Thursday, April 17, 2014

Part 2 - Would You Rather Have Cancer or HIV?

Two months ago, I posted a blog Would You Rather Have Cancer or HIV? And my answer was I'd rather have HIV. I still have the same answer now. 

Meet Brent. This guy is in his early 30's. Doing well at work, and earning a decent salary, in fact more than what an average guy his age does. He's managing a number of employees, giving directions and leading them to achieve their unit goal. He works out at the gym 3 times a week. He's got a fit body, and looks so damn healthy and buff. He leisurely travels a lot, sometimes by himself, and sometimes with his friends or family. Every summer, he goes to the beach to enjoy the sea. He also parties in clubs, though he only drinks at most one bottle of beer. Ironically, every month, he goes to a medical clinic for checkup, and to get a bunch of medicines. He needs these to keep his viral load down. Yes, that's right. He needs lifelong ARVs to keep his HIV viral load in control. He has been positive for 5 years. Five years back, when he was diagnosed as positive, he was classified as a clinical stage 3 (the most advanced stage of HIV), with serious OI's like pneumonia and meningitis. It was such a battle, fighting those serious OI's. He had shortness of breath, literally grasping for air.  Had high fever and nausea. He vomited. Had bitter tastes on any food. Had severe headache, and allergies over his body. He lost a lot of weight. He stopped working for 8 months to completely recover. Fortunately, 5 years later, he has completely gotten his life back. He looks just as normal as any healthy guy his age does - very far from how common people imagine how PLHIV look like (malnourished, severe skin lesions, bed ridden). Yes, he has completely overcome his OI's,  and has regained his CD4 count back to normal level. He still has the HIV virus within him, but it is definitely under control, with a viral load that is undetectable. 

Meet another guy, James. This guy was sick. One time, he passed out while walking. Because of this, he underwent a radiation treatment as advised by his physician. He lost his appetite, and stopped eating a lot. He had nausea and vomited, and was just staying home. He had shortness of breath when walking even just a few steps. His breathing got worse and worse, until he was rushed to the ER. He was given oxygen for breathing. He improved slightly. But as days passed, his oxygen requirement kept on increasing, until the doctor inserted a tube attached to a respirator in his mouth. His labs showed that he had severe pneumonia infection, and there was already water in his lungs. His cancer cells have spread uncontrollably to his lungs. While in the hospital, he was being treated for his pneumonia. Right, pneumonia can be treated. But the problem was, when pneumonia is resolved, the cancer tumors will remain in his lungs. And those cells may continue spreading not just to his lungs, but to other organs as well.  We all know that there still is no cure for cancer at an advanced stage. So, it was like a battle with no foreseen victory in the end. A tunnel with no light at the end, not even a small light bulb, nor a tiny candle light. What the doctors were doing was just to treat the infection, but not the cancer that is causing of infection.  It was a stop gap solution... and was merely prolonging for a few weeks his already limited life. As expected, since it was an advanced CA case, he got worse each day. Water and air continued to build up in his lungs, that further burdened his breathing. Infection progressed further. He was no longer moving his body and arms as much. Each day, his breathing got worse, even with a respirator. It was an agonal breathing. He felt some pain, here and there. Until, he fell into a coma. His blood pressure decreased slowly as days passed, until no pulse can be heard. It zeroed, then he passed away. After more than one month of struggle in fighting his pneumonia, he passed away.  

Two different cases. Both are immuno-compromised. One had hope, the other had none. I know a lot of PLHIV who are like Brent. They completely got their lives back, and are now back in their ball games. I myself is a person living with HIV. I'm still in the process of recovering my immune system, but I'm on the right track. One day, I'm sure I will be like Brent. 

Certainty, to me, between the two guys, I'd rather be Brent than James. So, I should be grateful and should be rejoicing for I have is Brent's case, and not James'. And I am almost certain I'm gonna be like Brent in just a few months or years. But, I'm not rejoicing now! Why? Though I'm not James, James happens to be someone I know. He happens to be my mom. 

It's hard enough to be sick with HIV. But it's even harder to be sick with HIV while your mom is sick with cancer. We are both immuno-compromised. We can't be near each other, as we got sick at the same time. I could get her infection, and she could get mine. She can't visit me when I was in the hospital. Likewise, I couldn't visit her as much when she was confined. It's sad to see your mom suffer, slowly get weak, and eventually lose her due to cancer. And it's even hard to mourn, since I need to control my emotions. I can't be too sad for this could cause my CD4 to plunge. It was a difficult scenario, the most difficult in my life.  

But, knowing how my mom lived her life - with all her good deeds, with all her positive influence to other people, I'm sure she is now at peace with the Lord in His kingdom. Imagining that she is now, having eternal peace and joy, singing and praising with the angels in heaven, and comparing it side by side with the time she was grasping for air and in pain in her hospital bed, I'm now at peace! For she is now in a far better place than where she was - a place where there is no misery, no worry, no pain, nor discomfort. A place filled with love, joy and eternal happiness. It's not true that there's just darkness at the end of her tunnel. With the place where she is now, I'd say the end of her tunnel was not a tiny light from a candle stick, nor a small incandescent bulb, but a light so bright that is unimaginable to us humans.  This gives me relief and peace. This give me comfort, gladness and joy. 

Now knowing that my mom is in a place far better than ours, I'll keep fighting my own battle. I will keep my immune system up. And I promise to be Brent in no time. I will definitely be victorious! 

Have a blessed holy week!

John 14:1-4
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Revelations 21: 18-21
"The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass."