They say every life lesson is learned best when you’re in the situation yourself, instead of grasping what you can learn from the experience of somebody else. And I couldn’t agree more.
More than a year ago, February 8, 2014, I rushed my mother to the emergency room of Medical Center Muntinlupa (MCM) because she was experiencing heavy vaginal bleeding and intolerable cramps. The resident doctors examined her and before I even realized it, I was signing papers giving consent for surgical procedures needed to be performed on her and talking to a number of surgeons and an oncologist.
Yes, an oncologist. It’s the medical specialist nobody ever imagined to have to talk to. Someone who you only read about through textbooks and someone you never wished to have a serious discussion with ever in your entire life.
In less than 24 hours, I found myself sitting in the hospital aisle staring into space and trying to make sense of what the OB oncologist told me: Your mother may have late stage cancer but we need to wait for the official laboratory results to confirm it.
Hearing that from someone who worked with cervical cancer patients for decades, I was left to feel that even without the official lab results, it was already a death sentence for my mother. The lab results came out and my mother heard about her diagnosis from the oncologist herself on February 20, my daughter’s 1st birthday (we had to cancel her 1st birthday party because of the situation).
If someone you know personally has fought cancer, you may have a slight notion about how unspeakable the pain they had to go through is. If you’re someone who actually cared for a cancer patient you know personally, you have an absolute understanding of how difficult it is to win the battle.
Difficult is an understatement. There isn’t a word enough to describe the nightmare cancer patients face before, during, and after the treatments. And if the person lives in a third world country like the Philippines, the battle becomes even more impossible.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked for help from the government since July 2015. My mother was hospitalized yet again. The cancer cells have spread in an area surrounding her kidneys, causing her kidneys to not function properly. Cancer gave birth to Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) which means more pain for her and an increasing amount of medical bills and expenses that I have to pay.
So off I went to ask for help from the government. I and a friend of mine, Jayson, went to the Senate, House of Representatives, and Department of Health. I had all the medical proof and documents which I believe should make her eligible to receive help from the government. But my friend and I didn’t even get to speak to an actual government employee. At the gates, the guards-on-duty told us that unless my mother’s dialysis treatment is administered in the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) then she shouldn’t expect any help from our government officials. I tried to make my case and told the guards that my mom is a cancer patient, too, and that she’s not ambulant. She’s in so much pain most of the time, so I can’t even imagine her going through the stress and challenges other patients are subjected to when they’re treated in government hospitals. I tried to tell them how I try to make ends meet just so my mother receives quality health care, but my pleas fell on deaf ears.
I was determined not to give up on them until I’ve read about another daughter like me and her mother’s heartbreaking story.
I also went to local government officials in Muntinlupa and I just can’t believe how heartless some of them are. Most employees of councilors’ offices I went to told me that they don’t have any budget anymore. I didn’t even get the chance to talk about my mother’s illness first. I was shooed away like a fly so they can continue their chit chat. Another employee from another government official said that I should receive help once the funds are available. I went there and submitted the requirements they asked for last August 6. After the nth time of following up, I finally gave up last month because the funds aren’t available still after more than four months of waiting.
The only officials who bothered to help me were the current Mayor, Vice Mayor, and the two District 1 councilors (you have my gratitude Councilor Phanie Teves, Councilor Ringo Teves, and Mayor Jimmy Fresnedi and Vice Mayor Temy Simundac). The RESCUE Team of Mayor Fresnedi has also gone out of their way to help us by providing transportation to and fro the hospital when they are not on call (Thanks to you, guys!). The nurses of MCM have always treated my mother like she’s their own mom (Thank you!). Lastly, Dr. Irma Camacho of Muntinlupa’s City Health Office has always provided us a referral for AB positive blood (Thanks, Doc!). I’m forever grateful to all of these people for their selfless acts of love.
The bottom line is unless you know someone working in the government personally, don’t waste your money photocopying medical abstracts, medical certificates, IDs, and certificate of indigency. Don’t even bother writing a letter. You’re just setting yourself up for the biggest disappointment of your life because some of the public officials and their employees serve themselves and not the public. If your need for medical assistance is urgent, I feel sorry for you because I know you won’t get the help you so desperately need.
I’m just lucky because I still got friends who loved my mother and I like family, who always help us with the best that they can. I work for bosses who are humans; who understand how difficult our situation is and extend help to us whenever they can.
And more importantly, there’s God who has always given my mother and I the daily dose of strength and grace we need to make it through each day. And for all of them, I’m grateful.
My mother has beaten cancer for more than one year now. It’s a battle she faces courageously every day and for as long as I live, I will make sure to make each day a bit bearable for her.
The election is coming up in the next couple of months. You know who I will vote for.