Emma Magsino, EPCALM Executive Director, writes about her visit with Arlene Bismanos, Leukemia Patient.
“… I shy away from visiting sick people because I don’t feel equipped with encouraging words to uplift their spirits. I am afraid to say a word that will dampen their spirits or I will end up crying and being consoled because I can easily empathize and show my real feelings or I will be dumbfounded. I would rather pray for them during my quiet time with the Lord. I tried to find all available excuses so I will not visit.
My first face to face encounter with Arlene was really a chance to conquer and embrace my fears.
Arlene Bismanos with Daughter
Arlene has been a patient beneficiary of EPCALM since 2011, having been diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia last December 2010 during her pregnancy with her fourth child. As I anxiously waited for Arlene to arrive at the Lifestyle’s Office in Alabang, I was surprised to see a beaming smile from Arlene, it was as if she welcomed me rather than me welcoming her. She didn’t look sick at all. Arlene started the conversation instantaneously. She started talking about her improved health. She was suffering from liver inflammation since July this year. Because of this, she could not leave the house, she felt tired all the time, weak and her body and eyes were yellowish, face and extremities were bloated and she felt pains in her stomach.
While Arlene was talking non-stop, I was validating what I felt. I was surprised, I felt comfortable, relaxed, and I felt joy in my heart. I can empathize but not carried away and can engage into a meaningful discussion. Whew! Just like that! My fears went away. Amazing!
Arlene is a recipient of food supplements from a donor to help her detox and improve her immune system while taking her medications for chemotherapy and liver. According to her, the detoxification took almost three weeks but she endured it and was happy because her stamina greatly improved, she is no longer bloated and jaundice gone. However, her laboratory tests still shows inflammation of liver and her blood count is still not normal so she still has to continue her medications and food supplements.
Why is she beaming with happiness despite her condition? “Before I got sick, as soon as I send my children to school, I will be with my friends in the neighborhood doing a lot of “chismis” (talking behind one’s back), playing “tong-its” (card game) and at night I always start a fight with my husband if he goes home late from work. If I needed money so I can play cards, I will look for a customer so I can wash clothes and play cards as long as I want to. But a dramatic change came into my life after I got leukemia because I found Jesus and He changed my heart. I am even happy I got sick of leukemia because I can feel the joy, peace and happiness even if we are still struggling to survive. Today, I don’t go out to get “chismis”, I just want to be with my children and my relationship with my husband has been restored. We are going to finally get married this September. I am happy now”.
Arlene is selfless and kind-hearted. As she said, her family is really struggling to survive since her husband’s salary from driving a truck is not enough to feed a family of six. But she welcomed her brother with wife and a two (2) month old baby to live with them temporarily because their shanty house cannot hold the heavy rains and typhoons. She selflessly accepted this challenge despite the fact she will be exposed to a baby who just got out of the hospital because of broncho-pneumonia.
So today, two families (10 persons) including her mother live in one-room and sleep in one big bamboo bed (courtesy of Pastor Norma). Being exposed to all types of bacteria, Arlene’s condition will really suffer but she cannot deny his brother’s family shelter from the typhoons. Arlene is excited to talk about her mini-farm. EPCALM through Pastor Norma Manuel and her volunteers (see related article – Helping Lives, Building Eternal Bridges ) took pains in setting-up a mini garden surrounding the house of Arlene. The ampalaya is so healthy that it grows and climbs to the unroofed sala of Arlene’s house and her neighbors all want to take the fruits and leaves from her garden. She harvested some of the vegetables already. Small project as it is, Arlene and her husband get to share the joy of gardening together. She said it helped improve their communication lines, release stress and improve food intake from their organic garden.
While still thinking of how she can be cancer free, she also wants to get help for her 13 year old daughter who is a special child and suffering from congenital heart disease and dwarfism, and how to send her eldest son to college next year. Arlene wishes to thank EPCALM and her other donors for helping her sustain her life. Knowing that she is the only survivor from her cancer batch mates in PGH, Arlene is truly a fighter, armed with God’s promises and positive attitude, she is surely on the road to recovery and rediscovery of life ahead. Arlene learned to conquer and embrace her fears. So did I….”