2016: a farewell

7 years ago, 16-year-old me unknowingly made a decision that would change her – our – life forever. As she embarked on the journey that would shape a great deal of the person she would become, she felt like the end goal was lightyears away. 7 years was definitely a long time. 

But look where we are now, 16-year-old Angeli. 2017 is but hours away. This is our year. 

~

I spent the first hours of the last day of the year, December 31, 2016, as the duty intern at the UP-PGH Cancer Institute. As the dawn set in, and I started my scheduled monitoring of the patients undergoing chemotherapy, the patients as well as their watchers began greeting each other a happy new year. When I entered one of the rooms to check on the patients’ vital signs, one of them, Mr. S, a middle-aged man undergoing chemotherapy, smiled me and enthusiastically greeted me, “Happy New Year na, doktora!” 

It was a mood uplifter in the middle of yet another duty night at the hospital. I smiled back at him and greeted him back. I proceeded to take his vital signs and ask him again how he was doing, how he was feeling. Mr. S just smiled and gave me a thumbs-up. He then told me how excited he was about being able to go home to spend the celebration of a new year. His chemotherapy session ended that morning and he was being discharged right after. I gamely shared my own gratitude for being able to go home to celebrate. Internship has been really tough in that you sometimes have to accept that you’ll be absent for a lot of things going on in the world outside the hospital, but when you get those rare times off, you have to make the most out of every second and spend those moments with the ones that mean most to you.

The sun was beginning to rise and for a short quiet moment, before returning to the Intern’s Corner, I found myself gazing at the mini-playground found in the middle of the Cancer Institute. Little by little, the expanding sunlight brought into view the humble garden that serves as a sanctuary of some sorts to the warriors fighting the battle known as cancer. The light signals the end of yet another duty night and I am overcome once again with gratitude. It was time to head home. 

~

That’s how I’d like to summarize my 2016. Tons of gratitude for being able to come home.

 Home has never been a singular concrete place. It is that feeling of belonging, of acceptance, of love, of simply being yourself. And after the rollercoaster that 2015 had been, 2016 was spent slowly finding my way back home. 

So, thank you, 2016. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m definitely glad to be here.

I’m definitely glad to be here to face the coming year and make it what it is meant to be: my year. 

2017, here I come. 

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Stepping Stones

"The river rushes ever so fast,
ever so constantly.
It is a struggle to make the crossing. 
Take one stepping stone at a time,
one foot after the other,
slowly, but surely...
Make the great leap to the other side."

- Stepping Stones, 07/18/16

Celebrating 5 years of this amazing flight through life, I present the new look of theangeltakesflight! Cool, yeah? :) Credits to Shari Altamera for the shot taking waaaay back in 2012 during our trip to Guimaras Island, and to my lil’ bro, Chino Dumatol for the great editing work!

We’ve been medical interns for three weeks now! And so far, so good, I think. It felt bittersweet to be back in the hospital after a month’s break (the happenings of which I have yet to fully chronicle), and though part of me will always yearn for the chill life, another part is actually glad to be back.

Opening the year with a week at the MICU and a week at the Gen Med ER was tiring! Thank God for awesome residents, great duty mates, and amazing block mates to make things bearable and, at most times, fun. It does make a big difference. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m very eager to continue growing to become the very best doctor that I can be.

It’s definitely not easy. Once again adjusting to daily grind of the pre-duty-post cycle, as well as the countless number of orders to carry out, chart and conduct, proved to be a challenge for the brain and body that still weren’t satisfied with a month of restless vacationing (blame it on the novel that has STILL yet to be finished!). To make things worse, at the back of my mind, I’m still really worrying about STILL not having a clear picture of what I want to do after internship and boards. What path to take? What path to take?

Still, as with every journey that requires a giant leap of faith, you can only take one stepping stone at a time, one rotation at a time. With hard work, prayer, and some miracles here and there, anything is possible. The right path has yet to open for me, and I only have to believe in it!

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Presenting the Ladies of UP-PGH Interns 2016-2017 Block J!  Here’s to a great year with you, girls!

We’re currently on our Orthopedics rotation, and while I’ve never pictured myself in the field, it’s been okay so far! Then again, I haven’t had an ER duty yet, so yeah… I maybe speaking too soon. Haha! Here’s to a benign duty tomorrow! Hoping for the best! :) Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be spending the rest of my pre-duty day, getting some writing AND studying in.

Soar high!

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Donning the Intern’s coat really does make a difference! It makes me feel more responsible in the way that I have to be extra mindful of my actions as well as decision-making! Patients and watchers designate me with the title “Doktora” without any hesitation now. With the extra kulit bantay even jokingly calling me Doktora Kim Chiu (after the Chinita actress) and promising to help me find my Xian Lim (said actress’s love team partner). Haha!

 

 

2015: a tribute

It’s December 31st of 2015, the year that, in a matter of hours from now will soon be known as the year that was. It’s the last day of the year and so, like many others, I can’t help but look back at the things that have happened.

What a year it has been, this whirlwind of events and emotions. It definitely had its fair share of up’s and down’s, laughter and tears, victories and failures. There have been so many surprises, not all of them good, not all of them bad.

I got to see the Pope personally, albeit only for a few seconds. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Basic Medical Sciences. I visited new places and tried out new things. I fell in and out (and then in again) love with both medicine and literature. I was eased into the world of the hospital, a big leap towards the future I always thought I wanted for myself. I discovered things that I wouldn’t mind doing for a lifetime as well as things that I wish I would never have to do ever again. I experienced great joy in the company of the people who matter most as well as terrible melancholy in the loneliness of heartbreak. I felt helplessness in the most inopportune of moments as the physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual pains became too much to bear. I was able to stand up again and, in spite of my continuing recovering, am still hoping that complete healing would indeed be possible. I learned (and am still continuing to learn) how to distinguish what is true from what is not, but I have yet to fully accept how there are things that you just can’t change, no matter how much you want them to. But, I also learned that there are certain things that you can count on to never change, things that you can always depend on to be there for you, through thick and thin, though all the whirlwinds you will ever have to face.

I’d like to think that 2015 has helped me grow up, helped me figure out a lot of things about myself, about other people, about the world, but I think it has left far more questions than answers. Here’s to hoping the new year will be able to bring certain things into light.

As I bring yet another chapter to a close, I am both excited and terrified (mostly terrified) about writing the next one.

Shackle-Free: Conquering De Quervain’s

Words cannot describe how happy I am to be able to write this entry right now. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to use my right hand (and eventually my left hand) pain-free. It feels a lot like getting the shackles off. It feels a lot like being free.

It’s no news that I had been having right wrist pain since over a year ago. It started quite suddenly. I just woke up one day and there it was, notably more intense whenever I tried to flex my wrist. Resting and splinting helped initially, as did the usual pain relievers, both oral and topical medications. I eventually learned to live with the pain, sometimes deciding to take off the splint altogether since it was such a bother to work with. My initial work-ups – x-ray and  MRI-showed basically nothing, anyway. I figured it would eventually go away with time. I was a writer, for crying out loud. And an aspiring surgeon at that – I took my elective splint-free. There was no way I could function at the OR wearing it.

But then, clerkship started. Let’s just say that the great work involved in direct patient care, all the monitoring, the charting, the procedures, took their toll on my hands. Yes, pleural – hands. Come my IM wards rotation, the splint was doing me absolutely no good already, so I removed it completely. Taking all my usual medications proved useless as well – I tried everything from paracetamol to mefenamic acid to dexketoprofen to  celecoxib to etoricoxib, nothing was working. I used all sorts of topical medications, the warming effect of some of which would temporarily be comforting but would eventually prove too short-lived. With my right hand in such pain, I tried relying on my left hand, an effort which eventually blew up in my face. Pretty soon, I was hurting from both hands. And it definitely did not help that the clerkship load of IM made it basically impossible for me to follow-up with my orthopedic surgeon.

For about two weeks, I would face my hospital work with a patience I never knew I had. I’d force myself to smile because there was no way I was going to face my patients with a painful expression. I’d struggle with completing my work, and during non-duty nights, I’d come home to my condo and break down in tears from the pain. I would cry myself to sleep. It was more difficult during duty nights. I’d take time to hide in the comfort room to wipe my tears and just take a breather before returning to battle.

There came nights when I really couldn’t take it anymore. I’d struggle to send a message to my parents, desperately asking them for what I could do since I really couldn’t take it anymore. My dad came rushing with medications, but again, there really couldn’t do anything about the pain.

Soon, I really couldn’t take it anymore. Every movement was painful. The tears wouldn’t stop falling. I had to opt out of school for a while to get my hands checked out. It turned out to be De Quervain’s tenosynovitis- the tendons of the muscles controlling my thumb were trapped, leading to much inflammation and thus pain – and it was now bilateral. Steroids were injected into my wrists, an attempt at conservative treatment. But as the days went by, the pain only got worse. I was still crying every day – this time, not only from the pain but also from the growing feeling of depression.

I felt useless. I couldn’t do anything without assistance or without feeling intense pain. How on earth was I going to become a surgeon now? How on earth am I going to write now? I couldn’t even hold a pen! I felt increasingly hopeless, but more than anything, I felt scared – scared for what was happening and for what was going to happen.

Seeing as my hands were resistant to the steroid treatment, my parents and I agreed to push for surgery.

Release
Being on the operating table myself felt weird. As I got an IV line inserted, I was mentally apologizing to every patient I ever hurt, especially those I failed to get on the first attempt. I asked if I could watch the surgery and sure enough, my surgeon opted not to raise the curtain separating me from the operating field. The surge of anesthetics that dulled my pain were able to bring perhaps the first true smile on my face for quite a while now. The surgery was over before I knew it – only 30 min. My poor tendons were released. The joint space effusion was drained – the doctor said that the synovial fluid had already changed in color because of how long my condition had been going on.
Post-op pain sucks. The pain is notably different from what it was before. After the surgery, there was incisional pain – it feels like there’s still a knife cutting through it – and the occasional pins-and-needles. Some part of my hand feels a bit numb, while others are tender to the touch. My right hand has quite a number of hematomas in the area where they operated on.

Of course, the effects of the surgery aren’t to be instantaneous. I was told I was going to have to avoid strenuous activity, repetitive wrist movement, heavy lifting – basically anything that would put further stress on my hands for at least 1 month. Hell, I was particularly told I couldn’t chart S.O.A.P. notes! It was the indirect way of saying that I couldn’t go back to my clerkship duties just yet. But truth be told, there was really no need to advise me to avoid doing anything. I can’t do those things anyway. Moving my hand was still particularly painful. The first few days post-op were a whole new struggle on their own. I’d have to say that taking a bath was the hardest thing to do. Eating was a battle too.

But now, at six days post-op, I am finally getting the old me back. I’ve missed smiling. I’ve missed laughing. I’ve missed feeling happy. I can hold a spoon with my right hand now! Certain positions are still a bit painful, but it’s fairly tolerable. I’m getting by without my round-the-clock pain meds now. I do self-rehab exercises everyday, patiently taking time to stretch my fingers as well as use the stress ball. I can manage without the splint – only using it at night now. I think I’ll be able to write again soon. As for my left hand, it is now in a splint of its own. I’m hoping to avoid getting surgery for it too.

I am immensely thankful to God for helping me get through what has been such a difficult experience. I am truly blessed to have my family by my side every step of the way. I hated seeing my suffering reflect on my parents, both of whom I knew were as affected as I was by this ordeal. Their worry was a pain in a whole new level on its own. Thank you, Mom, Dad, and Chino, for always being there for me through all this.

To all the friends I’ve caused to worry and for all your supportive words, both for now and for long ago when this whole wrist pain thing started, for this entire journey, thank you. To everyone who was affected by my illness and my absences, for the hurt, the confusion, the extra burden, I’m sorry and am thankful for your understanding.

Pain can change a person’s life so much, especially pain that goes in the way of your every day, pain that seemingly won’t go away no matter what you do and no matter how much you wish for it to be over.

I’m taking time to heal during my short leave of absence from clerkship, healing that would no doubt go a lot easier thanks to the support and love of my family.

I am eagerly awaiting the day of my return to the hospital with both of my hands shackle-free. :)

Challenge Accepted

Where did the four months go? Yes, well, if you’d been flying with me on this online chronicle of my life, you may have noticed that I’ve skipped practically two months worth of blog entries. Blame it on the unproductive business I’ve put myself into.

Anyhow, 9 days left to go  ’til LU V officially begins. I can’t believe I’m in my third year of Medicine proper already and in my fifth year of the seven year INTARMED program. The MD is practically already in sight, but I still don’t feel that I’m ready for it. I guess it’s only normal to feel this way. I’ve always known the path to becoming a doctor wasn’t easy; it is a big challenge, especially since it’s not the only one you’re trying to conquer. Oh, world of literature, why can’t I let go of you? 

Not that it worried with when I first started along this road. Back in high school, I’ve always loved challenges. I’d always say that math and science were my favorite subjects because they gave me room to challenge myself, they made me think. And in the words of the mathematician Rene Descartes, “Cogito ergo sum” – “I think, therefore I am”. You could say it grants a sense of accomplishment – thinking and eventually finding the answer.

But I guess the passing of time does indeed change a lot of things. Don’t get me wrong. I still love a good challenge, but I think I am only beginning to realize that life itself is a big challenge all on its own, even without me trying to complicate things for myself by pursuing both career paths in Medicine and Literature. With my lengthy four month break, I’ve been writing every chance I get, even managing to send an entry to a competition as well as a workshop (crossed fingers on the success of both!).  Somewhere in the middle of it all, I found myself looking for things to study. I even ended up opening a Med textbook or two as well as finally accompanying my dad in the operation room or my mom with her rounds to observe. You don’t have to convince me how insanely different the two worlds are (I’m writing Young Adult Fiction, mind you. If I had been writing about the wonderful world of Medicine, they wouldn’t be so different, I guess, but yeah…), since that can’t be any clearer than it already is for me. But in the end, I think getting a shot a both worlds, as different as night and day, is a blessing in disguise.

Yes, it’s a challenge. Yes, it’s not easy. Yes, it’s insanely difficult. But it’s what I want and I happen to enjoy living in both worlds, so why not? No matter what I find along the way, I believe I’ll end up enjoying the journey down both roads. It’s all a matter of perspective in the end. Who knows? Maybe somewhere along the way, there’ll be some sort of intersection between the two – or maybe I’ll be able to make one. Is that another challenge I see? 

Guess what, Life? Challenge accepted.

Driving 101

I’ve been pestering both Mommy and Daddy about this since…well, ever since I was old enough for a student permit, actually. We never got around pushing through with it since I was busy trying to become a doctor AND I really didn’t need to learn anyway AND I didn’t even have a car of my own to use.

Well, never the less, thanks to the UP academic calendar shift and the wonders what boredom can do-well, boredom and procrastinating (Sorry! Still not done editing! >.<)-, I finally signed up for driving lessons at A1 Driving School.

"Gusto kong matuto mag-drive!" 
                         - Overdrive by The Eraserheads

I had my first hands-on lesson today. And dear God, the nerves. Siyempre naman kakabahan ako! I’m the type of person who plays several possible scenarios in her head as to the circumstance I’m facing; assume the worse, sabi nga. I’ve imagined it all. To save this entry from becoming a bit morbid, I will refrain from listing those…scenarios.

Anyway, the anxiety comes naturally when you’re just starting out – this is true for any new experience. For the first hour of  the session, I was so freakin’ nervous, even though we were just in the starting and stopping, forward and backward part of the driving. The clutch is your worst enemy when it comes to manual driving. It took me a while to get the pedal controls – nothing like the pedals in the piano, that’s for sure. My instructor, Kuya Jake, was pretty patient with me, thankfully. I did my best to do as I was told. And of course, my hard work was rewarded eventually.

In fairness, ang dami kong na-achieve today! Sa umpisa lang talaga mahirap. It didn’t really take me long before I was able to do turns – left and right, baby! left and right! – already; we went around and around a residential block as practice. When he thought I was finally ready, Kuya Jake had me go for the main road, all the while guiding me along the process. Stupid clutch. 

I was able to drive through Commonwealth Avenue! Yey~! Kuya Jake got me to go at a maximum of 40 – hanggang secunda lang muna. ‘Di pa ako ready na bumilis pa lalo. Delikado. :)) Sure, the other cars were like honking and honking, obviously pissed at how slow I was going in the middle of the road, but come on, people, can’t you read the sign? Student driver! Mabuti nga at tuloy-tuloy ang andar ko kahit mabagal, hindi yung pahinto-hinto! Here was where I was taught how to switch lanes. By this time, Kuya Jake had already started with the life stories. I think it was meant to get me to relax. I took that as a good sign. If your instructor finally decides to stop with the teaching and start with the small talk, you know you’re doing something right! Oh yeah!

Next, we stopped at a gasoline station where I was taught how to do perpendicular parking (forward and backward) and the 3-point turn. I was already mentally saying praises when we found the parking lot partially empty (isa lang yung nakapark; nandun siya sa rightmost slot), when a car appears out of nowhere and takes the leftmost slot, leaving the middle one for me to take. Tuwa na lang ni Kuya Jake. Tamang-tama raw. Ayan! For practice! Well, thanks to his instruction, I was able to do it! Hoorah! And no, Chino, hindi ko sila binangga! Wala! Tama lang yung gawa ko. Problema ay kung gagawin ko na siya mag-isa later on. 

Things were pretty smooth-sailing from there. It was just practice of what I’ve already learned. Driving through Commonwealth Avenue again – no problems there. The return to Quezon Memorial Circle had me a bit panicky though! BV trucks! There was an instance when two big trucks – running fast, mind you, despite their enormous sizes – came at me from both left and right. I was practically shaking! Thank God I got through just fine and back to Kalayaan Avenue.

The last 30 minutes, it was just practice through Maginhawa St. Though infinitely much better than my first time, I was still having problems with the clutch. Kuya Jake says that it’s something a bit more practice can readily solve. Before I knew it, we were back by the driving school branch in Anonas.

Well, that definitely went a lot better than I expected. Achievement!

My next lesson’s on Monday. :) Let’s hope I can keep up the good work with some practice. Hoorah!

Mommy and Me Bonding in Baguio: Day One

Let the adventure begin! We’ve been joking about just taking a bus all the way to Baguio for quite some time now. I never expected us to eventually push through it, but here it is! I guess we have Chino and the CMLI SummerCon to thank for giving us reason to go for this trip. Woooh! Let’s get it on!

Day Zero, Wednesday, April 23, 2014

11:15PM – The bus leaves the Victory Liner Cubao terminal at exactly the scheduled time. Traveling in first class accommodations means having a stewardess on board, snacks and a small comfort room. Just our luck when Mom and I found out that our seats are located right next to said comfort room. Luckily, it doesn’t have that unpleasant comfort room smell – I guess passengers don’t really use it anyway, what with the real comfort of the ride being the comfy recliner chairs that make a nice long nap possible. Music serves as my escape for the first half-hour but lights off in the bus made it impossible to resist closing my eyes and giving in to the call of sleep.

Day One, Thursday, April 24, 2014

 3:20am – I wake to bilateral ear pain, the obvious change in climate – brrr! cold! –  and the voice of the stewardess announcing that we were now arriving at the Baguio terminal. Already?! But I’m still sleepy! is the first thought that comes to mind. It’s still so dark and our check-in time isn’t until later at noon. And so, with no other place to go, Mom and I crash at Ibay Zion Hotel, site of the CMLI SummerCon, where Chino and his friends are saying and holding their workshops. Let’s see if I can stack up on a couple for zzz’s before this day officially begins.

7:00am – The sound of a megaphone cuts my somehow unrestful nap to a short; Chino and the other CMLIers were up and ready to begin their workshops. Mom and I left to start off our Baguio adventure – for real, this time.

Mines View Park is a popular tourist spot that boasts of the best view of the Benguet mountain ranges.
Mines View Park is a popular tourist spot that boasts of the best view of the Benguet mountain ranges.

It was early morning, so there weren’t much people out yet. Mom and I got to enjoy the view of Mines View Park to ourselves. How does it feel like to be at the top? Well, let me just say that the view is spectacular. :)
We eat breakfast at a nearby eatery – beef steak and adobo – and the owner was kind enough to guide us to the next tourist attraction.

Sitting pretty behind the spectacular scenery! :)) It almost looks like I'm somewhere outside the Philippines, but no! Still in the country, folks. This is Baguio!
Sitting pretty with the spectacular scenery behind me! :)) It almost looks like I’m somewhere outside the Philippines, but no! Still in the country, folks. This is Baguio!

We took a cab to the Mansion, the Presidential vacation house here in Baguio, and then, we walked through Wright Park. A hundred steps down and more steps around the rotonda and through the main road, we eventually got to the Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, with the weight of our bags, Mom and I couldn’t really enjoy sight-seeing that much, and so we opted to just head straight to Hotel Supreme for check-in.

The Mansion - the Presidential vacation home here in Baguio! :) I wonder if I'll ever be allowed inside. One of my stories features the Presidential daughter and for authenticity, a tour of the Presidential homes would be very much appreciated! :) Well, maybe one day... Haha!
The Mansion – the Presidential vacation home here in Baguio! :) I wonder if I’ll ever be allowed inside. One of my stories features the Presidential daughter and for authenticity, a tour of the Presidential homes would be very much appreciated! :) Well, maybe one day… Haha!
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Welcome to Wright Park! :) The stroll would have been more enjoyable had we not been dragging along our heavy luggage. Backpacking sucks when you're trying to sight-see :( Welcome to Wright Park! :) The stroll would have been more enjoyable had we not been dragging along our heavy luggage. Backpacking sucks when you’re trying to sight-see :( 
Ahhh... The Botanical Gardens :)
Ahhh… The Botanical Gardens :)

Thank God the people here are so nice! They seem so used to tourists and the hospitality is just amazing. Mom and I spent a few hours getting a nap and freshening up, waking at around 3pm. My stomach made it very clear that it wasn’t very happy about me sleeping through lunch time, so Mom and I head over to SM Baguio for lunch at Savory. Just because we have time to spare, we catch a movie too – Heaven is for Real. Pretty nice film that makes you wonder just what really awaits us in the after life.

Mommy and Me selfie - the first of many during this entire trip. :))
Mommy and Me selfie at SM Baguio – the first of many during this entire trip. :))

Night strolling at Burnham Park after stocking up on drinks at the supermarket. Because it rained in the afternoon, the place was a bit muddy. Mom and I were treated to the sight of dancing fountains. There wasn’t really that much to do since it was already dark, so after having a quick dinner at the nearby Chowking, we decided to call it a day and head back to the hotel and just chill.

Lava cake for a night snack! Woooh! And of course, my day wouldn’t be complete without my preferred dessert, a nice good read – finished Jenny Han’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’, reading straight up to midnight. No regrets! Really good book with just the right amount of sweetness, kilig and a reality check. And besides, boys who get along with your younger siblings = a definite plus, plus, plus. I might write a full review after our Baguio trip. :)