotty ! Whatever it is, however it’s called, it’s something I cannot dismiss or ignore.

To be continued …

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Pinoy Dictionary

I was cleaning my hard drive this afternoon and I came across an old Pinoy "translation" joke emailed to me years and years ago. I kept because it never fails to make me smile whenever I read it. I don't know who the author was or who originally sent it to me. So whoever wrote this - thank you - may your wit's still with you. No. 6 is for Ca T. he he!



1. Persuading - Unang Kasal
2. Devastation - Istasyon ng bus
3. Protestant - Tindahan ng prutas
4. Profit - Messenger of God
5. Statue - Ikaw ba 'yan?
6. Predicate - Pakawalan mo ang pusa
7. Aspect - Pantusok o pandurog ng yelo
8. Effort - Paliparan (o paradahan ng eroplano)
9. Deduct - Ang bibe
10. Defeat - Ang paa (ng bibe?) ha,ha!
11. Detail - Ang buntot (ng bibe?)
12. Deposit - Gripo(call DIPLOMA if DEPOSIT is
13. City - Bago mag-utso (8)
(A number to follow 6)
14. Melt - Ngawit ng mewang
15. Cattle - Doon nakatila ang Hali at Leyna
16. Depress - Ang nagkasal sa PERSUADING
17. Defense - Ginamit na pansulat sa kontrata sa
18. It depends - Kainin mo ang bakod
19. Shampoo - Bago mag labing-isa (11)
(A number to follow 9)
20. Delusion - Maluwag (kapag maluwang ang damit,
21. Delivery - Walang bayad. (Kapag working lunch,
eh DELIVERY na ang tanghalian)

No. 3 above is about Protestants. It reminded me of a phone conversation I had with my son several months ago, it went like this:

Me: We have to go to Auntie Helen's place because it's EJ's church confirmation.
Son: Oh okay.
Me: Do you know what church confirmation means?
Son: Yeah it's a way to find out the difference between Catholic and prostitutes.
Me: What did you say?! Do you mean Protestants?
Son: Prostitute, Protestants - whatever!
(At this point I was laughing so hard my colleagues were all looking at me wondering why I did not take my medications. hehehe!)

So people, are you a Catholic or a prostitute? Bwa hahaha!!

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


I'm pretty excited this morning upon seeing that my gumamela planted indoors bloomed. Hehe. Funny how plants and flowers that you took forgranted while growing up in the Philippines now occupies a site of honor in the house. Its blooms eargerly awaited. I think this is called the "suson-suson na gumamela" or in English (or is it Latin?) Hibiscus. This particular variety is called 'Koenig'.

Planting advice said to place it in a south facing window because of the need for lots of light and warmth. Pruning is advised during March-October or even in spring and it is important because it stimulates growth and that buds form on new shoots. I was wondering why some of the buds on my plants dropped off, I found out that it (the pot) should not be turned while there are buds. If it is absolutely necessary then turn no more than 1/8 turn per week.

The only complaint I have is that the flowers do not last more than 1.5 days. Owww!