Monday, March 8, 2010

Ako nga si Kcat! ;P - Of chances and choices (Manila Bulletin)

I'm on Manila Bulletin today..

pa-cute pa.. hahaha

My friends are also there.. hehe. That was MAY Birthday project in 2008

Here's the article (which copied from MB website)

Of chances and choices
Her physical body has suffered so much from a rare disease, but this girl still finds every reason in the world to smile
March 7, 2010

Maria Kathrina "Kcat" Yarza,
weeks after a tumor was
removed from her right
hand, smiles despite
 her rare condition.
It is difficult not to feel bad about Maria Kathrina Yarza as you listen to her speak — her speech slurred, her face partially paralyzed, and her body partly immobile.

Ironically, 26-year-old Maria Kathrina or Kcat doesn’t feel bad for herself. Behind her difficult physical condition lies a very positive person, often making jokes that bring more laughter than tears to her family and friends.

“May sakit ako. Eh ano ngayon?” she teasingly exclaims.

Kcat is suffering from a rare condition called neurofirbromatosis (NF), a genetically-inherited disorder that causes nerve tissues to grow tumors, resulting to, among others, numerous bumps under the skin, colored spots, skeletal problems, pressure on spinal nerve roots, and other neurological problems.

Kcat’s condition is far worse than a harmless neurological disorder. Kcat is suffering from NF Type 2, the kind when tumors affect the brain, causing headaches, balance problems or vertigo, facial weakness or paralysis, and deafness.

“Super grateful ako kasi normal pa rin ako at may nagagawa pa ako,” she says, who sometimes have to adjust her lower jaw to speak more properly.

Kcat remains thankful, saying no disorder can ever prevent her from doing what she wants. Hers is a life story worth sharing.


Kcat had a normal life from childhood until college. But one semester short of finishing her Bachelor of Fine Arts major in Advertising degree at the College of the Holy Spirit, she was diagnosed with this rare condition.

Soon, a body formerly anchored on two strong legs became dependent on wheels; a world of full of sound suddenly turned silent.

Kcat stopped schooling in 2004 and went around hospitals, consulting doctors after several bumps appeared under her skin and pain started to make her head swell. Previously misdiagnosed for several times, she was finally found to have NF after undergoing a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedure at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

Then 21, she underwent a stereotactic radiosurgery, a less invasive operation that uses radiation surgery to target tumors in her brain. But in October 2005, Kcat suffered from severe headaches that she had to go through a CT scan where doctor confirmed that she was developing hydrocephalus because of the tumors.

Madge Yarza, Kcat’s mother, recalls that shortly after her daughter’s operation, the results of NF2 started to show. The right side of Kcat’s face became paralyzed, she could barely speak and hear, even acquiring pneumonia during her two-month stay in the hospital. She was feeding through a nasogastric tube.

But despite Kcat’s condition, she and her family remained steadfast. They affirmed that she would get better and all would be well.


Because tumors affected her auditory nerves, Kcat’s eventually lost her hearing.

“It was hard for her to lose her hearing. It was during the New Year celebration in 2006, sabi niya dun sa party, ‘Ayoko na! Ayoko na! Bakit ganun, naka mike na sila hindi ko sila marinig?’ She threw her hearing aide,” Mrs. Yarza relates.

Kcat also began to have anxiety attacks. “It was Holy Week of 2006, she started to count the days and can’t wait until Easter. Back then I could not understand what she was going through. She was even exclaiming she was going crazy. That was a difficult time for us,” shares Mrs. Yarza who herself has lupus.

On the day after Easter, Kcat surprised her mom by declaring “Ma, gagaling na tayong dalawa, life must go on. Lahat ng kaya kong gawin, gagawin ko para hindi ka na mahirapan.”

Kcat began to pick up the pieces of her life. She started to blog again, and taught herself to use Adobe Photoshop. Her humor re-surfaced. She was back!

She took control of things, even initiating a hEAR fund-raising campaign to help her pay for her cochlear implant. She designed T-shirts and sold them to help fund her operation.

In April, 2008, the surgery was a success.

Kcat could hear again!


Today Kcat is a freelance graphic designer.

She continues to fill her blog with all things inspiring and funny.

Her inspiring story was even featured in a television documentary and just recently, because of her positive outlook in life regardless of her disability, she became one of the finalists of the Cebuana Lhuillier Insurance Solutions’ “Happiest Pinoy”.

“Buhay ako! Ang dami ko pang magagawa. Ang happiness para sa akin is how you share it with others. Masarap ang feeling ‘pag nagpapasaya ka ng ibang tao. Binigyan ko ng highlighter ‘yung kapatid ko, Masaya na ako kasi masya siya,” Kcat shares.

She continues her fund-raising project, selling shirts, button pins, and posters for the maintenance of her condition. She undergoes CT scans and MRIs every six months and is under continuous medication. Her middle-class family has spent about R3 million on surgeries, hospital bills, medications and professional fees, among others. All of the money came from donations from relatives, friends, and organizations.

Despite the lack of money, Kcat knows how to share. She shares her earnings from small projects and her blog to give gifts to hospital patients of PGH.

“‘Yung ibang tao, kung anu-ano lang ang problema like love life or pambili ng concert tickets. Kung gusto nila ng pasikatan ng problema eh mananalo ako sa kanila, ang dami-dami kong problema. Ang dami nang nagyari sa akin pero normal pa rin ako,” she shares.

“Na-enjoy ko naman ag buhay ko. Ang purpose natin, mabuhay pero nasa atin ‘yun kung paano tayo mabubuhay. Ang life kasi, chance and choice. May chance tayo mabuhay pero may choice tayo kung papaano tayo mabubuhay. Gusto kong mabuhay eh, masaya ako, ganito ako kung paano ako mabuhay,” she ends, on a positive note of course.

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