personal, rant

A Relationship with Pain

In fifth grade, in the school lab where classmates were afraid to prick their fingers for an exercise that I now understand to be questionable, I pricked mine. Like young vampires hungry for a single drop, boys and girls flocked to get a donation. I was pleased in a strange way – strange because I was never the sort to really care if people wanted me to be part of their clique. If someone wanted to be my friend, then fine. In college, I had my share of several true friends. We were a mix of guys and girls, rich and poor, cheerful and jaded,  but we all had one thing in common: a love for the arts and computers. We were animation students.


In high school though, when things were a little bit lonely, a prick of a finger can turn into art. Droplets of blood became a miniature painting of a rose. They asked if I was alright. I was fine, really. I discovered that physical pain is better – easier to endure, at least – than emotional pain.

As a mother giving birth, pain was glorious and necessary. It gave life to a wailing infant, alive and hungry for more about living. A shot of Vicodin was still a bonus, though.

As a mother, however, pain has become equal to fear. There is the fear of leaving somebody behind, someone precious and beautiful. Youth can make you embrace risks but experience teaches caution. Caution is boring but wise.

Life is a relationship with pain. We all have to go through not just surgeries and physical wounds but also heartbreaks and disappointments. We just have to understand when to endure pain and when to overcome it.

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Update: Tarlov Cysts

The good news is that I won’t be undergoing surgery any time soon. My nerves are not pinched significantly by my protruding discs and Tarlov cysts. The bad news is that the cysts do need to be monitored regularly. I am set to undergo another MRI in three months’ time to check if the cysts are growing. At 4 cm in diameter each, the cysts manage to be not so problematic, but things could change if they grow even an inch each.

If things go for the worse, I might undergo surgery. Surgery plus hospital accommodations and doctors’ fees will total to approximately 400,000 pesos. The money is a small fortune here in the Philippines. It will also take two weeks for one to recover from the spinal surgery. Also, there is that strong possibility of the most excruciating pain imaginable. We are, after all, taking about a spot where a bundle of nerves lies.

Right now, though, I am still feeling a little lucky. I am set for two weeks’ physical therapy to strengthen my spine and to hopefully correct the protruding discs. I have been prescribed more than three months’ worth of Lyrica, a strong nerve pain reliever. I am also taking care to avoid carbonated drinks that block the absorption of calcium. I am drinking milk twice daily to hopefully correct three decades’ worth of nutritional and lifestyle mistakes. By lifestyle, I don’t mean one that is full of vice because I do not drink, smoke or eat lots of fat. In fact, I choose the meat when the maid and I go grocery shopping. I go for lean meat, fish, and veggies. There are fruits all the time, too. Juices are abundant. Unfortunately, I often shy away from milk and water. Somehow, though, a generally healthy-living medical doctor’s daughter ended up with lots of health problems: tarlov cysts, degenerative scoliosis, protruding discs, asthma, kidney stones, mild fatty liver. My dad and uncle are medical doctors. My brother is a medical intern. I am the sick one.

Still, I have to keep on fighting. I have a young son who is relying on my survival. I pray that this stage of my life is only a reminder of my mortality – that I should take things slowly because I tend to work as if there is no tomorrow. I don’t want to be right – about that tomorrow I mean.

(Image of me as a nineteen year old working at my dad’s clinic as secretary. This was in Dominica before I went back to the Philippines for university.)


personal, rant

Anniversary Day

When you are married and have a child, chances are anniversaries take on a different tone. Well, I am not speaking for everyone. There are still those who go out for fancy dinners while fully-dressed up. Wine and red roses are part of the backdrop.

I was never a fancy girl, though. I said no to a debutante’s ball, for example. I don’t see the point of celebrating my 18th birthday with a whole crowd while my mom gets tired because of the preparations and hobnobbing with visitors. Being 18 supposedly signals the beginning of maturity. However, I’ve seen many pretty girls celebrate their debutante’s balls in gowns, with several tiers of cake in front of them – and all I see is just that: girls. There are dances, too. In the end, though, the maturity is not really there yet. Tantrums, crushes, and the fact that you demanded to have a fancy ball even if you knew your parents would have a hard time all show that the supposed “coming of age” is not really there yet. I am not saying I am more mature than most girls but I felt like it was practical not to go through the party. Besides, I’d rather read a book in my room or watch a movie on my special day. So, who am I trying to please during what is supposed to be my day if I had the party? I did get a gold necklace with a heart pendant from my parents on my 18th birthday. It was snatched by a thief but two good guy friends ran after him. Scared, the thief dropped the necklace. I still have the special souvenir today.

Our wedding day (4.21.2007) looked fancy and expensive on the surface. It is expensive – most wedding celebrations are  – but not really as expensive as people thought it to be. I planned almost the whole wedding: designed the gowns, cake, invitations, and missal. My husband was in charge of planning the reception, flowers, and food. There was no party planner running around to get on my nerves. Thank goodness. There were no prenuptial photos because I did not like role-playing and fantasy.

During this day and age, a lot of kids feel a sense of entitlement. Mom and dad have to buy the car, deposit money for the house, and shelter kids in their twenties and thirties. I am saddened by the fact that I am part of this entitled crowd to some degree because as a married woman, I still live in a condo my parents are renting.

In everything else, though, I try to be simple. Anniversaries with my husband mean going out in jeans and a shirt, eating at a restaurant, and watching a movie. This year, it may mean a movie date with our son and the nanny. It’s very real and simple – the way I like it. After all, an uneventful life is better than one full of extreme passion and extreme tribulation. But, that’s just me. I would not call my life boring, either. It has its ups and downs. It has its tears and laughter.  The sixth wedding anniversary fits the description of my life and marriage: Iron and Candy.

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6th Wedding Anniversary Thoughts

This year has been cruel and sweet at the same time.

Why cruel? I have been basically robbed – or scammed – by a taxi driver, which does not trump how I was almost molested in a movie theater back in 2008. Every time I enter a cab, I would now ready a pen on one hand as if ready to stab.  I have also been recently diagnosed with two protruding spinal discs, two Tarlov cysts (at about 4 cm each), and degenerative scoliosis. The cysts may mean something mundane, though painful, as medication and physical therapy or they could lead to something serious, expensive and scary, such as surgery. (oh ok – pahabol – somebody just managed to grab my wallet from inside my bag just a few hours ago. how the person managed to do that I could still not comprehend but my ATM cards and credit card had all been blocked already – thankfully! Still, I lost a few photos of my son and a sum of 7,000 pesos in cash)

But of course, there are sweet stuff to make 2013 still lovely. I went back to teaching last January and my three year old is about to start school this June. Donald, my husband, had been promoted to assistant director at the company he works for. I have also been offered a full-time position recently. I had to ask for a bit of a reprieve though when I was asked to start on May 6th. I need time for treatments, and possibly surgery.

Also, my husband and I are celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary tomorrow. So, that’s six years married and almost nine years being in love.

Six years basically spells out just about any marriage because six is the number of imperfection. There is a promise of perfection, though, as the number edges towards seven. Six years is the iron and candy anniversary, too. Iron is for strength or in the case of my husband and me, reminds us of the iron throne in The Game of Thrones. Candy is for our son’s and my tendencies to eat lots of sweeties. Image,

Happy Anniversary honey Ducks! Wishing for more of the laughter, the sweeter side of life despite destiny’s tendency to hand out some unexpected and unpleasant stuff. 🙂

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Tarlov Cysts: Beginning of a Journey

It has been a long while since I last wrote a post here. I was busy with getting back to the academe as a part-time college instructor, teaching subjects such as Digital Imaging and Color Management, Maya Rendering, and Vector Graphics. I am also a home-based blogger and a mom to a three-year old. Oh yeah, I am also writing my thesis proposal and thesis samples for my MFA in Creative Writing course.

For the past few months, I busied myself with house-hunting, preparations for my son’s fourth birthday, lesson plans, MFA thesis, blogging, and the usual household concerns (bills, grocery shopping, organization, and the like). It took some really intense back pains for me to realize that there should also be some time to slow down.

All this April, I have been suffering from moderate to severe back pains and sciatica. The worst pain can only be described as the bones in my sacral region being crushed every time I get up or sit down. There is also a shooting pain from my right buttock to the back of my right knee. I immediately suspected a herniated disc.

(image courtesy of

tarlov cysts

I went to an orthopedic surgeon on the 6th of April to get checked. She suspected that a pinched nerve is causing the sciatica. She ordered an MRI. I was scheduled on the 15th at UST Hospital. The MRI showed that I have two protruding discs, a degenerative scoliosis, and two 2.0cmx3.0cmx4.0cm Tarlov cysts on my lower spinal cord. Supposedly, the location of the cysts has very few nerves, according to the Manila Doctors’ neurosurgeon I was referred to by the orthopedic surgeon. She ordered a nerve test, which turned out normal I believe, but I will be getting my official results tomorrow. On Saturday, I will be seeing the neurosurgeon yet again.

The neurosurgeon wants me to go through conservative measures first: physical therapy and anti-inflammatory drugs. She said that she was able to successfully treat a patient with bigger cysts this way. I do want to ask her the following questions on Saturday:

– Do my cysts have potential to grow bigger?

– The cysts are now eroding my bones. What does this mean for me in the future?

– Will the cysts affect or add to pain during future pregnancies? I am 31 years old with only one child, after all.

– How much is surgery?

– How much time will it take for me to recover?

– Will the surgery benefits outweigh the risks?

Tarlov cysts, apparently, are rare. Even in the United States and Canada, some neurosurgeons are still not quite sure how to deal with them. People all around the world then have to endure all the pain associated with the cysts. These cysts, after all, are sitting near a bunch of nerves. The doctors I have seen are not that sure if the cysts are the cause of my pain. Then, why is the pain I am feeling consistent to the symptoms associated with Tarlov cysts pain?