As promised, here’s everything that had happened recapitulated in an hour of writing.

The Great Depression (April and May 2019). I thought that the ICU journey was the last bridge I needed to cross but Alopecia cuffed me off in a snap. One day, I woke up and my hair just started falling. It was extremely fervid that I’d leave a stupendous amount of hair traces wherever I sprawled to. It was too hard to descry and slowly my depression started to eat me up hovering my psyche.

Hence, I decided to have my head shaved to avoid seeing those horrifying trails. Thankfully, my hair manages itself to grow thick and fast. Shawl and eyebrow gel do added colours to my everyday. Yes, that time I could still afford to drive myself to hospice for treatment, but has to remain working from home for a complete recovery.

Inchmeal, I was recovering with the help of antidepressant pills prescribed by my doctor. I was then able to bounce back with optimistic disposition.

I was ready to be physically back to work until…

The Break-In and the Break up (May 2019). Those guys probably thought I was a bloke with my shaved head and so they started sketching my back-and-gut with a carver knife and when I stumbled, I fell on the shattered window pane glass which caused my left ear to bleed. THIEVES! It was hunting and the memories of the incident made me completely lose control of my sanity for some time. I flustered when I hear loud voices. I’d feel being terrorised when someone tries to approach or starts a conversation with me. I’d start running when I see men with big built.

I had to take a break from work, both virtual and physical, since the hardcore negotiator, resilient and feisty “Ian” was already in absentia. I am acclimated to pain so the lacerations were close to nothing. The pain only felt like needle pinprick and I had a successful surgery stitches…

But what bruised, impaired and tortured me most was when Mo left the moment I desperately needed someone to cling on. Yes, Mo my best friend, my confidante, my trusted ally, my family, my rescuer, my shock absorber, my energy, my travel buddy….. He had to take a different route and it took me awhile to understand God’s plan for all these quandaries happened just in 1 quarter.

Life in Prayer and Meditation (June 2019). With the help of daily communion and weekly spiritual direction, I was able to steadily get back on track. I also chose to stop taking all my maintenance pills [to include getting my steroid injections weekly] for I felt like those placebos mangled my brain processes. I instead focused on prayer, adoration, meditation, eating a balanced diet and exercise…. and I never felt so alive until the moment I espoused to live a life – not dependent on anyone (people) or anything (medicines) but just Him.

Back to work (Q3 -Q4 2019). Yaas, I surmounted all those woes and setbacks and it’s a new, resurrected Ian who is now back to work. I was both elated and enlivened to close great deals and to run my department with a 20-20 vision and clearer goals. I was also looking forward to a new team member added to the family since my team, apart from Retail Operations, now handles Retail Marketing .

I was and am unstoppable – inking deals left and right; successful retail marketing activities week by week; promising sideline jobs every now and then – as modeling, hosting, incognito content writing and even creating a business plan for start-up companies.

Travel and adventure (Q4 to the nth). I’ve never really gotten a chance to travel much because Lupus always limits to tick off my bucket list. With God’s grace, I am now on complete remission. This means that my Lupus is inactive and I am on my greatest shape. I candidly love sunshine, beaches, and nature and thankfully I can fancy these now.

Here’s a little glimpse of my travel to Siargao last October 2019 – a precelebration birthday trip.

My journey this year cannot be narrated in an hour of writing but I just have this overflowing sentiments to share these snippets with you. Below are my humble percipience that you may find helpful somehow.

  1. DON’T GIVE UP. For a 28-year-old lass, I know that I have endured so much but I am never giving up. The fight continues for God has a purpose on our every pain, struggle and misfortune. Remember He also has a gift for our tenacity, assiduity and faithfulness.
  2. WE ALL GO THROUGH DEPRESSION AND IT’S OK. We are all allowed to feel messed up inside and out. It doesn’t mean we are crazy or defective. It just means we are human. Salient is we try to control ourselves, our emotions and our judgement. If things get out of hand, seek medical attention. It is ok to get help just what I did.
  3. WE ARE ALL A WARRIOR. My battle has always been surmounting against this very rare connective tissue disease. When I renounced taking medications, it was both a risk and a choice and you don’t have to mimic that action. I had a staunch belief that after all these years pills were not helping me out anymore, hence, I have to change my master plan. Being a warrior means you take responsibility of your actions and you are ready for any untoward possibilities. What really helped me a lot is purely a healthy lifestyle. I eat great food. I exercise regularly. I pray and meditate. I work with prudence. Then repeat.
  4. YOU HAVE YOURSELF TO DEPEND ON. Be thankful when best people leave your door because it will stimulate you to be a better person as well. When Mo left me, I thought that I would never see sunshine again but here am I enjoying sunshine and rainbow every day. There’s so much to be grateful after all. Mo, thank you!
  5. WE ONLY LIVE ONCE. LET’S DO IT RIGHT. Our time here on earth is very limited. Embrace every moment. Love every fragment. Travel and live your adventure. Do the things you’ve been wanting to do. Never let other people’s opinion cloud out your inner voice. Stay healthy and love yourself please.
  6. Lastly, this is for you. I wrote this on my 28th.

Normal day defines

A normal day is like listening to the music my body plays. *Let me call her she because she’s quiet tender and delicate. Sometimes I hear slower rhythm. Sometimes I hear upbeats. Sometimes just the right mix. From there, I just dance myself suitably so I can hopefully relish a beautiful day every day.

I wake up at 6:30am to prepare for office. At least I’d need 1 ½ hours to get ready. Big chunk of the time actually goes to skin care routine. Living with Lupus means I have to apply layers of sunblock at least 90 SPF in face and body. This is to avoid butterfly rashes and other allergies when serendipitously exposed to sunlight.  When at work, I grind with serene intensity. I find it very therapeutic so I happily work at my best.  I’m usually just donned in pants, jacket and sneakers as I go around much hopping from one site to another and I only wear corporate apparel when the time suggests.

I prefer to meet clients in the morning when my reasoning is at its peak and send emails by noon when I’m less disturbed because everyone is out enjoying their lunch. Whenever there are no work sessions or meetings in the afternoon (seldomly happens), I typically proceed with all the paper works. By 6pm, I have to be on the way home.

The body plays strong and lively music during the day and I tend to sway my hips on every beat. At times, I wouldn’t notice any motion of pangs for I always get carried away. Hence, I just go on. However,when night befalls, accumulated fatigue would emanate the entire system (around 7PM) weaved with joint pain, headache, fever, itchiness or a combination of all. This normally happens when I insensibly overexert energy and waves during daytime. The body would start transitioning to a melancholic music – slow,slower to a mum and I just have to rock along with it through getting enough rest.

Sometimes I would’ve trouble sleeping when in flare or when pain reaches its zenith. Sometimes, I would have episodes of forgetting things or occurrences. Sometimes I just really want to lie down in bed as what the body dictates. It really depends on the severity of the malaise and exposure to smoke and sun light is a contributor second to contracting infection from anyone or anywhere. So, when rest is not enough, I rest some more to recover.

This daily routine is simply knowing the right mix to keep on moving forward. It’s balancing the common sense and physical amplitude – when is too much not much and when is less enough. When the mind desires for something, I always try to ask the body if she can sustain it. If the mind is incognisant, then I do a rain check. If it still insists, then I consult a friend to keep me prudent. It’s easy being said than done but getting back a good health is not an overnight work. I work hard for it every day.

SLE Warrior: How it all started.

I always wanted to share my story but I had initial fears that people may misunderstand and judge wrongly. However, many people had reached out to me after reading my blog post “Colossal Dream”. I thought better and said that many out there would see suffering differently when they know my daily battle with SLE. I realised that many still need help… and so I begin relating my personal life story – the saga of  Ian – the Lupus Warrior.

The Early Years (2010). I remember back in College, I had dreadful itchiness all over my body and thought it was just a reaction from the food I ate or the change of weather. I self-medicated and tried almost all the cheapest possible remedies I knew. I took Citirizine (antihistamine) as recommended by a friend. I placed bisaya leaves on my skin, omega ointment or vicks, even reaching to a point of exposing the affected skin to charcoal fires just to feel a tinge of relief. The itchiness became incessant each day. It started sculpting an ugly map-scratch and it became more tormenting when the body’s saturated in water. Despite this time, I never thought of seeking medical attention from a professional. I endured it hoping one day it will just wither. I was floundering for two years but no one had noticed my plight for I carried myself well. Every mark was concealed through stockings and long sleeves, and that sweet smile. 

Butterflies and Coins (2013). The symptoms came back after a year of working. One day, I just woke up with butterfly rashes on the face and massive joint pains. It was extremely harrowing that even the slightest movement would make me cry out loud. I self-medicated again and took pain relievers like Ponstan. It helped but the pain would recur after few hours. The rashes also started to emanate like red coins on my legs, arms and back. My eyes and lips were bulging at an incongruous extent. It was then I decided to admit myself into a medical care.  I underwent series of tests and doctors confirmed something was wrong with my immune system (the part that fights off germs, viruses, bacteria and foreign invaders). According to them, my immune system cannot tell the difference between foreign invaders and my body’s healthy tissues. As a result, it created an auto-antibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissues. These antibodies are the carriers of inflammation, pain, itchiness and damage in various parts of the body.

The diagnosis. In short, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or Lupus. According to doctors, only 10% percent of the populace contracts this disease. “Blessed me, I belonged to that 10%.”, I said, “Is there no way to find out how I got it?” Perhaps the accumulated stress from school and work was the biggest culprit or God had other plans –  which I found hard to understand then.

I was then an academic university scholar and I slogged the hardest to keep outstanding grades (these are dedicated for my dad). Dishing that aside was also the pressure to be always No. 1 in the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS). People at school always expected me to be at the top and I guess I was a weakling to give in to that cuckooed expectation.  I also had several curricular activities like being part of the college dance troupe; some modelling stints; and few outreach programs conducted. To earn extra, I was tutoring English to foreign students. I was juggling all these together with my On-the- Job-Training and finishing my papers (Baby Thesis). I was working very hard then to attain the highest academic standing in my school and the effort paid off when I finished with Magna Cum Laude honors. Later on, I continued putting the same hard discipline when I applied for my dream job in Ayala Land. I worked even harder to make it, regardless of the sacrifice.

The reality of SLE is disheartening knowing that I am an “animated human”. So, I kept it from everyone. I was too confident everything will be alright (with the help of pain relievers) for there are much more days I feel better than frail. The doctors could have just misdiagnosed me so I roped off the prescribed medication and played along as if nothing was wrong. I have also gotten used to going to meetings with a swollen foot or answering calls in the bathroom in such injurious position. “All is well. All is well”, I kept on purring.

The Fall (2015). Yet that was the most childish action I’ve ever done.  I was in a Monastery attending mass and doing my prayers when suddenly I collapsed. When conscious I found myself at the Monastery’s guest room with a Benedictine Monk praying over me. I literally cannot move my legs and my head was searing like boiling 100 degrees. Helpless and feeble, I had to be brought to the hospital with the aid of an ambulance. Several tests were conducted and behold, my Lupus has whooshed like a rocket. It has reached some of the major organs as Skin, Heart, and the most strained of all –Brain– leading me to have episodes of seizures. (Seizure Disorder is the dominant sickness that comes with my Lupus).

I was shown that the reasons of Lupus Flares (they call it flares when all the symptoms come out) was the medication hiatus for 2 years. “Lupus can be controlled or managed but it also depends on patient’s cooperation and willingness to take the maintenance pills”, the doctor reverberated. I felt pity to my family who was listening with me (what have I done?) – so I promised to behave and take my medicines religiously (though how much I loathe oral meds and that steroid that makes me bloat). I was discharged and pensive for days. Perhaps I was too egocentric to keep secrets from my family. They deserve to know. For their solace and to give way to my health, I decided to transfer to a smaller company. At first, MSY was hesitant to hire me because of the ailment but I was sincere enough to convince them that I am a talent they can truly count on. And again, I proved myself unerring. Despite my bi-monthly trips to hospital due to treatment and routine therapies, I was giving the company a commendable and transcending performance. Shortly after, I was tagged as best employee of the year and was promoted twice in a year.

All is well. All is well. HE is here.

The discovery (2017). I was too religious with the meds and overdid it. Most of the time I take more. “Isn’t more the better and faster”, I soliloquised. The effects of overdosing stalled my system. I became more ill – in and out of the hospital and had undergone couple of procedures. Pain was perpetual and incessant. I had to quit my job and rest for few months. This rest has illumined my face as I was able to inaugurate a deeper faith and connection with HIM. It was God who chose this chic and this disease has brought me closer to HIM.

If I’m in flare, I normally request the nurses to wrap my legs and put me on catether. It’s uncomfortable but it’s the best way I know to manage the pain and swelling.

I also started traveling despite the flaming joints. There I saw the greater part of the world and thought it was beautiful. I met new faces. Some of those faces stayed beside me (human angels – Mo) up to this time. Some hit me hard for I saw how much they need more support than I do. Two of my favorite chics are Nikki and Dailyn. Nikki has Lupus Nephritis and is on dialysis. Dailyn has Lupus Meningitis and is bed ridden. God has also chosen them, his Lupus Warriors . Quiet often, I visit their houses. Seeing them just makes me genuinely happy and I feel like it heals me in a very special and spiritual way. With their permission, soon, I will write their wonderful stories too.  

The sign (Early 2018). After 3 months, I decided to work again.  I was ready, I pondered. I prayed hard to find a company who could understand my illness. The prayer was answered when I got a call from CLI. The company is run by people with big and kind heart who value life and work balance. I was surprised to know that there are 2 other employees in the company who also have Lupus. It was a sign and I took the job. I was doing what I love and it was very therapeutic – Business Operations (Leasing and Operations) – my forte modestly speaking.

The Mistake (end of 2018). For Lupus, you are not treating the disease but the symptoms. So, it can be reckoned that if you lose care, the body would just shut down (typical trait of an autoimmune disease). I got an infection that was left untreated for several days.  I was given antibiotics but I mistook it as pain relievers. I took more than what is needed and had a serious influx. For 2 days in my apartment I was experiencing loud palpitation, shortness of breath and  seizures. I had to be brought to the hospice for immediate treatment.

It was already Christmas holiday and most of the hospital staff were out to do the  24 hour EEG required by my doctor. Hence, I had to be transferred to a different facility and was confined to the Intensive Care Unit due to my precarious situation. I was spending Christmas and New Year there attached to so many wires and hooked up into a machine. Yet, I had wonderful memories there. I received gifts from friends and the ICU was always filled with joy, laughter, prayers and hope every time they are around (everybody looked so funny on their hospital gowns haha). I was really fighting well. I even thought I don’t deserve to be there. I was far away healthier from other patients with tube on their noses. ICU is dear and arid so I wanted to take advantage of the almost-undisturbed days there through reading and skimming my GMAT reviewers. Remember one of my greatest dreams? It’s also a way to check my sanity and balance for I still want to live my adventure.

My face after I was brought back from ICU to a normal suite.

Living the adventure (present). I am back at work with even greater aims and plans although my typical 24H is very delicate now (my next article). Timing and balance have to be laid down neatly. I have to carefully listen to my rhythm since the job could be too physical. If I am too strained or is exposed to sunlight, I get rashes, joint pains and become feverish. I also have to ensure to get a full rest and to never miss a single dose of medicine. Given my past mistake, my friend MO is helping me manage my pills. I believe I’ve arrived at the safest border just because I completely opened myself to people who wants to care. Lupus maintenance is expensive and I wouldn’t be able to sustain the expenses without help. Sometimes its hard to make both ends meet but God is kind. He helps me along the way.

Beginning Again. It’s a new year and I created a new list of remarkable bucket list activities. Big chunks of these are to visit more Lupus and cancer patients and create an official support group so we can comfort each other… (oh, and my travels too). As I mentioned, I do not know what are HIS BIG PLANS of my every pain and cry but I do know he wants me to fight well so all my suffering will never go to waste.

This photo was taken yesterday after a client meeting at the site. I am very blessed (with a help of a friend) I’ve found the perfect formula to manage my day to day activities. It takes patience and discipline – from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. However, I will keep on fighting to live a normal life, to fulfill my dreams, to travel to places and hopefully to spread hope to those who are also suffering.

Colossal Dream

Life looks a little different for people with Lupus. Some are able to live a normal life while others have to deal with the outward effects of the disease, depending on the severity.

I was diagnosed with a disease admittedly I haven’t heard before. It started with a joint pain and a flu-like symptoms to which I thought was just the result of successive overtime at work. Not long after, I was feeling feverish, having rashes all over and getting more joint pain. It didn’t get any better week by week so I started seeking medical attention. 

Lab results confirmed it was Lupus and I began seeing an expert called Rheumatologist. It was frustrating at first since I had difficulty keeping up with my normal pace, and because Lupus is invisible, some people started to doubt the veracity of the illness, telling me it is just all in the head.

Thankfully today, I am in quiescent state, although I feel some discomfort at times. Lupus has greatly influenced my day to day life. I need to carefully listen to my rhythm. I also have to think well before I make any actions and consider how it would impact my body. Fatigue is a big factor so I am always heedful on where I spend my energy. I work 5 days a week so I ensure that I work with serene intensity. Weekends are normally spend as rest days or for excursions. And whenever there’s a chance, I always see new places because it inspires me to fight harder (I’m seeing Baguio and Bangkok next month).

I have learned to live with it daily and you’ll be surprised how I can manage to tick off some of my mind-blowing bucket list activities. Great thanks to my loved ones who immensely understand what I go through. They have been giving me unwavering support since day 1 and they always have my back whenever I fall over and over. I also have a strong connection with my Physician so it’s easy to open up all my chagrins and frustrations.

Having Lupus is not the end of a meaningful existence on earth. True, it makes life challenging but it also makes it extra beautiful with stories of pain and survival, of inspirations and aspirations and of self-respect and self-worth.

One of my greatest dreams is to study and get a Master’s Degree abroad. So even at the four walls of this hospice, I manage to skim through my books to review my GMAT. I am not letting go of this dream. The runway to MBA stage awaits for me.

Love each other or perish

I was unable to write since December 2018 due to reasons you will read later on. Soon, this blog will be teemed with articles about my journey and how I was able to survive the challenges that comes with it.  

A great poet once said, “Love each other or perish.” So true, without love we are butterflies with ruptured wings. Love is of cardinal importance and this has been clear to me since then.

Year on year, my physical affection becomes stronger than ever. I always long for love and care especially when pain attacks me. At times I become too clingy just because every love drop makes me feel better. I am just blessed that my family is able to give it all to me, always been there in both my stubbornness and sanity. Surely, friends message or visit me (when in hospice) but it’s not the same as having someone who will not leave or someone who has both eyes on you protecting you the entire time. Perhaps, this is not just love but something of a greater tag – a spiritual security – knowing that your family would always be there for you.

I am fighting well because of this great love. Thank you for sharing this journey with me and for showing me that life could be challenging  but it is always beautiful WITH YOU.