Friday, January 10, 2014

I'm on leave, b*tches!

Vacation leave. What does it mean? When was the last time I was out on a workday, not sick, and doing something just to relax?

Today I will just content myself with a manicure and chai latte from SBC. Still have a lot of errands to do, like have my car fixed (check), go to the doctor (ergo SICK LEAVE), and spend time with Miguel.

But honestly, it is such a RELIEF to just get out of the office and get a different perspective of my life. Too often we equate our jobs to who we are. It's not a problem if you actually LIKE your job. But even a great or likable job can encroach on your personal life.

Time for some "me" time!

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Mother & son from hell

Yep, that's what I feel like. Did you think I was going to write about another pair? Really, when have you ever known me to bitch like that?

All right, so we all have our bad days. We also have our worse days. So yesterday what started out as a great day ended as a horrible day.

Who do I blame? What do I blame? What does it matter? I've hit rock-bottom and the only way is up, right?

When I look back at the past entries of this blog I see how close I used to be with Miguel. Now it's as if he can't stand me. Well not always, but a lot of the times.

My mom reminds me that he is undergoing puberty. Okay he does need his space. But I just cannot stand it when he acts up on me. I won't go further than that, for his sake. And I know that I'm no angel either, that much I will say. Like I said, the mother and son from hell.

Yesterday was just a minor meltdown. At least I'll give us some cedit for reigning it in. But when life gets this messy between us I ask myself, again, where have I gone wrong?

Well it's not too late. I'm just depressed I guess. Trying to hold up both halves of the sky and miserably failing. So off I go to get a long-overdue haircut, maybe a manicure. Try to cool off, and regain some perspective, and try to believe that somewhere inside him is the sweet boy who used to love mommy so much.

I'd like to see him again sometime.

Friday, January 03, 2014

A is for...

So I wake up before 4 am. It's cold. And straight away I notice my breathing.

There's a slight wheeze. A bit of tightness in my chest. A tinge of inflammation in my throat. I feel the small aches in my back muscles, all those miniscule efforts to breathe deeply, compounded.

This asthma thing.

And then I realize what a joy and a privilege it is just to be able to BREATHE.

To just take in oxygen that gives life to every cell in your body. Without it I'd be dead. With 50% less, I'm half alive. With 30% less, I'm only 70% alive. You get the picture.

Oxygen is precious. The ability to breathe it even more so. Predictably, it's only now, when I'm sick, that I am able to realize this. I must protect this ability.

I'll be seeing a pulmonologist for the first time today. But already I know what I have to do:

1. Get enough rest
...especially now that I'm sick. I feel it. My body is crying out for rest. I do not have the strength that I used to. Although I can move around, I am not energetic. I am easily tired.

My body needs rest, and I must give it, everyday. No more staying up late. Go home. Eat dinner. Turn off the smartphone. Go to sleep. Maybe read, because it helps me fall asleep anyway. Must keep the immune system up.

That daily commute. I must do something about that too.

2. Stay warm
And exactly why am I awake before 4 am? Because I feel cold. Cold weather and cold room temperatures are a trigger for my allergies. Out-of-town trips, movie theaters, church services, the office - I can never go anywhere without a shawl. Now I know why grandmas have shawls. Sigh.

3. Avoid allergens
I have to make a conscious effort now to stay away from secondhand smoke and pollution. And dust.

Must keep the house and car always clean. And stay away from vacation houses with mold and mildew!

4. Eat right
As part of keeping my immune system up, I have to make healthy food choices. This means far less of the chemical-laden processed foods, and more of natural foods like fruits and raw vegetables.

I need vitamin C and probiotics. I need high fiber to fight cholesterol. Fortunately I've already lessened the red meat, but I still need to cut down on the carbs and sugar.

I have to figure out why I crave carbs so much. And I have to find a snack alternative in the afternoons.

5. Find your center
Life can be so demanding, but there's no sense or reason in going around like a headless chicken. I need my quiet time in the morning. I need to get my direction and realign my priorities everyday. I decide to be in control of my life.

6. Don't stress yourself
In the middle of the day, don't let situations get the better of you. Work is just work; problems are just problems. In the larger scheme of things, it's about who you are and how you behave with character towards certain situations. Don't lose sight of the bigger picture. And don't get upset.

7. Get real and connect more
Don't forget what life is all about. It's not about getting things done, but the relationships you build along the way. Affirming your child, appreciating your mom, showing your sis that you care, being there for friends or just laughing with them. Don't forget the 'just laughing' part.

Sometimes we look at people, even ourselves, as objects. No more of that.

And when I'm stronger...

7. Exercise

In my case, swimming is the best. Maybe I'll do biking. I need to strengthen my lungs. Will consult with my pulmonologist later about how gradually I can do this.

Whoa. Daunting.

That's all I can think of for now. I wasn't planning on a lifestyle change, but it looks like I already need one.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Hinga malalim...

"Tapos BUGA! Sige pa, sige, konting tiis na lang."

What was this woman telling me to do? How could I possibly exhale when there was no more air in my lungs?

But there was, she insisted, and like a good soldier I grasped onto the handle that supported the plastic mouthpiece. My lips were pressing hard against the plastic, and I had to pull it towards me just I wouldn't fall forward. My chest felt like an empty cavity and my back was beginning to hurt from the strain.

You have to make sure that your lips form a seal around the mouthpiece, she had advised me. Oh, like when you do oral sex? I thought to myself. That's probably what she meant, but I kept my opinion to myself. But really, when was the last time I had my lips around a hard object?

Despite these distracting thoughts I did as she said. Because after years of denial, and several intermittent episodes, I finally had THE asthma attack that caused me to throw in the towel.

So there I was at the hospital doing a spirometry, also called a pulmonary function test. Inside the testing room is a glass booth the size of a telephone booth. Inside it is a wooden seat that's fixed to the floor. And in front of the seat is a metal arm that holds the sterilized plastic mouthpiece.

The mouthpiece itself is connected via a tube to some thingamajig that connects to a computer outside the booth. Other tubes and wires were also hanging from the thingamajigie, but for my test they weren't necessary.

The test was a bit complicated, and the technician had to be very skilled just so patients like me could do it right. Mayette was a short, stocky woman in her fifties. Very friendly and helpful, but not the kind you'd want to cross. She'd be right at home commandeering a class of rowdy high school boys, I imagined. And she was very good at coaching.

How long had she been working here, I asked. Twenty years, she replied. She even knew my dad, one of the best doctors of all. I loved her for saying that. I tried hard to be a good testee.

For the second test, I had to breathe heavily, in and out, as if exercising, for as long as she told me. Deep, panting breaths.

Anong exercise mo, she asked, so as to coach me.

I don't exercise, I replied. Sorry, no point of reference for me.

But then I considered: deep, panting breaths. Isn't that like sex? Why does this whole exercise have to be about sex for me? I put on a poker face and told her that I used to swim. And I really used to - for about 2 weeks, that is.

So I panted and puffed, my chest heaving up and down, my mouth around a hard plastic object, and hoped that it in no way looked sensual. Thankfully I had to focus so hard on my breathing instead.

After that, she made me take some puffs of salbutamol, rest for 15 minutes, then do the whole thing over again. This time around I didn't have a dirty mind.

Sad to say that the preliminary results clearly showed that my lung capacity is compromised. Although I knew it, it was still a real blow. I'd hate to be on steroids and maintenance meds.

And just based on how I felt before and after those puffs of salbutamol, I can tell how much less energy I have when I can't get enough oxygen. Absolutely everything is affected. In a nutshell:

   not enough oxygen = not enough energy

Not a good place to be. I understand now how Bonsai (my former teammate) felt after her bout with pneumonia. She felt weak, like a 30-year-old grandma.

Definitely NOT a good place to be. I have to get out of here.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

As the smoke clears

For the first time in my life, I failed to celebrate new year's eve with my family. It's our family tradition, see: Christmas with my uncle's family, then New Year with my dad's family. (They were only 2 siblings.)

Not that I was out of the country. I was actually sick in bed. It started with an allergy, that became a cough, that became a flu, that became asthma, and who knows what else.

So on new year's eve I had to forego decorating the medya noche table - it has always been my role for more than a decade now - and instead I was lying in bed, trying to find comfort and get some sleep.

Just before midnight, at the height of the neighborhood fireworks frenzy, Mom and Miguel came up to invite me downstairs. I just said that I'd go down when the dust had literally settled.

Although I felt sick, I showered and dressed up to join the festivities - just so I wouldn't be such a killjoy. I waited until 1am, hoping that the pollution from the fireworks would be more bearable.

But even before I could leave my room, I felt it. My breathing was compromised, maybe by 10%. Going out would be a disaster. But how could I snub my own family? I should at least show up to say hello, give my regrets, and excuse myself.

The moment I stepped out of my room, I could feel the dirt particles from the air entering my lungs. 30% lung capacity down, I thought. Holding my breath or covering my face made no difference; everywhere the air was thick with dust. It grated against my lungs.

By the tine I made it to the dining room I felt asif I was at 50% capacity. I stayed only long enough for a very short exchange:

"Sorry guys, I can't stay. I can't breathe - asthma."

My sister says, quite naively, "Why don't you puff?"

In my head I'm thinking, "Because you don't just put on a bulletproof vest and then jump in front of a tank."

Instead I just say that I already did, and that I don't want to overdose. I hurry back to my room without taking a bite of the delicious spread. I steal a glance in envy. I don't even dare stay long enough to ask for a plate - that's how bad my asthma was.

Thirty minutes later in my room, after weighing the pros and cons of ovetdosing, I puff again. My heart starts racing, and I develop a dull headache.

But I'm wide awake, and hungry. I can hear everyone enjoying themselves downstairs. I imagine the Spanish-themed buffet, especially the paella that my sister-in-law had cooked.

As I hear the tinkle of cutlery, I am definitely jealous.

I've been forgotten! I tell myself. They probably think I'm asleep. I consider calling via mobile phone to ask for some food to be sent up. But I think it's such a donya move. I content myself with reading 'The Brothers Karamazov'. Dostoevsky will be my new year's fare, I tell myself.

At 2am I hear a rustling in the bathroom. Miguel! I call him. I am relieved as I see him stick his head into my room.

"Could you ask Ate Vicky to bring up some food?" Okay, he says.

Fifteen minutes later there's a knock at my door. Vicky brings up a plate of paella, gambas, baked mussels, and barbecue. Followed by a saucer with cheeses, grapes, and melba toast. No chorizos. But hey, I know how to be thankful.

As I eat the best medya noche ever in the solitude if my room, I tell myself: "Ah, you are a spoiled brat princess."

And with that, I greet you a happy new year.