Throughout Holy Week and the week before it, I thought a lot about the Resurrection — that of Jesus Christ and the experiences of resurrection that I was given in life.
Resurrection need not only be the miracle of rising from the dead, a privilege, it seems, that’s reserved only for Jesus Christ. When we fall into the darkness pit that will ensure our final turnover to the custodian of hell, and then we succeed with the grace of God to rise from the depth of that darkness pit and live in the light anew — that is a resurrection experience.
When we develop into the transactional animals that market dynamics produce, sink deep into the sin of excessive greed, and barter our principles for the material gain or the acquisition of temporal power — we are souls crying out for rescue, souls seeking a resurrection experience. In our country, by just glancing at the news we can see many souls desperately seeking a resurrection experience.
Miraculous recoveries from grim medical conditions can be considered a resurrection experience. In this department, I seem to excel. I am now on my fourth lease on life, having survived four serious life-threatening medical episodes.
Last March 27, I wrote a letter of thanks to my friends in the Focolare Movement and shared with them the travails that I’ve undergone since my near fatal kidney rejection episode in June 2011. The Focolare communities here and abroad have been praying for my recovery ever since that kidney rejection episode of June 2011. It did occur to me that my recovery from that life-threatening episode is a resurrection experience, largely owed to the prayers of my friends and kin.
A medication that I was being given to contain cancer cells in my bones, that were detected last January 2011, had caused my transplanted kidney to reject. I’ve been through some of the most trying medical crises but this one felt like it was going to be my last battle.
That episode also entailed one of the hardest recoveries in my long history of serious medical problems. Up to now, my wife Meyang and I have to hire a male nurse to assist me. From walking with a cane, I now walk with crutches. Most of the time, I use a wheelchair.
It took me over a month before I could write for the STAR again and I’m very grateful to the Belmonte brothers, Miguel, Isaac and Kevin, for allowing me as much sick leave with pay that I needed. Even when I had already resumed my writing, my health was not quite what it was before the rejection episode.
I felt very frustrated and if not for the strength that my past struggles in life gave me, I could have easily drifted towards a depression. I could hardly leave the house because the trip to any point in Metro Manila was so exhausting and at times it even triggered the occasional severe pains of my problems with spinal stenosis and sciatica. These body pains also hampered my sleep.
It was through sheer will power that I was able to write again. Just sitting down for over an hour was an agonizing experience — that’s how bad I felt then. Through the grace of God and a warrior’s brave heart, I was able to resume my column last July 24. Many of our friends would tell Mey when they saw her in the supermarket, church or in a party that the way I was writing again didn’t show how sick I was, that I was as feisty as ever!
My appetite was dismal. I could hardly taste what I was eating. Considering how much of a food lover I am, this was the unkindest cut of all, to paraphrase my Tokayo William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. I am deeply grateful to all my friends and kin who went out of their way to send me good food during this un-appetizing season of my life. My appetite still goes on and off although that doesn’t hamper me from getting the proper nutrition from the lesser volume I eat.
From about 130 kilos before the kidney rejection episode, I am now down to 117 kilos, the lowest I’ve been since the 1960s. There’s always the concern that my steady loss of weight could be the result of the cancer in my bones. Luckily, there is a medication that is slowing its progress, which I have been taking.
Over the past three months, my doctor noted a remarkable improvement in my monthly blood tests. When Dr. Claver Ramos of Makati Med saw the results of my kidney biopsy last June, he said that my kidney function was down to around 25%. Once it goes down further to 15% percent — then I’ll have to return to hemodialysis. Dr. Ramos had predicted in June 2011 that my creatinine count would henceforth hover above 2.0 mg. Normal creatinine count is 1.3 mg. With thanks to the Lord and all those who prayed for me — for the past three months my creatinine count was under 2.0 mg. In February, it even went as low as 1.58 mg, which was totally unexpected.
My doctor even shared with me this oddity of my medical case: Among all his transplanted patients — I had the lowest dosage of immuno suppression. Normally, the bigger and heavier you are, the bigger the immuno suppression dosage. I was the biggest and heaviest patient of Dr. Ramos but I had the least immuno suppression. This is, of course, another blessing because the higher the dosage of immuno suppression then the more vulnerable you become to infection, which could trigger a kidney rejection.
Dr. Ramos explained the phenomenon as one that happens when my other medications interact with my immuno suppression. In other words, because I was sick of other health issues, the medication for those other health issues now allow me to have a low dosage of immuno suppression. Truly, God writes straight with crooked lines. Some bad news could be good news.
This Easter Day, I wish that you and yours are all blessed with the rare opportunity to have a resurrection experience. I also wish that we Filipinos would unite and bring about the resurrection of our great race.
Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must never unwatched go.”
* * *