Leukemia Patient Mischelle Cuajotor is interviewed by a group of Far Eastern University (FEU) NSTP students. Following is their article:
August 2, 2012 – We went to St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Quezon City to meet Pastora Norma Manuel, the Outreach Director for EPCALM. She was the one who was visiting leukemia patients. But by the time we got there, she was not there anymore, instead, we met with Ms. Emma Magsino, EPCALM’s Executive Director. Ms. Emma oriented us about the objectives, vision and mission of their foundation, EPCALM. She told us the stories of the different leukemia patients who EPCALM is journeying with throughout their disease. She showed us ways wherein we could volunteer help for the patients. We chose to do patient visitation and interview an EPCALM patient. We decided to interview Ms. Mischelle Cuajotor about her recent past.
“Minsan yung mga taong hindi mo inasahang tutulong sayo, sila pa yung makakasama mo sa mga pagsubok upang malagpasan ang lahat ng ito.” (…Sometimes, the people who you don’t expect to help you, are even the ones who goes along with you throughout your trials, until the time that you can surpass all of these…).
Mischelle Cuajotor is one of the adult leukemia patients that EPCALM is currently helping. She is only 25 years old and graduated from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) with the course of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, majoring in Marketing Management.
According to her, she had a not-so-good lifestyle back in high school, college and even when she was already working. Back in her school days, she was not that friendly, she never approached those who were not members of her “barkada” (exclusive group of friends). She also told us that back then, she was just a typical student whose goal was to just pass the subjects even without giving much effort. Her first course in college was Accountancy, but because the books she needed were quite expensive, she shifted to Marketing. She really loved her first course but she had no choice because of the expenses. But according to her, she enjoyed her college life being a Marketing Major student. She was also a working student during her college days. She worked in Jollibee and Tokyo Tokyo to gain extra income for her necessities.
After college, she worked as a teller in one of the country’s biggest banks, and stayed there for almost 5 months. She decided to resign from the bank though, even when she was about to become a regular employee. Her reason for resigning was because of the not-so-high salary she was getting from the bank. Since she was supporting her family financially, her salary from the bank was not enough, so she left. During that time, she got a text from a leading global IT management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, informing her that there was a slot for her. She grabbed the opportunity and worked for the IT Company and stayed there for 14 months. She was assigned to the night shift. During that time, she tried to remember the events, reasons or the contributory factors as to how she got the disease: Maybe her lifestyle (she was always walking under the rain even though she had an umbrella in her bag); eating processed food; not getting enough sleep because of her work; rebonding of hair (she remembered that around October or November last year, she got her hair rebonded and she is looking if this could also be the reason why she got her disease); and her being exposed to chemicals because every time she goes to her work, she always passes by a pharmaceutical compound, which might have exposed her to different chemicals. Also, since she was working the night shift and not getting enough sleep, she had a very low immune system.
Last December, 2011, Mischelle had fever and tonsillitis and noticed that her throat was swelling. She decided to go to a nearby hospital for a check up. The doctor said that it was pharyngitis so the doctor gave her antibiotics. She took antibiotics for 3 days and noticed that the swelling subsided; she decided to stop taking the medicine. But the next day, her throat started to swell again and it even got worst. She went back to the hospital for another check up and the doctor scolded her for not following the prescription. The doctor gave her another antibiotic with higher dosage and she bought the prescribed medicine good for 10 days intake. By January 31, 2012, she got admitted to another hospital because her blood count gradually went down. Her doctor told her that she might be a leukemia candidate, even without doing any tests. Mischelle got frustrated that time because of what her doctor told her. Her doctor advised her that she needed to have a confirmatory bone marrow test but she refused because of the expenses. But in the end, she agreed with the bone marrow test and it was confirmed that she was positive for leukemia. By that time, her doctor told her that she must undergo chemotherapy.
Mischelle, once again refused her doctor’s advice because she knew what chemotherapy could do to one’s body. Her doctor told her that if she was not going to undergo chemotherapy her life expectancy will range from 3-5 months. Still, Mischelle did not listen and discharged herself from the hospital. When she went home, the company healthcard doctor visited her to check her condition, because she was not reporting to work anymore. When the doctor saw her, he said that she already needed a blood transfusion because her color was lifeless. When the doctor left, she decided to go back to the first hospital for blood transfusion, but her doctor in said hospital talked to her and told her that she really needed to undergo chemotherapy. Mischelle agreed, but before she could undergo said procedure, her doctor discovered that she had pneumonia. They decided to treat her pneumonia first before letting her undergo chemotherapy. After 10 days, her pneumonia was treated. Just when her doctor was about to schedule her for chemotherapy, Mischelle refused again. She went home, but then she realized that she really needed to undergo chemotherapy, so she decided to go back to the hospital the next day. When they were about to schedule her chemotherapy, they discovered that Mischelle had fungal pneumonia. So, they treated her fungal pneumonia once again and then she underwent chemotherapy. She was shocked when all of her blockmates visited her. The company healthcard supported her necessities like medicines, even her blockmates and co-workers did a fund raising to help her but still was not enough for her medical needs (check-up, medicines and etc.).
Today she’s just staying at home and hoping that she will recover from her leukemia. She is taking food supplements now and she is in the stage of recovery. She is not even sure whether the cancer cells are dead, she wants to have a test but doesn’t have enough money to undergo a biopsy. We asked her what she has learned from this challenge:
“….Madami syempre, mas naging close ako sa family ko. Tapos dapat matuto kayong pahalagahan ang family niyo and yung life niyo at i-enjoy ninyo lang kasi maikli ang ang buhay.
Isa pa, mag-ingat ka sa mga binibitiwan mong salita, kasi di ba minsan sinasabi natin na sana mamatay na lang tayo. Mag-ingat kayo kasi baka sakakaulit-ulit niyo baka dinggin kayo ni God.
Enjoy life. Marami pa, pero yun talaga ang pinaka natutunan ko…”
(A lot for sure, my relationship with my family has grown closer. You also have to learn to value your family and life more, and enjoy life because life is short.
Another is that we have to be careful with the words that we say, because God might just hear the words that we keep on repeating say like … hopefully we will just die…
Enjoy life. I still have a lot to say, but what I just said are really the biggest lessons I have learned…).
After hearing the lessons she had learned, we all agreed to have a moment of silence as if we were reminiscing those things she shared, straight from the bottom of her heart. We asked her how did she know about EPCALM,
“……Actually, tinext ko si Che-che na tulungan naman ako na maghanap ng foundation tapos dalawa yung nakita niya yung kay Francis M and yung EPCALM, eh yung EPCALM adult leukemia ang hawak nila kaya yun kinontact namen yung EPCALM yun Amerikano pa nga yung nakausap namen edi enghlishan syempre….”
(..Actually, I texted my friend, Che-che to help me look for a foundation, and she was able to find two: Francis Magalona’s Foundation and EPCALM, but Che-che only had EPCALM’s contact number, so we contacted EPCALM. When we called up, we were able to talk to an American volunteer, so we were forced to talk in English…)
she said. She didn’t expect that Che-che will help her because they don’t even have time together to have some fun, and they don’t talk to each other always.
After asking her that question she gave us a remarkable phrase:
“….Minsan yung mga taong hindi mo inaasahang tutulong sayo, sila pa yung makakasama mo sa mga pagsubok upang malagpasan ang lahat ng ito…..”
(…Sometimes, the people who you don’t expect to help you, are even the ones who goes along with you throughout your trials, until the time that you can surpass all of these…).
That really touched our hearts.
Following are the insights from the students:
“…….When I heard the story of Mischelle Cuajotor, I realized that she was lucky and blessed. It instilled in my mind this quote/verse in the bible, “By the stripes of your blood I’m healed”. She didn’t lose hope even if her family had many problems such as financials.”
– Luis Carlo Abello
“Last Monday, September 3, 2012, we were able to reach ate Michelle (a patient who is suffering from leukemia) and talked about everything under the sun. She is such a funny person. I could see myself in her. I love the way she talks, as if she’s not sick. Looking into her eyes, I could see how sincere she is in her every word she says and at the back of that i could also feel how much pain she feels in her situation. I love how the conversation flowed, she talked, she laughed and smiled, but in the back of my mind, how could she smile and laugh despite of her sickness? As I think deeper I could really conclude that she is a strong person. Despite of her not having enough funds to support her medical needs, you could see in her eyes that she’s not giving up and she will surpass this sickness. The fact that I could see how she carries herself, she will survive in this obstacle.”
“…..Alagaan nyo ang mga katawan nyo habang bata pa kayo kasi yan lang ang puhunan nyo….”
(..Take care of your body while you are still young, because that is your only investment (in life)..), ate michelle said.
She’s right, we can’t do everything we want if we’re sick. So upon hearing how she got her leukemia I’m now trying to change my lifestyle and do the things that make me happy. She makes things possible. She is an inspiring person.”
– Sitti Adelene Ahamad
“After hearing the story of Miss Mischelle, I was afraid that i might also have a disease due to my lifestyle. She said that she always walks under the rain without an umbrella because she is too lazy to bring it out, she always eat instant food and she always sleep late. I see myself in her because I also do those things; I always walk under the rain without any umbrella even though I have it in my bag. I really like eating instant foods and unhealthy foods like French fries and street foods I don’t even eat vegetable and lastly, I always sleep late because of social networking sites like Facebook, twitter, YouTube and etc. I don’t even care about myself.
What I’ve learned from her story is that I should give more priority to my health because if I will not take care of myself and I might get sick in the future, I will regret it for sure. I was inspired by her story because I’ve seen her courage in facing her problems. I thought that I have all the worst problems but when I look at her challenges, it seems like my challenges are just a small piece of hers.”
“It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver” — Mahatma Gandhi”
– Rachelle Belialba
“September 3, 2012 – We went to Michelle’s house to have an interview about her life story. It was quite far but all the time we spent was really worth it. I was the first one to arrive at her house so; I asked her some questions about her life. I was really impressed by her strong personality. I can say that Ms. Michelle is indeed a strong person because even though she has been through all the trials in life, she still manages to smile.
I learned a lot of things from her story. Like her, I also do not have a good lifestyle. I always stay up late and I patronize processed foods that much. Her story was a lesson to me and to all the youth. Yes, we should live life to the fullest but we also need to know our limit. We should know how to value the life that God has given us. Our NSTP Community Immersion Project is really a life changing experience.”
– Lady Ann Oliveros
“I have experienced and realized a lot of things when I heard Miss Mischelle’s story. By these experiences I learned that I should now first change my lifestyle for having good health, I should also take care of myself so that I will not be someone’s burden and I can help more specially my family.”
– Diana Mae Pasadilla
“I learned a lot of things from the story of our patient, always believe on God’s actions because He always has a purpose on what He is doing. I learned that you should cherish all of your friends because you will be depending on them when you can’t anymore handle your problem, always love all the people around you because maybe tomorrow they are not there anymore. I now understand why I should be thankful when I wake up every day without any disease.”
– John Philip Sioson
Please help Mischelle with her finances as she seeks Leukemia treatment.
Click on the donate button.
Postscript: Mischelle has joined our Maker last May 2013.