The battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is my biggest battle in life; I intend to win it with your help

Judith takes on life in a positive perspective after getting the diagnosis.

By Judith Labial-Amido

On September of 2020, I noticed that I that I could not urinate normally anymore. I had to press my tummy hard expecting my bladder to react but it could only give a few drips. I panicked but I thought it was part of the menopausal process since I’m in my 50s now. But I noticed that whenever I would wipe with a tissue after urinating, it felt numb and sore.

I limited my water intake in fear of edema, I developed hemorrhoids and I felt it started to swell. That numbness and swelling got worse. Several laboratory tests were done. My lumbo-sacral x-ray result was clear. The total abdomen ultrasound found no problem, even the colonoscopy.

The pain of knowing it was something serious

Then, I went through hemorrhoidectomy thinking it will solve the problem. Of course, thinking too that it was the problem. Weeks passed and my surgery was already healing. Instead of easing the numbness and soreness, the pain even got more intense and unbearable.

I would writhe, shout and cry so loud, shiver and sweat profusely. This would happen three to four times a day with a very little relief from the tons of pain relievers I took. My surgeon referred me to a neurologist who preliminarily said my pain involved the nerves so no amount of regular pain reliever would  relieve, much less, stop it.

 Instead of easing the numbness and soreness, the pain even got more intense and unbearable.

I was then given pain medication for nerves but after five days of taking them, I could no longer pee. For one whole day, I patiently waited if it would at least give a drop but it never happened. I got admitted to the hospital and was inserted with a catheter.

This time my neurologist administered a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to which I gladly agreed to find out what is the problem.

My surgeon referred me to a neurologist who preliminarily said my pain involved the nerves so no amount of regular pain reliever would relieve, much less, stop it.

We deal with pains in life, but this one’s a level above the rest

The MRI result said I had a sacral tumor with the size of 4.2 x 6.7cm. It further said, “suspiciously malignant”. Located in the pelvic area, the pain had grown more and more intense  as I would try to move around.

I could only stand for two minutes, walk 10 steps and lie down for a lucky 20 minutes then the pain would come all over again and would drive me nuts. I was always deprived of a good sleep; a straight two-hour sleep was a luxury.

A portion of the pain eased out but the soreness and numbness remain and the usual discomfort that I’m literally sitting on the tumor.

Then as suggested in the MRI findings, I had biopsy. Also, my anaesthesiologist suggested that I should have neurolysis to ease my severe pain which I also willingly obliged knowing my chronic suffering. Indeed, a portion of the pain eased out but the soreness and numbness remain and the usual discomfort that I’m literally sitting on the tumor.

As if my problem was not yet enough, I had a urinary tract infection (UTI) which again sent me back to hospital admission necessarily for IV treatment because I was immuno-compromised. And yes, all the COVID-19 protocols added to the cost and the procedures too. It all came out fast and too much for me to handle.

And yes, all the COVID-19 protocols added to the cost and the procedures too. It all came out fast and too much for me to handle.

The initial shock and dealing with the reality of having cancer

The biopsy, after two readings, revealed that I had B-cell lymphoma which was also confirmed by the immune-stains. Later through a computerized tomography (CT) scan, I was informed that I had two tumors left and right almost of the same size and very aggressive. I was devastated.

Further, the scan also revealed that a 0.5cm pulmonary nodule was noted in my lung. With the confirmation of the fact that they are located near my pelvic area and very proximate to my spine, my oncologist-surgeon said she would rate it as Stage 4 Lymphoma and that I needed chemotherapy – 6 sessions at the least.

With the confirmation that they are located near my pelvic area and very proximate to my spine, my oncologist-surgeon said she would rate it as Stage 4 Lymphoma.

Even before the reality of having a stage 4 CA could even sink into my brain, I got rattled even more when the cost of medication was discussed.

I need to prepare P80,000 (USD1,700) for the chemo drugs alone per session; then, to prepare some more for any side effects that may be encountered along the way. Add the hospital procedures, of course. Where on earth will I go to sustain the treatment?

Read: What is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphona? 

An outpouring of love. Judith was overwhelmed by the generosity, concern and love of family and friends, even acquaintances.

I rose from my humble beginnings, there was no other choice but work hard

I come from a poor family. But this made more driven than regretful with the skills that God gave me. I started working at a young age of seven helping my mother in her little cosmetology shop just to help the family get by. I worked even harder when my father died when I was 11 and struggled through high school doing manicure and pedicure jobs to support myself and help my family.

Even with the college scholarship that I have had, I took a job in the evening as a communication group REACT radio base operator for a regular income. The job required that I would come home at midnight on regular days and even beyond when there were emergencies oblivious that I had my Philosophy class in the morning at 7am.

I worked even harder when my father died when I was 11 and struggled through high school doing manicure and pedicure jobs to support myself and help my family.

All these to sustain the other needs of the family throughout my schooling. They called me the breadwinner of the family.

With my degree in AB Philosophy with a Master Degree in Business Administration, my career has been on many different realms as once a high school teacher, a college part-time teacher, a department manager of an electric cooperative, and now a government employee handling local economic enterprises.

Through a computerized tomography (CT) scan, I was informed that I had two tumors left and right almost of the same size and very aggressive. I was devastated.

Life is being a mother, a wife and a government employee

Work for me. then, has become “me”. I have not stopped working. I could never stop at giving my all whenever I am given a job because I believe that it’s a blessing and for the most basic reason that I need it for subsistence. When  I already had a family of my own, blessed with 2 kids (ages 15 and 16) all I was thinking of was to work harder and even more for my kids.

I could never stop at giving my all whenever I am given a job because I believe that it’s a blessing and for the most basic reason that I need it for subsistence.

My husband Alejandro Singsong Amido is an Able-Bodied seaman, leaving me the care of kids with my sister and my mother most of the time. I thought life is but just work, work and work. A few vacations, yes, but yet work would always call and I know the grind would start again until one day I could not go to work anymore.

At times like this, Judith once more affirmed life is all about family. She fights this battle for her children.

A call for help and support

My kind friends and family had helped me financially during the diagnostic process and I thank them for that forever. Combined with my resources, the bills were just growing from hospital to another that depleted my finances altogether. Now, I am undergoing my chemotherapy sessions. I am praying that I could get some help so that once I start I could regularly have it until the six sessions are done.

I pray so much and I know God is helping me through this tremendously. But it is also humbling to admit that I still need your generosity to complete the treatment and beat the disease.

My family has been one with me in this illness and I could feel their pain too.They really want to help me in whatever way, but they can only do so much in their capacity. My kids have their hopes high that if I finished my chemo treatment, I would be well and be normal again … and “she would not be writhing in pain anymore “ as my girl would put it.

I pray so much and I know God is helping me through this tremendously. But it is also humbling to admit that I still need your generosity to complete the treatment and beat the disease. I will forever in your debt. God bless you as generously.

-o0o-

Judith will need a considerable amount to win this battle against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. We appeal from your kind hearts for help. Please send or deposit your kind support to Judith through these bank accounts:

  • Judith L. Amido, Banco De Oro (BDO) SA # 003330292088
  • Judith L. Amido, Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) Marbel SA #1839270743

Note: Please message Judith through the comments section or through her email judithamido143@gmail.com or jylabial@yahoo.com. She is currently focused on the treatment and avoids visits and phone calls unless urgent and related to her medical treatment. She will respond as her condition allows. Thanks for your understanding and support.

Judith Labial-Amido is currently the City of Koronadal’s Economic Enterprise Development Officer (since 2017. The city is capital for South Cotabato province in the Philippines. Previously she has served as Institutional Manager for South Cotabato 1 Electric Cooperative, Inc. where she worked for 16 years, a teacher in Notre Dame of Marbel for Girls for four years and one year as English Grammar lecturer in Beijing, China.

 

 

6 life management skills I learned from my mother

Conscious of it or not, you mother helped set and influence your life’s direction.

Can life be managed just like your team at work? Did it ever occur to you that your mother had somehow influenced you? Pretty much, that’s based on my over 2 decades of experience.

As a manager, I can be a dotting mother and a strict one to beat a looming deadline. Working in global emergencies can often be the same as any work — but in full speed. One needs to be organized ensuring all hands are on deck working.

The schedules are often 24-hours (when you are in Asia or the Middle East and you coordinate with teams in the US or Europe this becomes normal), the conditions life-threatening and deadlines are hairy-thin because you’re working to save lives.

Skill that worked in most conditions? Decisiveness. Discipline. You lead by doing. You’re ready to do the dirty job. You rally your team like a cheerleader, not frustrate them. You are there when they need a decision. You take the risk.

You support what they need and everyone who worked hard gets the credit. You roll up your sleeves when the team is short of manpower. Take a closer look at these. They’re also done by mothers, right?

Some of the skills I learned from my mother I got to use managing teams and working with people from different cultures.

1. Never be ashamed of your name.

Her parents named her from the Roman calendar which memorialised Jesus’s circumcision rites on January 1. Obviously, they did not bother to ask around what it meant. My mom lived through sniggers and sly smiles because of her name. When I wrote her story for an online news, some bashers even sneered and posted insults about her being named such. People can be cruel and heartless. Imagine if my mom lived through this times and opened a Facebook page?

I learned grace and humility from her living with the name. She respected her parents’s choice despite what it brought her. Those who chose to ridicule her just showed what kind of people they are. It’s not the name but how you live your life.

Nothing is extraordinary with my name. But I learned to be sensitive with others who has this same issue with my mother.

She never got conscious (or did not show if she was) of her name. I saw a steely trait that did not easily flinch to challenges, no matter how tough they were. You cannot please or make people like you all the time. Just do the job.

2. Find out the dreams of people you love and work with. Support them.

Despite my mistakes, she never gave up on me. I still clearly remember her, arms on her hips, confronting me head on if I am contended dropping out of school and working in the farm. A small woman so thin you’d think strong winds will carry her away. No sir! She had stood up to so many men bigger than her and won by virtue of her confidence. She said, “Are you contented?”

Not waiting for me to answer, she added, “Finish your studies. Even if you won’t find a job as long as you graduate, that’s fine with us.” I followed the orders and of course I found a job. That simple decision brought unimaginable hardship for my father and mother who worked twice as hard in the farm to send me back to school. I rose to follow my dream because she never allowed me to give up.

Ask them. Talk to them. One way to win hearts (and cooperation) is to know the dreams of people I lead and help them work towards realising them. It is a privilege to be part of it and a sheer pleasure when they get back to you and tell you that they got it because you believed in them.

For more, please click here and read on.

Moving to Argentina from Indonesia, I found my groove as a woman and a housewife

By Enda Balina

From a humanitarian to full-time housewife in a new country, Enda found a new and worthy challenge to scale.

Many women have to choose between their career or their family at some points of their life. My time to choose came right after I just completed my advanced study abroad. I joined my then-new husband who was deployed to Argentina.

Switching my life from a humanitarian worker to become a housewife was not as easy as I initially thought. I imagined it would not be hard to adapt to a new city. After all, I have been living in different places over the few years and I survived. I was wrong.

Not only that the Latin’s culture is very different from Indonesian, my being unemployed often pierced my self esteem & confidence. I think one of my hardest challenge at that time was transitioning to not having work and become dependent to my husband. I have never out of job in my life, it took me a while to make peace with my new status as ama de casa (housewife).

She found a family away from home – and more. Learning a new language and navigating through a new culture were tough but enriching.

Wherever I go, “What do you do for a living?” is often the third question being asked by the people I meet after my name & where I came from. Before moving, I completed my Masters in Development Studies where the main focus was on gender issues. I also worked for eight years in the humanitarian industry that embraced gender equality. When I made this move, some people that I know questioned my decision to give up my job and independence.

Isn’t it strange that the society does not appreciate someone who is choosing a family over work? People often belittle the important role of a mother and a wife, stereotyping a housewife as a domestic task even if it is a full-time job. Often people ask me what I do everyday to make myself busy.

I took this as a challenge to change some mindsets, conscious that even I myself used to have it. I took Spanish courses to enable me to speak faster. I got involved in various social charity activities to support our embassy leading an Indonesian women’s association and joined the diplomatic spouses’ group enabling me to meet new friends from different countries. I also signed up in many random courses like free Spanish conversation clubs, pottery class, yoga and even French class!

Being a housewife has more than pluses than minuses. “I can travel as much and anytime I want.”

Still, I often found it difficult when I had to introduce myself to new acquaintances. Answering questions where I work was the toughest of all. Indeed we live in a world where a job determines your identity and are judged by work and professional engagement. I found this harsh.

In reality, being a housewife brought me lots of wonderful experiences and opportunities to meet people, something that I would probably have missed out if I moved to Buenos Aires for a job.

I met lots of people from around the world with amazing stories. I have time to listen! Some of them are refugees from Syria, Americans who left their life back home for their love of tango and lots of western women who settled in Argentina in the name of love. Since I managed my own schedule, I was able to invest more time in people and building relations. An anthropologist by heart, I love listening to people’s stories and learn the social and cultural contexts. Casual encounters turned into friendships who became our family away from home.

I fell in love with the warmth of the Latino’s culture: one kiss on the right cheek every time you meet people and another one when you leave them – the warm and sincere hugs from friends. An old lady called me amor when I helped her got off from a bus. All these were a bit awkward to me at the first time (coming from a culture that is more reserved and conservative) but at the end, I appreciated the genuine connection.

Apart from learning new things and exploring a new environment, Enda became a mom!

One of the best benefits of being a housewife is that I could travel a lot. Anytime. I love traveling and going to new places. During our time there, my husband and I were able to tick some places in our bucket list: trekking in Macchu Picchu in Peru, climbing the glaciers in Calafate, exploring the northern salt desert of Argentina and exploring the beauty of Patagonia. On our last year, we were blessed with a beautiful baby boy.

At the end of our journey in Argentina, it was difficult to say goodbye. The place has taught me many things, the biggest lesson of which was self-acceptance of who I truly was and not letting anything determine my identity. I realized they are all superficial and temporary. Becoming a housewife was my personal independent choice. Choosing a family more than a career is something that every woman should not be ashamed of.

It became my campaign for women to stop putting label on ourselves. Often, the stereotyping even came from women who were supposed to understand and support this. A lady once asked me why I bothered to take a Masters degree when I would end up in the kitchen as a housewife. It is sad to hear but it is totally untrue! Having the best education is a great qualification for raising a family.

Are you ‘standing at the intersection’ of your life as a woman and are about to make a drastic swift? You are not alone. I’ve been there and I am sharing my tips so we can walk together.

1. Do not be afraid to take a leap! Going to an unknown land and leaving our comfort zone can be scary. Brace yourself and take the risk! We can always learn something from the experience. It is way better than to sit still and not give ourselves a chance to take up the challenge.

2. Close your ears to everything negative. Or even better, use them to motivate you in a positive way. People always have opinions about others, but so little about themselves. Don’t let all the negativity defines who you are and what you want to do.

3. Prepare yourself in advance. My biggest mistake was not preparing myself adequately before moving to Argentina. If I learned Spanish and the culture prior to moving to Buenos Aires, my early days in the city would be much easier. But then it was part of the journey and I learned from what I did not do.

4. Be flexible and ready to adapt. According to a survey, physically getting ourselves out of our comfort zone will widen our horizon and self-confidence. This is very true to me. If I did not move out of my comfort zone, I would never learn new things, a new language, cooking and organising skills, entrepreneurship or even the art of diplomacy.

Living in Argentina has definitely improved my cooking skills & creativity. Since good Asian restaurants were limited in Buenos Aires, I often had to cook my own food from scratch.

Learning new language for me was tough. The first three months were the most difficult as there were not many Argentinians who can habla Ingles (speak English). At first, I could only communicate with the lady cleaner at our apartment using Google translate from my Ipad. We literally had to type every words in order to communicate!

It has been a year that we are back in Jakarta and I love being closer to my family. But I also miss Argentina and the friends we left behind. Two months after we arrived, I went back to work making a career switch from Disaster Management to Grants. The new job is now giving me a lot of windows to learn.

Life is, indeed, a wheel. Our experiences are precious – if we give ourselves the chance to learn and explore.

Now back in Indonesia and again a working woman, Enda is happy to have her family close by. But her journey in Argentina still remains close to her heart.

Enda Balina is back as a humanitarian worker but stronger and prouder as a mom and wife. She lives with her family in Jakarta.