• Jasmine Mendiola

Superheroes

“Today is another day to be brave.”

Mio is getting stronger and smarter by the day, as if cancer was just a cough or a cold. He frequently asks, “when are my teachers coming? Can I study now?” He keeps tabs of his medication by like saying, “Mom is today Tuesday? Am I suppose to drink the yucky medicine today?” “Mom I took medicine after breakfast but I woke up late, how will I take my medicine three times today?” “Mom, can you ask Dr. Racho if I can go to Meg’s condo on Sunday? Is it ok?”

I’m not complaining. I have no reason to. With Ondoy and all happening to Filipinos everywhere. I’m lost and I don’t know where to start so I can help. I was told other people are helping anyway I should just focus on Mio. I was neither prayerful or charitable. At the back of my mind, I always believed in the goodness of other people and mine. I didn’t have a lot so I had that excuse that I can only give my time and my energy or talent. All that is devoted to my son these days–or myself. And I feel sooooooooo selfish. I did some prayer-related work and some charity-directed stuff back in school because I knew I can.

My sister and I would roll our eyes on Sundays when our Mom would give us the guilt-trip on going to mass. Ate said she was always scared of not going to heaven since she was a kid so she hardly skipped the Liturgy even if sometimes she wanted to. I, on the other hand, actually did enjoy going to mass. I like singing along the choir (I was even in one for most of my childhood), I liked reading the Gospel and thinking of how it relates to my daily life since I can remember going to mass willfully. So truly, I had that kind of — faith? Obedience to obligation?

I say the same thing to Mio. I never, or at least haven’t, taught him the Our Father, Hail Mary or Glory Be. But we have been praying every night we get the chance to; I ask him if he has when I don’t get the chance to lie down on his bedside and I let him pray his own prayers.

Last week, on one of those nights after chemo, the routine dialogue went something like–

Mom : lets pray

Mio : (sign of the cross)

Mom : Dear God, thank you for this day. Always make Mio a good boy (which is the start of the evening prayer our Mom taught us) Please bless our loved ones and those who take care of us….

do you know who takes care of us?

Mio : Andad, Anmom, my titos, titas, cousins, friends, yayas, ninongs, ninangs…. who else?

Mom : everyone Anak. And pray for those who need it most. Say thank you for everything you received. What are you thankful for?

Mio : thank you for making me sleep so I didn’t feel the needle… thank you for making the owies go away.

Mom : And may tomorrow be a beautiful day.

AMEN.

I’m not a superwoman. I don’t write these things knowing fully well what to impart. I have to battle with thinking twice if I’m sounding too preachy, if I’m too self-absorbed or if I’m actually being honest.

I try to be. And I was told many times that they cry again and again reading through these. I never meant to draw tears. I didn’t even expect help. But I am probably just too damn lucky to deserve this. Or Mio is just a really important angel sent from above to watch over us.

You don’t even know how smart he is, for all you know I can be making this all up. For those who have met him, he probably hasn’t even said more than three words to them. You don’t even live with the comfort of his squeeze and his random i love yous while wrapping his arms around my hips.

I look at my son and he doesn’t look sick at all. He eats like a horse and his cheeks are as big as when he used to gargle 24/7.  He orders his pasalubong for the day the way I tell him to take his medicine everyday. I look at Mio and I wonder how in the world is he sick?

My Mom never lost the “I told you so” jabs since I got pregnant with Mio (or actually–way before that) and hopefully I heard the last of it before Mio was diagnosed of cancer. I never saw it coming and inasumuch as I am confident that cancer doesn’t happen because of something someone did or did not do, I couldn’t help recall my frustration when I was sitting in the rheumatologist’s clinic being amused at how modern her version of the hanging man looked instead of reading the worry in her face while she examined my son’s entire tiny body when all I was asking about was his ailing foot.

I overlooked Mio’s pale lips thinking that he was just really fair than most people, than me. And most of the time I bombard him with kisses which probably make his lips red everytime I saw him. I dismissed his weight thinking that I was thin most of my life since childhood. That’s guilt right there.

I take so much joy in teaching him his task sheets in between chemo days. I should have done that a long time ago. The daily hard stuff, I’m putting on hold. I should have done that a long time ago, too. But no one’s blaming me. In fact, I’m held as a superwoman these days.

My son and all other kids suffering this illness are those who are super. I had to have my pimples injected two weeks ago (not because I’m vain coz they were insanely huge and they tend to grow into boils)  and I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. What a shame. My son goes through seven injections and that’s not even the worst when you compare him to other children.

I visited Iggy, a 20 year old collegiate basketball player suffering with AML. Actually, I visited his mom, Beng. His platelet count was down to four and the hallways of St. Luke’s bone marrow transplant unit looked like a college hallway. I couldn’t help it. Feeling for Beng. I only had a chance to wave at Iggy from the glass window and he had so much joy and strength beneath his bald hair, pale lips and those dull dark eyes that only said “smile, fight.” Do us another favor while Mio’s ok. If you happen to chance upon a really cool baller band or cellphone charm in black with orange, purple, pink or yellow print that says iCANCERvive, please get one and help Iggy. He has creative friends too.

We all have friends. We all have kids or quotable quotes for the day. And we all have some kind of cancer. Have I said that already? Mine lately is this shame I have about not being able to be the best person I used to be at work–because I’m hardly there. Never actually. I try to do some work out of the office, I was used to doing that anyway. It doesn’t sound super to my bosses I’m sure. O yeah I work. I try to get some work done. I try to accomplish something and make some money besides the gifts given us. Promise.

I’ve been staring at my writing for hours. I haven’t blogged for a week. My thoughts are all over the place and aside from gratitude, I am apparently still confused. My son is getting better. So why again?

Because no one’s super until we try. Or we’re forced to be. Forgive me if I take it off sometimes, the superhero suit. But I have to be brave. Shame on me if I don’t coz our children are.

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Jasmine Mendiola

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©2019 by Jasmine Mendiola