Cordillera

I’ve been wanting to go to the Cordilleras and the Rice Terraces for quite a while, and finally got the chance to go this past week.  Dad and I went for an adventure driving up the mountain ranges, hiking the rice terraces, sleeping in backpacker hostels, meeting locals, and visiting some historical sites.  My dad had a tough time with some of the hikes, but he was a trooper and still made it up to the peak.

On the way back, we had problems with car and it just stopped working mid highway.  The gears wouldn’t shift! There was no way we could drive back home. So in the middle of the night, we waited 3 hours for a tow truck and rode with them to Manila. Talk about adventure!

The view of the mountains as we drove through Mt Halsema highway, at 7000ft it’s the highest highway elevation in the Philippines.IMG_1161

We woke up at 4am to hike up Mt Kiltepan in Sagada. It was breathtaking to watch the sky change colors and directly greet the sun and the clouds for a new day.IMG_1195 IMG_1196

One of my favorite photos, the sun shining through the trees like blessings of hope and love being bestowed from above.  This was close to the Sumaguing Caves in Sagada

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The famous Banaue Rice Terraces from the viewpoint. Imagine those steps that were hand carved in the 9th or 10th century.  We were surrounded by its natural beauty!IMG_1561 IMG_1578

Lolo is amazing!

As an update to my previous post, after 2 months in the hospital with pnuemonia. My grandpa is now apparatus free and can eat again, breathe on his own again, and getting ready to go home! What a miracle!  The doctors and others were telling us to expect the worst, but at 97 he beat the odds and recovered!

Thank you Lolo! Thank you God! I’m so happy I’m in tears.  Now I just need to go to Manila to spend time with him.

Prayers for Lolo

So my grandpa has been in the ICU for the past 3 weeks for a severe case of pneumonia. He’s 97, so his case is rather sensitive and he now eats through a nose tube and breathes through a respirator.  He’s been my idol growing up, and I spent my afternoons after school playing with him in his house and listening to his war stories.

I thought of cutting my trip short to see him, but then couldn’t visit him in the ICU anyway. Finally got to see him this weekend and he was sprawled across his bed with many tubes and apparatus tied to him.  He was awake but looked so tired and couldn’t speak with the tube in his mouth.

I offer up this prayer for his continued strength, healing and recovery:

Much love, healing and strength to you Lolo.  May you find the peace within and may you continually be enveloped by God’s caress.  May every blood pressure test, needle, dialysis, breathing tube etc strengthen your body.  May you continue to have a zest for life and the compassionate heart you shared with all of us.  Love you so much Lolo!

there is no end to love

Today is June 19th, and it’s been 6 months since mom left us. As much as I’ve accepted that she’s passed on, I often think that she’s just on vacation (she traveled often anyway). I know she won’t and I know it won’t happen but I still like to tell myself that she’s coming back and we’d return to eating and laughing together as we always did.  Then I snap back to reality, find her room empty, and remind myself to move onto my new normal (whatever it is).

Missing mom has been tremendously painful.  I often scold myself for not facing reality, awkwardly hurt when I feel like I get too busy to think about her, and keep asking when I’ll ever get over the grief.   After a bit of counseling and a lot of reading, I realized it isn’t a matter of “getting over” her loss. It’s a matter of keeping her love alive in those she loved so deeply.  One book I’ve read had a passage that had just what I needed:

The one you love has gone Home and is now at peace.  Trust the bond of love that forever united you with your loved one.  None of us knows how the future will unfold, but walk into what awaits you with confidence.  Trust that you will be given what you need to heal from your loss.  The compassionate grace of God is with you and will uphold you through whatever storms and struggles come.  You have more inner strength than you know.  Trust in your ability to survive and to move on from your grief. Be ready for new touches of love and joy. Welcome your restored peace when it returns and walk forward with hope in your heart.

Then it continues with a prayer:

May you rest your heartache in the compassionate arms of God each day and find comfort from this Enduring Love.  May you welcome the tears you shed as friends of your soul, gifting you with an opening to release your pain.  May you trust the hidden part of you where your resilience resides and remember often the inner strength your spirit contains.  May you find the balance you need between activity and quiet so you can be attentive to your grief.  May you be gentle and compassionate with yourself by caring well for your body, mind and spirit. May the day come when memories of your departed one bring you more comfort than sadness.  May you trust that love is stronger than death and draw comfort from the bond that unites you with our loved one.

And with that I say thanks again, Mom.  Thanks for teaching me what it feels to be loved, and to love in return.  Thanks for your love that sustains beyond grief and life. Thank you for keeping your love alive in me.

Unconscious :(

Actually, scratch the previous title.  What I’m seeing now has to be the worst feeling in the world. So many thoughts and I don’t know where to begin or what to write…..

Mom is still here, hanging on, but unconscious.  She’s been like that for more than a day, and I haven’t left her side.  I tried to sleep, but I was restless as I cried and watched Mom sleep.  The doctors say it could be anytime soon, but I refuse to believe them and don’t want it to come. I still want to believe that she’ll wake up and get better.  I still want to believe in her miracle. I can’t even…….No! I’m not even entertaining the thought of what life would be like without her.

But I know I need to de-stress and list out some thoughts…..so here goes…..

  • Mom had such a loving zest for life that taught me how to see the silver lining in everything.  She taught me keep positive even as it hurt to do so.  Trying my best to do that now.
  • Mom taught me to trust that I will always be taken care of and provided for, whether by family, friends and of course, Providence Himself.  No matter what, someone will be sent to take care of me.
  • Mom was excellent at expressing herself:
    • through art – she was very crafty, creative and had an eye for decorations
    • through communication – she made far feel near
    • through her gaiety and authenticity with everyone she loved
  • Mom’s heart is strong.  At the state she’s in, lacking oxygen and all, the doctors say her heart should have stopped a long time ago.  But it’s actually beating strong and keeping her alive.  That speaks volumes of her character – I’m hanging on to that thought forever.

Just the positive, not entertaining the negative. We’ve been in the hospital for 10 days, but I’ve never left her side.  I’m still here, tired yet alert.  I watch her fade away as I hang on to all I cherish about her.

The worst feeling in the world

The tears have stopped, the sedation has worn off, and I’ve finally gathered the heart to compose this.  I warn you, dear friends, this post may be hard to read.

It’s day 6 and we’re still at the hospital.  Mom was only initially supposed to stay overnight, but her breathing has been unstable and we’ve stayed so the doctors and nurses can keep an eye on her.  However, now I’m under observation too.

Yesterday, mom and I woke up in a good mood and she asked if I could help her take a bath. It’s our daily routine at home, so the only difference was that Mom had her IV tubes tied to her.  I locked the room door (so nurses wouldn’t walk in on mom’s bath), but kept the bathroom door open so it wouldn’t be too stuffy.  It was a challenge to get her dressed as her shirt kept getting tangled with her IV tubes.  I tried to help her, but she had to do more of the work to free her hand  Out of nowhere, I got so dizzy, tried to contain myself, and fell.  I fainted.  I tried to fight it scared to hurt mom, gripped onto the wall to regain balance, but then fell again.  Mom kept screaming “buzzer, buzzer” but for some reason, I thought I was at home In San Francisco and couldn’t understand what she was saying. I fell again.  2 minutes later, I woke up sprawled on the floor and found Mom lying under the sink and out of breath.  It was the worst feeling ever!  I called the nurses for help, they helped Mom stabilize her breathing and rushed me to the ER to check on me.  They checked my blood sugar, heart rate, etc and all my vital signs were normal.  I cried hysterically and felt so bad for falling on Mom. The doctors had to sedate me to calm me down and I passed out in the ER. My dad was at home at the time, and hit a lot of traffic rushing to meet me.  Thankfully, some of mom’s friends came to visit so they took care of her, while another family friend took care of me in the ER.  By the time Dad arrived, he was all over the place.  I woke up a few hours later, moved back to Mom’s hospital room and rested next to her so Dad could keep an eye on both of us.  They nurses used a nebulizer until Mom’s breathing improved, and the doctors decided bed baths and diaper changes would be more optimal for the time being.

So I slept through the night and feeling better today.  Ugh! I wish I could “undo” fainting and re-do the day all over again.  I’ve been careful of my eating habits and sleep as normal as can be.  I don’t get it…..what did I do to provoke the fainting.  I’m so mad at myself.  I wish it never happened.  Sigh….I’m just thankful Mom is OK but I still hate myself for falling on her.

Back at our favorite hotel :(

We checked into our “favorite hotel” (as mom sarcastically calls the hospital) again, this time for an overnight chemo treatment.  It’s mom’s first session, so the doctor requested that she stay overnight for observation.  Our hospital, Notre Dame de Chartres, has a fancy newly constructed oncology unit for chemo patients.  It’s quite modern and comfy.  Dad and I lounged on lazy boy chairs and watched a movie during the 2 hours that mom underwent chemo via IV.

Mom, on the other hand, slept through the chemo and even woke up smiling.  That should be a great sign, right? As of now I’m leaving no room for doubt (as always), promise to trust the process, and will keep the firm determination the mom will keep getting better.  In just a few more sessions, her breathing will improve tremendously, we’ll celebrate and perhaps even travel together.  I may be dreaming big, but there’s always room for hope.

Since I’ve been around Mom 24/7 for the past 4 months, I truly feel like I’m going through all the pains, difficulties and lifestyle changes with her.  Almost like I’m sick too.  We’re kindred spirits all the way through.  Tough as it is to see her struggle, I treasure our time through this together.  Although there’s hesitation for what happens next, we continue to celebrate and find comfort in each other.  After all, companionship has sustained us more than anything else.

We climbed a volcano today!

As you may know, Baguio is the Philippines summer capital known for it’s cold climate, Pine trees and endless hills.  We have the most majestic mountain and valley views within a very short drive from home. The most popular among them is a dormant volcano, Mount Santo Tomas, that towers 7,400 feet above the city.  It houses 2 big radars that supposedly provide telecommunication support for the city.  As a child, I used to think of these radars as “giant fans” that cooled the city.  It used to be a long, off-road, dangerous trek up, but now the roads are well paved and it only takes 15 minutes to go up to the top of the volcano.

We’ve been wanting to drive to the top since we August, but hesitated to do so because of mom’s health.  This morning, she woke up in a very good mood, got us up early and asked if it was possible to drive up even for just a quick trip.  We were hesitant at first, but after weeks of cabin fever we figured the fresh air would be good for all of us. So dad and I packed up mom’s portable oxygen tank, wheelchair, crutches, water and snacks then ventured up the volcano.

It only took us 30 minutes from our home to the top, but it was such a refreshing trip for all of us.  Dad loved driving the mountain curves, Mom enjoyed the fresh air, and I was in awe of being at the level of the clouds.  It was also really nice to see Mom still had a fervent spirit of adventure, eager for the outdoors and nature’s spirit lifting enrichment.

Below are a few photos from our trip (taken 7,410 feet above sea level!), We loved the trip so much, we all decided to make it a regular part of mom’s therapy.

Here we are leaning against the ledge of the view deck.

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Overlooking Baguio in between the trees

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The giant “cooling fans” aka radars of the city

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And of course, the majesty of being at the level of the crowds.

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Happy Birthday Dad!

Dad just turned 64 today! In between all the treatments and house stuff, we made it a point to celebrate him.

Woke up early to greet him with a pineapple upside down cake for breakfast (see below). Even though she was in pain, mom pulled herself out of bed to go to church for dad today and we had lunch together. After that we went back home, chatted and played basketball.

No feast or a big party, but in a way, this felt like just what we needed.IMG_8899.JPG

Could it be?

Now that her radiation is over, mom’s pain is more manageable. She’s also been getting daily massages which have strengthened her muscles and made her more energetic. Just 2 weeks ago she could barely move and we practically had to carry her down the stairs and onto her wheelchair. Now she is able to get up and reposition on her own, and prefers her crutches instead of her wheelchair. It’s tremendous progress.

However, as illness goes, if it’s not one symptom there’s always another. Our dilemma these days is her intermittent cold sweats. She often gets sweaty, while also shivering. Then her tummy aches often too. But when we check her vitals – blood pressure, body temp etc – they all appear normal. It’s so weird! Sometimes we have the fan and heater simultaneously on. Other times we go back and forth between changing clothes, sponge baths, massaging her, feeding her, and wrapping her up in many blankets. Her doctor is aware but perhaps another visit is due soon. The first time she had a cold sweat we ended up checking in the hospital, not sure why she still has then after spending a few days there.

Or they say that fever and changing body temperatures is illness leaving the body. Could it be? I sure hope so!

Oh cancer, why do you have to be so awkward and cruel? Sheesh!!!