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Little things (aka Thoughts while waiting outside the doctor's office)

Two summers ago, for my requisite medical check-up before admission to law school, an x-ray result revealed something wrong with my lungs. There was a small lesion somewhere in my right lung, which suggested that I might have developed some form of primary complex. The man at the x-ray booth told me I could not proceed with enrollment unless I get a medical clearance from my doctor. That morning, I was still reeling from a break-up the night before, and to have found out about the x-ray result at the UP Infirmary, no less, (the last place you would want to be in when you're told you might have a disease) - it wasn't at all comforting. The next day, I immediately went for a consultation at Makati Med, where a pulmonolgist, in fact, confirmed the results of my x-ray.

I was put under heavy medication for six months - four tablets before breakfast, one for lunch, and one before bed, all of which caused me nausea and severe headaches. This was really terrible for me, because aside from still having to adjust with the rigors of law school, it was also the first time I was living alone in my own unit, without a roommate. I had to force myself to continue drinking the medicine, despite all the side-effects. I also had to make an extra effort to remember drinking them, (because I'm a senior-citizen trapped in a twenty-year-old's body). And I had to be wary of the company I was with, because now I had to take extra care of my lungs (and my heart - but that's another story altogether, haha).

This probably should've been the time to throw the "Why me?!" fit. I could've pointed my finger to people who might have infected me, I could've gotten angry with the universe, or God, or even myself - I could've gotten depressed over getting sick.

Funny though, I never considered myself a person with a "disease" during that time - in fact it was never something I brought up or openly talked about with friends. Partly because I didn't want them to feel scared or worried that I might get them infected (only if I'm not careful), but also mostly because I never liked identifying myself as a "victim" - of sickness, of sadness, of anything. But then again, I'm also not privy to the label "warrior." It felt too... trite. And besides, I would hardly call the degree of my sickness something that would bring forth a "warrior." Cancer patients are warriors, actual tuberculosis patients are warriors. But me? I was probably just a little pawn lost in a big battlefield.

However, the truth was, in all those times I sat waiting outside my doctor's door, during the months I was under observation, I've thought a lot about the things I wanted and the things I couldn't imagine losing - not because I felt like I was going to die already, but because the reality was, "being sick" meant giving up certain pleasures, big or otherwise. It meant no sharing of straws, no close contact, no shaking hands after having my hands near my mouth. I mean, if I were in a relationship that time, that would mean no kissing (!). Little things, you know? It was nothing compared to what other people in worse conditions had to give up, and of course I was thankful that mine was detected early and that it was curable. (And actually pretty normal and common, according to my doctor. Almost ALL Filipinos have it, only undiagnosed.)

But when your face is in front of your toilet bowl, with your mind begging your body to cooperate and throw everything up just so that you can get rid of the nasty feeling - it's hard not to "feel sick." It's hard not to identify with the "I'm sick" label. When you realize it's only 6:00 am and already you're dreading the nausea that will still accompany you for the rest of the day - how do you not feel like you're missing out on certain things? It's difficult, and no degree or level of sickness will take away the difficult feeling. "Stage 0," "inactive," "common" -- whatever, those are just words. You still feel sick. You still are sick. And it means having to give up things, and it means being alone in giving up those things.

Six months later, thankfully, I was cleared, and my results revealed a healthy set of lungs. Which meant things were okay, and at least for the time being, it meant goodbye to the medicines and the crazy side-effects as well. And it also meant I can share straws on graham-banana-shake dates again! (#concerns #priorities HAHA)

And now here I am, two years after that first x-ray, back for my requisite check-up. Am I scared? Not really. Am I worried? Not anymore. But I don't think I'm in the right position to say "I survived!" or "I recovered!" simply because it wasn't a huge war. If anything, the biggest war I had to wage that time was law school and heartache. Whatever confidence or integrity I walked away with from that year probably wasn't because of my bout with the sickness.

But the little things? Oh the little things. It was during that time that I realized how important the little things are. Little things like having the luxury to wake up late, without worrying about medicines; or the comfort of holding hands with someone, without the incessant need for alcohol beforehand. The delight of having someone tell you everything's going to be okay. Things like that. Everyday since then, I've been thankful for the small things that have come my way. And I've been wary of the small things about myself too. It's like discovering how much of myself badly needed attention, even those parts I never actually notice. It's lovely how much your body can surprise you, if only you looked closely.

Because it's only when you're careful with yourself that other people realize how to be careful with you too.


My current x-ray results are clear! Woohoo!