Monday, April 15, 2013

KCAT CAN: Living with optimism despite the suffering

Living with optimism despite the suffering
By Maria Kathrina Lopez Yarza
Published: April 15, 2013

It’s always nice to know that you’ve been a big influence in somebody’s betterment, no matter how big or small the improvement is.

Two years ago, I met Karen Bernal, a 30-year-old woman who has chronic kidney disease and is undergoing dialysis. She is suffering from both physical and emotional pain. Although she never lost hope in getting a transplant and being cured, she was constantly sad and fearful because of all the problems that her sickness brought – financial and family problems to name a few. She also indulged in self-pity during those times.

“Maybe I could make Karen realize how beautiful life is,” I challenged myself and from then on we started becoming friends. I often gave her advice, told her jokes, cheered her on, and helped her realize how important her existence is.

I also encouraged her to join the recent essay-writing contest by World Kidney Day Philippines. Below was her entry:

“People with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are mostly emotionless and afraid of what the future holds for them. They feel weak, fearful and helpless due to a sudden lifestyle change; and I’m one of them.

I’m Karen Ann Bernal – a thirty year old mother who is battling with CKD. I was diagnosed of end stage renal disease (ESRD) in April 2006. My kidneys shrunk in size and lost its function.

As the saying goes, ‘There’s nothing permanent in this world except change,’ and CKD completely changed my life.

I am a dreamer since I was young. Those dreams helped me become an achiever and motivated me to reach my goals. I was able to graduate with a degree in Business Administration in 2005. But I was not able to work thereafter. I suddenly became thinner and paler day by day and vomited frequently. “Maybe its tuberculosis,” everyone assumed. But it isn’t. I was diagnosed to have a dysfunctional kidney and the only way to cure it and extend my life is through a kidney transplant.

As they say, this kind of disease is ‘sakit pang mayaman,’ so where are we going to get the money for my treatment? That thought kept on bothering me because we are not really that well-off. My husband is just a minimum wage earner in our municipality in San Miguel, Catanduanes and we have a nine-year-old son to raise. Our money is not enough despite living on a tightened budget. We really have no means of supporting this kind of sickness.

At first, I had a hard time accepting this disease. I thought that maybe I was just misdiagnosed. I was in denial until I acquired a very high fever and was rushed to the hospital. I was hooked on a dialysis machine and it finally dawned on me that I have CKD and transplant and hemodialysis are my only lifesavers.

I became a lot weaker, paler and thinner. So how will I fulfill my dream of giving my family a better life? Thinking about this made me feel even more depressed, fearful and hopeless. I was so afraid that even after dialysis, I will eventually die, because I couldn’t afford a kidney transplant.

But even though it is not the main solution, hemodialysis really helped me get through all these years. Not only do I get tired and exhausted from dialysis. I also get stressed just by thinking of ways to continuously sustain my medical needs. There are times when all I can do is just cry out my frustration and exhaustion.

But then I realized, life must goes on and so I need to move forward and live as normal as I can be. Despite being unhealthy, there are still a lot of things that I can do. I can’t keep on lazing around the house just because I am sick. I can still be of help by doing whatever household chores I can. I can still have fun and socialize via the internet and I get to meet people who help me in different ways.

Doing these things helped calm my mind, body and soul. I know now that dialysis is a way of helping me to continue living like this. It definitely is not the end of the rope. I need to keep fighting in order to have a better life with my family and friends. And the thought of my son keeps me motivated because I still want to see him grow older.

I have learned to look in a more positive way because everything happens for a reason. Worrying will just make me suffer more. Instead, I am putting all of my faith in God, because with Him, I am always comforted that I am not alone. I am able to see the little miracles that God has been graciously providing me. He sent me earthly angels from all walks of life to help me get by. He gave me supportive family, friends who are by my side no matter what happens. I can really feel that God is with me in this journey.

It’s been six years since I first learned about my illness, and with prayer as my weapon, I am surviving and holding on. Through my faith, I have overcome my fears and accepted myself. Even with CKD, I am able to live with optimism that I will get better in God’s perfect time. I will never stop believing that there is a light waiting for me at the end of the tunnel – all I have to do is hold on to my faith.”

Acceptance is the only key to embrace changes in life. Whatever we have in life, even if it brings us pain, may it be something that we can gain from because God gave it for a special purpose. Never ever lose hope because life goes on!

Late last year, Karen asked me to create a graphic art out of what she made. It was a cartoonized kidney with bunny ears. She plans to print it on a shirt and start her own fund drive. Unfortunately, her family doesn’t have any more funds to get it started. If you wish to help Karen in any way, you may contact her at 09065125730 or 09196103464.

(Advanced Biochemical Rehabilitation (ABR) is the breakthrough in rehabilitation that brings functional ability to normalization of deficient musculoskeletal structure. For the first time, ABR Asia will be coming to Manila on April 27 and 28. Philippine-based families can now learn more about ABR training and have their child properly assessed by certified trainers. If you’re interested about this latest breakthrough, email

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