Suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds meaning.
When I had a heart problem, my life was limited to everything. There were many “dos and don’ts” I needed to follow. I can’t be like a normal teenage girl who enjoyed any other physical sports and activities. If I do, I always end up inside the clinic with an oxygen mask. I was known to be the “Hazel Grace” (A character from “The Fault In Our Stars” who always carries an oxygen tank with her) of the class. Even going up the stairs was a struggle. My doctor always told me how risky it is to fix my heart problem and that the survival rate will only be 50/50. On the other hand, if it’s not treated right away, I will have problems and complications in the future that even surgery won’t be able to fix it anymore. Needless to say, no matter how hard, I accepted my situation despite everything. However, I always ended up asking: “Why me?”
The Invisible Scars
I lost my mom because of cancer two years ago. I was in Spain for an exchange program when it happened and I did not have the slightest idea about it until I got home in the Philippines three weeks after. Because of what happened, I came to the point where I almost lost my will to go back to university and continue my course. I had so many subjects, projects, missed quizzes and exams that I needed to comply with. Next thing I knew, I was called by the school administrator telling me that I might not graduate. I was drowning, and I couldn’t save myself.
One of my “don’ts” was “don’t engage in too much happiness or too much sadness”. During those nights, when no one was watching, I was inflicted with pain since I couldn’t breathe. My heart was too heavy for me to bear that for a couple of nights, I chose not to sleep anymore because lying down was like choking myself. Then I started to draw lines on my wrist, marking which ones to slash first. Every night I kept redrawing those lines on my wrist, just waiting for the perfect moment to cut it. But what kept me from doing the slash was how the lines would disappear every time I woke up. I needed to draw them again and the cycle went on. I was struggling but I also cared for the people who were there for me.
Everyone I love was trying to save me, their love kept me going but I knew that I can’t be fully saved if I don’t do it myself. I diverted my attention to anything that comes along, hoping it will ease the pain. I joined several school organizations, went to events, accepted design projects and even did a short course internship. I accepted every opportunity to the point that I got burned out because I was trying to fit everything on my schedule. My plate was really, really full and it was not healthy. Then came WYA.
The Visible Scars
When I saw the WYAAP Summer Camp 2018 poster on Facebook, I decided to join hoping that it will change me — and it did. I realized that I needed to go back to the organization who made me understand the importance of the human person hoping I will understand my existence as well. I pushed myself to go in-depth with their mission as it matches with my convictions. WYA taught me that every human person has intrinsic and inviolable dignity. This newfound family reminded me to treat everyone with worth — including myself.
This helped me to take a leap of faith and face one of the biggest battles I’ve had in my life — to undergo the very risky open heart surgery, in hopes that I live a healthy and longer life. It left me with a long scar on my chest and three short ones below it. Scars are a reminder of the things we have endured. It will always remind me of the pain I’ve been through during my open heart surgery, but it’s also a reminder of how I became strong after hitting rock bottom. My scar is the evidence of how I bravely fought for my life and how I believe there’s more to life than staying inside the ICU– barely eating, barely moving, barely breathing, lying on my hospital bed for 15 days, waiting for my next vent suction. Hoping that every time I wake up, I can pinch myself and thank the universe I am not yet dead. I may not be able to avoid the suffering I went through inside the ICU but what kept me forward was, funnily enough, the thought of getting to eat Jollibee (a popular kind of Filipino fast food) again.
WYA taught me that love is the ultimate goal to which man can aspire. It gave me a different perception on life: the idea of self-gift, of self-love. This helped me with all my struggles. I learned to show this by taking care of myself, exercising the freedom to be excellent by working towards the better version of myself and by always keeping my mental and emotional condition at peace.
As what Viktor Frankl mentioned in his Man’s Search for Meaning: “The crowning experience of all, for the homecoming man, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered, there is nothing he need fear anymore — except his God.” If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, that is — it’s meant to be lived.
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Published on: Oct. 25, 2019
Written by Vam Macabanti, a New York Marketing intern from the Philippines
WYA Members have the opportunity to undergo the Certified Training Program (CTP), a comprehensive training that teaches the value of the human person and his capacity for excellence through the lens of understanding human dignity. Dates for the 2020 CTP online batches are now available, sign up today!