A war on two fronts

By Limuel S. Celebria 

I started taking my anti-cancer medication, pazopanib, last week – on the day I was released from WVSU Medical Center. Today, seven days later I’m beginning feel some side effects. 

I maybe imagining but, already, I can feel a war raging inside my body. Every so often, pain or what we are more familiar with as hunger pangs shoot across my guts. Like in a medieval movie, scenes of knights in armor laying a castle under siege flash through my mind. The army of King Pazopenib trying to hammer down the enemy’s defenses with catapults, battering ram, and longbows with flaming arrows.

I imagine this to be a long-haul confrontation, a protracted war. Pazopenib works more as a blockade. It’s object, to starve the enemy to death. But the longer the struggle, the better for me. I think. At least I’ll still remain alive never mind the crazy things they’re doing inside my body.

It’s the side effects I’m worried about. My doctor said I’ll get fairer skin. He did not use the word guapo but I imagine (again) that will be so. Hehe

Kidding aside, I already see some blotches in my skin. There’s dryness behind my ears, my nose, beneath my balls and my buttcrack. So, if you see my hand always drifting towards my crotch, it’s not because I’m horny.    

According to Wikipedia, “the most common side effects of pazopanib are nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea (occurs in about half of patients), changes in hair colour, hypertension (which usually occurs during the first few weeks of treatment), appetite loss, hyperglycaemiahypoglycaemia, electrolyte abnormalities (including hypocalcaemiahypomagnesemiahypophosphatemia), laboratory anomalies (including increased ASTALT and protein in the urine), oedema, hair loss or discolouration, taste changes, abdominal pain, rash, fatigue and bone marrow suppression (including leucopenianeutropeniathrombocytopenia and lymphopenia).”

The Viagra Effect

Luckily, except for the taste changes, abdominal pain, rash, and fatigue, I’ve not experienced those other hard to pronounce side effects. But it’s too early to tell.

Also, it’s not on the list, but I was hoping to suffer from the Viagra side effect. No such luck so far. 

But this is a war on two fronts. There’s the direct war to promote health and protect the body through medical intervention. But when the cost of medication becomes too burdensome, a war is also opened on the financial front. The cost of medical care may be just too much for many Filipinos, especially those who are already on a hand to mouth existence as it were.

I remember a neighbor many years ago. The poor guy was seriously ill and was brought to the hospital. After examination, the doctor said his life can be saved and enumerated the interventions that needed to be done. The mother said they don’t have the money to pay. He told his son, “we don’t have the money for your medicines, let’s just go home.” The son feebly nodded and they went home. He died that night. 

Fortunately, today, such tragic scenes are being avoided. The National Government has a “Malasakit Program” (Thank you Sen. Bong Go) and poor people can enrol themselves in this program so that their hospitalization bills and medicine can be taken cared of. Anybody can just walk to a Malasakit center and fill out forms or they can run to their district congressman and avail of this. Every congressman and Senator draws from the same Malasakit well. 

And then there’s the DSWD’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS). This is a catch all program for people badly needing help but also applies to the sick. 

When, I underwent nephrectomy (removal of my left kidney) last March, the AICS thru DSWD Region 6, was a big help to me. When I was recently hospitalized, half my bill was paid for by the Malasakit program thru the Office of Cong. Janet Garin (salamat gid).   

No Malasakit for Cancer?

Unfortunately, I have yet to stumble upon any government program or agency that extends assistance for buying medicines. Most programs are for cancer victims undergoing chemotherapy and other interventions that entail hospital care.

I’ve written at least two senators, but you end up being referred to Malasakit or DSWD. But the local Malasakit can only help with hospitalization. I suppose I can write a heart-wrenching appeal to DSWD. Why not?

My quest for financial assistance has been a bit more successful on the private side. The Fil-American Cancer Care Association has sent me $1,240. My batchmates in UPHS Class 72 have been generously sharing with me. City Mayor Jerry Trenas sent me some money through my boss, Kgd. Ely Estante. My younger brother, to whom the family often runs to for help, Engr. Herminio Celebria Jr. has remained steadfast and generous.

My good friend and DG Publisher emeritus, Lemuel Fernandez, has likewise pitched in for the cost of a bottle of pazopenib. 

So far, I have enough for three months’ supply (@70,000/month). Hopefully I can find more. I need at least six to nine months of medication. As I promised my children, we will fight this war inch by inch. So far, we are winning!

But lest I forget, there’s a lot of you out there praying for me and giving me encouragement more than I can even imagine. If the Lord can’t hear me, I imagine He’s too busy listening to your prayers for me. I can never be grateful enough.

For those who want to supplement your prayers, my GCash is 09214532790.