You Can (Kcat)
By Dolly Palisada
April 3, 2013 - The News Today (Iloilo)
Mandaluyong City - YOU HEAR THE doctor’s story about another patient with the same diagnosis and that patient is now gone. You see teary eyed visitors in her room and how sullen their faces are. Your husband is not saying a word, yet you hear his voice screaming.
At first they say it is brain tumor. You brush it off. Everything has reasons, you tell your self. There’s nothing to be afraid of because God is on your side. She will have a surgery, the medical expenses will bloat, but life must go on for her because she’s young.
Two months in the hospital, she had seizures due to fluids in her brain which was swelling and her pain was unbearable even morphine can’t numb it. She also acquired Pneumonia and her lungs were filled with puss. Any delay and the lungs may collapse. You take another look at her in bed, curling up on her right side. Her face is devoid of emotions-- her facial muscles froze due to paralysis.
It is not just brain tumor (although the tumor is benign), the doctor told you, but there are other small cell growths in her brain that affect her nervous system. It is called Neurofibromatosis.
No it can’t be! This is too much for Kcat to take, doc.
It means she can no longer walk, the doctor was saying. She will not talk clearly again and will not hear or see you or eat on her own. We don’t know when she’s going to be well.
No, you tell him. No, he must be joking. This is just a swelling stage. Kathrina is only 21 years old. In a few months, she’s done with Fine Arts.
You want to cry but can’t. You head to the nearest church and go down on your knees. You cry for Kathrina and the young life gone to waste. You pray that the doctors are wrong. You pray because that’s the only thing left to do.
The next day, the X-ray result showed a miracle -- her lungs were clear of puss. You found your family sobbing in the corner of her room, grateful for the good news. You call and email anyone you can appeal to for financial support. Her hospital bill is now half a million.
You have lupus since 2000. Lately you’ve forgotten that too. Then you double take your meds. You have vertigo. Sometimes you simply pray. Sometimes you just shrug it off. You better be well or Kcat will not come home.
The Don Bosco priests never left you on your fundraising activities. From flyers and letters to politicians, relatives, friends, people you don’t know, and PCSO, every centavo you owed was paid for and Kcat finally left the hospital.
You are Madge, Kcat’s amazing mother. Faith is overwhelming, your friend Hedy said.
The years that follow, one surgery to another, Kcat’s head costs a little more than three million. She mused, “di na ako umaalis ng bahay, baka makidnap ako.” (I don’t go out anymore because I’m afraid I might be kidnapped). She’s naturally funny. When she laughs, she says literally: “Ha! Ha! Ha!; when she’s sad, she says: “Ho, ho, ho.”
The time when Kcat was confined in a corner was the hardest. It was a Holy Week when her depression went from bad to worse. “I wanted the world to stop for me”, she was pleading. She kept saying, hallucinating almost, repeatedly telling her mom: “Nababaliw ako! Nababaliw ako!” and “Easter Sunday. Easter Sunday.” Her mom put a crucifix in her palm. They prayed together. On Easter Sunday, her depression was gone. “It was like magic”, she told me. She promised to live and to exist, to laugh and to love for as long as she can.
It was on her birthday in 2007 when she lifted her left foot again. She tried desperately to walk one step at a time, until she did. Today with a customized metal brace and a pair of special shoes Kcat can walk by herself. She can now hear by lip reading. Her eyes cannot blink, however blurry, but she can see. Yes, she speaks, mumbling at times, but she can talk.
She’s Maria Kathrina Lopez Yarza. On May 30, 2013, she will turn 30 years old. From a hopeless case, nine years ago, today she gives hope to many. Kcat defines her life as balanced. She can balance herself when she walks, she can balance her work between writing for the Manila Bulletin every other Monday and designing her own brand of T-shirts, “ArtAhTACK” and sustains her monthly medicine expenses.
“You can.” These are the words she gives to other girls out there, despite being healthy yet missing life’s chances. I was left handed, she continues, when the left part of my body was paralyzed from the head down, I trained my right hand to work.
Work starts early in the morning on her computer. She writes her blog, designs T-shirts and researches more information about Neurofibromatosis. Her website is http://kcatyarza.com/; a blog and a Facebook page for her fundraising campaign kept her busy.
For seven years, Kcat has been going back to Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to payback the kindness afforded to her during her stay. On May 13, 2013 [5 days after my birthday actually -Kcat] her family, friends and about a hundred volunteers will troop to PGH and hold another birthday party for patients in the pedia ward, Cancer Ortho ward, Neuro Surgery ward and ICU. [Pedia, Neurology, Neurosurgery, Otolaryngology (ORL) wards and Pedia ICU -Kcat]
“I know how boring it is to stay in the hospital,” Kcat recalled. That’s the reason why I organized this activity. I want them to be happy, even for a day. She gives away packs of toiletries, small grocery items, balloons and a little snack to get by. Volunteers and donors are welcome.
Now, let me leave you with this poem:
I can’t hear
I can’t walk
I can’t move my arms
I can’t wiggle my fingers
I can’t swallow well
I can’t write
I can’t stand alone
I can’t smile
I can’t spit
I can’t see well
I can’t use my left hand…but that doesn't stop me from doing the things I CAN. Life must go on!