Monday, March 21, 2016

MOMOL vs Beach Sex

"I'm watching The Affair on TV," Helliza messaged. "It's about Richard Gomez who fucks..."
"I know," I interrupted her with glee. "I've seen it in the cinema. I had a date."
"Who was your date?!?!" Helliza enthused.

A few months ago we had an early morning committee meeting with the research team in a hospital in the province. Said meeting ended at ten a.m., and the next activity was 5 pm. I had zero zero zero patients, I barely had any friends there, and there was nothing else to do... but watch The Affair in the mall beside the hospital.

While waiting for the movie to start, drinking my mango juice and tweedling through my phone, who should I see walking in but... the parish priest. He is also a member of the said research group, and I guess he had no masses or confessions to hold. We weren't really close, but we saw each other at the exact moment. I guess he felt a bit compelled to sit with me. But he left an empty seat between us. Awkwaaaaard.

I'm not the best at small talk, but good thing priests are THE BEST PEOPLE AT DOING SMALL TALK. I guess while we as doctors do need social skills to build rapport with patients, there is still that very specific topic of disease that we would eventually discuss with them. Priests, on the other hand, listen to confessions, talk to the elderly lay, give advice to everyone, etc. I only needed to mutter unintelligible mutters and yes and yes father I agree.

Finally the movie, and small talk ended. It's about Richard Gomez a neurosurgeon who cheated on his wife Dawn because she cheated first, although as Dawn said, there was no fucking, just MOMOL. Richard would not hear any of it, so he didn't just MOMOL Bea Alonzo, he fucked her. On a giant rock by the beach. It looked uncomfortable for them, but more for me, who felt like a 7-year old watching Regal Shocker on TV when suddenly there was a kissing scene and my mother was there beside me. It's the discomfort of not knowing whether to pretend like you weren't aroused, but you weren't even really aroused, you just wanted them to think you weren't thereby looking like you were SUPER AROUSED. While Richard was pumping Bea (who should get acute spinal cord compression because that's a ROCK she was lying on), I shot a furtive glance at Father Auerbach. I don't know what I was expecting to see on his face, but there was nothing unremarkable there. He wasn't pretending to cover his eyes or something.

The movie ended and as we were walking out of the cinema Father Auerbach gave an advice. It was fantastically related to the movie (ie what's the moral lesson of the story, son?), and even somehow related to me as a relatively young doctor at the beginning of my practice.
"You doctors are good people. You study for years and years on end. and are truly dedicated in your work. Which is why when you reach middle age you sometimes get tired of it all and become tempted. I've talked to so many doctors who've cheated only when they got old. You have to pray, don't be like Richard Gomez's character a neurosurgeon who despite his loving family etc etc."

Good thing he had to say goodbye immediately because he had to pee. Under awkward situations I say the worst things. If we didn't immediately part ways I must have probably stammered something like "do you think that's uncomfortable, I mean the rock, I mean the rock on the beach, I mean...."


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Pa-check-check.

I've recently deactivated my facebook and instagram accounts, and was astounded at how infrequently I am now checking my phone. It has hit me that I've become addicted to checking out the photos of other people, specifically toy photos, that I would spend hours and hours on end scrolling and scrolling like a maniac. We would also whine about some friend's constant updating of her life (every single detail, like how many steps their foyer is from the gate, then in another post rant about security issues), and our morbid fascination at her fantastic life has run out.

Like you have anything better to do with your time, you say.

Of course I do. I like staring into space. And checking my skin for possible melanoma. Or looking for things to throw in the trash. And there's that folder of movies Helliza has given me from back in April 2014. And the toys, they have been at their most disorganized in the eskaparate, having endured multiple photo shoots and such. I'm now giving them a break from photo ops.

And now that I have to write about it, it has hit me that I haven't written in a long time. Nobody reads blogs anymore, but as I've said many times in my old entries I primarily write for my own entertainment. I kinda like the way I write. I enjoy reading it. I've been reading my old entries recently and was surprised at the things I've experienced, the people I've met, the people I've lost.

This is probably just withdrawal.


Monday, June 15, 2015

Sliding and Whining and Overcoming in Sagada

A few weeks ago we had our midyear oncology convention in Baguio. I've always been leery of conventions, as most of the stuff that would be discussed could be read on the internet. But then again, everything could be done at home now and if we try to do it that way we would develop cabin fever and become murderous. Not that attending conventions makes you feel any less murderous--with all the lectures punctuated by the required dance and acting performances, but at least you could hila your batchmates and escape and go somewhere away from any talk about cancer, cancer, and fucking cancer.

After the convention we set-up a bit of a sidetrip to Sagada. We've seen That Thing Called Tadhana, and we've wondered how many people in Kiltepan Point looks like JM and Angelica. We left Baguio Country Club at around 4 am. Cast of characters: Gee-lado, Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore, Oxali, and Monakiki. Of us all I and Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore (who is no longer in a You You You Oughtta Know mode, more like Head Over Feet mode now AHOY!) are the most mahiluhin, so we've wondered just how nakakahilo the way to Sagada really was. We never expected it to be a 5-hour non-stop Kennon Road ikutan level, and at some point I think I've passed out.

We made a bit of a stop over at what was labelled as the "Highest Point". It was an amazing sight, made more amazing by the availability of restrooms. Drop 10 pesos here for urination, 20 pesos for defecation, a coin box at the entrance said. "Hindi ka ba iihi, William," Oxali said. I said I was not in the mood. "Baka maging twenty pesos ako pag nasa loob na," I said.

When we arrived there was already a booked hostel room waiting for us, thanks to Monakiki's skills in arranging itineraries and stuff. Monakiki's travel skills throughout the entire thing have totally turned us into totally dependent whiners-- Monakiki saan tayo kakain, Monakiki anong next, Monakiki asan si manong driver Monakiki Monakiki Monakiki--everything Monakiki has more than satisfactorily fulfilled, answered, accomplished with a smile. We are planning to go to New Zealand and Japan as long as Monakiki is with us.

We went inside the Sumagui Cave. What they said about there being a chance of dying might be a bit exaggerated, but you could definitely get brain contusion, fractured humeri, and be in a coma for years on end as the rocks to climb were so slippery. We always welcome the good naturedness and humor of Oxali, except when we were climbing a rope and a short giggle could mean falling in the water.

Oxali: Ahahahaha grabe no tanda nyo ba yung dati, nung...
Me: THIS IS NOT THE FUCKING TIME!!!

By the time we finished the last leg of the climb out of the cave (270 steps of stairs or so), some other tourists were just coming in. Probably oblivious of our COPD-level gasping, they all asked us in unison:
"Malayo ba?'
"Nakakahingal?"
"Madilim?"
"Parang OK lang naman siguro no?"
"Madulas?"

To which we wanted to say: THIS IS NOT THE FUCKING TIME!!!

By dawn we went to the much-praised Kiltepan Cave. The sight was wonderful, with the sunrise and the clouds and the cold and the shared coffee while sitting on rocks, but most importantly I was in awe at the interest people had at the beauty of nature, because for all our differences and our complexities and our careers and our time-consciousness raw nature grips everyone the same way--except for our van driver who is the nega-est person on the planet.
"Clouds lang pala makikita dyan," we heard him murmur.

See, no matter how nega you think you are there will always be someone more nega.

One More Try

Today I only have one patient to rounds, and I have no scheduled clinic, tasks, and other responsibilities (as far as I want to admit--of course there are my QURE responsibilities where I have to score the online tests of oncologists overseas, the lengthy tax stuff I have to prepare, the toys that still need to be taken photos of, and other trifles). Maybe it's the pasukan blues, but most of my patients have decided they wanted their chemoes rescheduled due to financial constraints. It astounds me how one chemo session could cost a whole year of their high school kids' tuition fees, but there are things I would opt not to ruminate about right now lest I get depressed as hell. And of course there are the mortalities, it's been a bad two months for mortalities.

Yesterday I've decided I wouldn't do anything productive. For some reason or another I didn't want to write, read anything of substance, or watch any movie or TV show. So I've lain in bed the whole fucking day and scrolled scrolled scrolled thru my devices for the most useless crap on the internet. Mostly I've watched 90's music videos, which would lead me to look for live/concert performances, which would lead me to search Wikipedia for some behind the scenes details. Proof of how far I've gone: I've watched the Kula Shaker video Govinda which has been on heavy repeat in MTV back in 1997. I don't know anybody who knows anybody who knows anybody in the current multiverse who still has Kula Shaker in their subconscious, and I don't even like that band, but for some reason it popped in my head and I've decided to waste 5 minutes on it. I've looked at Instagram cake pictures of the cousin of a friend of a co-worker's girlfriend, and marvelled at the millions of travel pictures of Ardee Lugo. I was essentially just waiting since 7 am for the basketball game of Ginebra at 5:15 PM, and by the time the team lost again miserably I went back to scrolling the fuck out of the day.

It made me feel horrible. I didn't know exactly how I would describe the experience, until Zen Queen of The Arthritides succinctly told me how it feels:

"I've done that before. At the end of the day you feel like SHIT."

And what a shitty feeling it indeed was. I could imagine invisible giant bangyaws buzzing around me as I corpsily whiled away valuable time. Argument could be made for downtime being good, but the same could be said for being emotionally dead--sounds appealing and dramatic, but you're still emotionally dead just the same regardless how you feel about it.

Back in February 2013 as a sort of farewell to our lives as Hellows, Frichmond, Smoketh and I went to the UP Fair. We stopped over on the way to the restaurant owned by Kuya Bodjie in an attempt to see Kuya Bodjie, but to no avail. We had pasta and stuff. I saw a long-haired girl with a bunch of burloloys all over, a long flowy scarf around her neck, tan-lines and all the trappings, and she was typing on her Mac while sipping her taragon tea. I took a quick glance at what she was typing and saw that she was writing a screenplay. That made me sad as I've reflected on a career I've wanted back then, a career that could have led me on a totally different direction until I was diskarilled by this thing called... all together now... LIFE.

After a year of re-establishing some practical order in my life I've sort of decided now that maybe we should give this dead non-career one more try, there are downtimes waiting for it. I've looked at some avenues for it, some very tempting, but all having nothing to do with my present career as a doctor. Life might not have been the most cooperative of all things, but instead of forcing it to cooperate maybe I could just give it one crispy, giant middle finger.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Gaaaah!

"Ayoko nang umasa at masaktan na muli," I texted Tokwa Boy-- pure, visceral, jinarteritic words I never thought I would tell anyone, much less to someone named Tokwa Boy.

It was in response to his text message: "Kapit bayan!"

We were of course talking about the latest Ginebra VS Purefoods game, a once-a-conference duel dubbed as Manila Classico for its historic undertones. Ginebra was down by 19 points but eventually got the lead, which was taken over again by Purefoods after one quarter. I don't know why I stuck with Ginebra all these years even as the line-ups have inevitably changed and the popularity of the league has continuously dwindled, but for better or worse I did. Other than Tokwa Boy I don't know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone who still watches PBA. And I've avoided participating in any online conversations about it because good lordy you would believe that those fans could really kill someone.

Ginebra of course lost miserably. I turned off the TV when they were down by 7 points with 30-seconds left. The supposed superstar Korean import Kim getting I think just one out of more than five 3-point attempts, Mark Caguioa doing all sorts of turn-overs and eventually an injury, Gregzilla never having been able to get back into the groove after a prolonged absence etc. etc. etc., it was enough to make me cry.

The last time I watched a game live was in 1997. It was in Cuneta Astrodome, it's that game where Allan Caidic fell on the floor and vomited and the camera caught Jaworski sort of laughing. After that game we ate in Wendy's where we had Wendy's fried chicken and I asked my mom if I could have frosty but she said we had no money left. No matter, we were in high spirits because Ginebra won. Allan Caidic would eventually coach Ginebra. In med school I missed the career-high years of Caguioa and Helterbrand, the people said they were really great, because by the time I got back into the fold they were being overshadowed by the younger players.

Ginebra will get eliminated in this round, they won't be able to even proceed to the quarter finals. The last time this happened TV5 interviewed a man who cried and cried in front of the camera and asked that there be a change in the coaching staff. They changed the coach all right, they pulled Cariaso in, who was fired after two conferences because he couldn't rally the team and he was replaced by Ato Agustin who hasn't fared any better. In came Frankie Lim but it looks like it would goodbye for him too.

So in the last few minutes last night I didn't make asa anymore and I think it softened the blow somewhat. Coincidentally this came in the heels of watching for the first time the movie Starting Over Again in channel 2 a few hours before the PBA game, One of the learning points of the movie is: don't be addicted to hope.







Gift-elyamae

Of all the things I am most lazy about it's buying clothes. I hate it. I hate shopping. I hate picking shirts and most specially pants, going to the fitting room, undressing, and putting them on. Then going out to get more sizes. I abhor it. Next only to going for a hair cut, dental prophylaxis, and other grooming necessities. There are so many fucking requirements to look like a person that sometimes I just want to give up. Back in the college and med school when my parents would subsidize me clothes would just miraculously appear in my closet which I would wear until they are worn out.

Upon entering private practice though I was told in no uncertain terms that I should no longer wear my favorite Batman and X-Files t-shirts. I should look professional, they said. I should look like someone people would be willing to pay when they consult or undergo kikimo. Trifles, trifles. But sometimes we have to stop living in our proverbial UP Diliman campus and get rid of anything tie-dyed or denim.

So a few weeks ago I've decided to schedule days to buy all the material things "needed" to look like a person. I just have these other issues when buying material things other than being from pure laziness--after years of living off ten pesos per day during hellowship I have been content with window shopping, pinching pennies and sealing them off with an imaginary adhesive in my wallet like an old man who survived World War II and the Depression. I also think buying material stuff is very un-Christian-- chalk it up to my being brought up by nuns in a Catholic school where "charity is chastity" or something. And of course, as I always tell Hellize, Smoketh, Frichmond, and Henj to the point of karindihan, I need to save because I never know when I'll be needing expensive chemo.

Good thing some of my patients specially those I don't singil give me clothes for gifts. Most of the time they don't fit, and of course I'm too lazy to go to the mall to have them exchanged. I usually ask my mother or my sister to do that task for me. A few days ago I got a tight-fitting t-shirt for a gift, the kind that not only fails to hide the flabs and the man-boobs but actually flaunts them. After going to the store for the exchange my mom and sister exclaimed:

"Anak ang mahal pala ng t-shirt na yan dalawang libo! Kaya lang wala kaming makitang magugustuhan mo na kapalit.... kaya ipinalit na lang namin ng blouse, isa sakin isa sa ate mo."

Happy to have shared the love!


Zen

Helliza is back in the shore. She has successfully completed her internal medicine training and passed the specialty board exams, and while she has the option to leave--LEAVE!-- the hospital, she has decided to stay and train further to become a rheumatologist. Rheumatology is not something I am most fond of. You see, back in college in UP Diliman, I had no plans of entering med school but Mrs. Therese said she would go to the UP College of Medicine so I copied her plans. Once in med school I had no plans of going into internal medicine specialty training but Mrs. Therese said she would go into it so I copied her as well. So far so good, I said, I did not have to think of my own disposition in life, I only needed to copy a model. After residency we submitted an application for Oncology training together and I thought hellowship would be less hellish if Mrs. Therese would be there to listen to my endless whines. A few weeks later she changed her mind. "Gusto kong gumamot ng mga lolang masasakit ang tuhod," she said. In my irrational selfishness I still always wonder how hellowship would have smarted less, how easily survivable it would have been, had she been there.

So far Helliza seems to be enjoying her stay as a rheueueheuma hellow, treating all sorts of lupus with all sorts of complications (the young, the old, the pregnant--all audit-baits). She has so far been able to become zen through it all, waking up early in the morning to meditate, pray, speak tongues, levitate--before going on rounds to receive all sorts of crap as all hellows should get used to.

While messaging each other in Messenger a few nights ago I've sensed this zen-ness. She sounded calm, collected, at peace.

After a long conversation about all sorts of things I sort of drifted away for a while so I said:
"I'm in the bathroom right now. I'm taking a bath. I need to listen to a podcast as I take a bath,"
"Okaaaay. Hindi ba mababasa yang iphone mo."
"Hindi naman, I always wrap it in my used underwear para hindi mabasa."

*cricket*

"WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU TELL ME THAT DISGUSTING INFORMATION?!? YOU PUT THAT THING ON YOUR FACE! YOUR LIPS ALMOST TOUCH THAT PHONE!!!"

As I said, zen.

14 Years

For some strange reason this blog has beckoned to me to write today, and I discovered that tomorrow would mark the one year that I have not written anything. Gone were the days when I would get all fidgety when I would fail to write something new. Back in college I would require myself to write 4 short stories during Christmas/semestral breaks. Those stories I would then give to Mrs. Therese come return of classes, which she would give back to me with side notes/comments which are more hilarious than the actual stories. But then real life kicked in: training, poverty, sickness, death. Since starting a Friendster (FRIENDSTER!) blog and then moving here I have resolved never to write anything about being a doctor-- none of that dramatic/pandering stuff about saving patients' lives and all that and for the most part I think I have been successful. This was because writing was a way to detach myself from the harsh realities of real life. The closest thing about medical training/residency/hellowship training I would write about would be my interactions with the crazy cast of characters (ie, friends, batchmates, weird superiors) that I was blessed with. But for the past year and half, since leaving hellowship training, that crazy cast of characters has all but disappeared.

I sometimes get a whiplash when I see how things have radically changed. The past years have rushed past so quickly, like that giant wheel-like thing with spikes in the Justice League season 1 finale, rolling over everything in its direction. A high school friend has visited me in my clinic a few days ago to sell me insurance. She has apparently been paying also for an insurance for 14 years now. "FOURTEEN YEARS..." I muttered dramatically as I tried to recall what I have been doing for 14 years. "In the past fourteen years I have been... I have wasted fourteen fucking years studying to become a doctor... and for what, so I could save up enough money for... DEATH?! "

ARTE!

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Mother Model Of Marketification

We've always known that no hospital or other doctors would be tripping all over themselves to refer to us once we started our practice, but we never realized how difficult it would be just to make people know that we exist.

Enter my mother, who got hold of my box of business cards and started handing them out like a mad woman. She has excellent marketing skills--ie, she would go to the market everyday to buy stuff to cook, and give out my business cards to any familiar face. At one point while chatting in the palengke grounds with her high school classmate Aling Poquita, she noted that Aling Poquita's friend has facial edema. "Uy bakit sya manas?" my mother (who has started to develop a clinical eye) asked, and before I knew it random people she has chatted in the palengke were coming to our house for consults. I told my mom that solicitation is not ethical, but she insists that she is only trying to help these people none of whom were seeing any doctor for their condition at that time.

One of the old stuff we sell in our hardware is something called "sahing", resin used for industrial purposes. This stuff is also being used by albularyo's because of its inherent heat--its the gunk they use to stick those small square papers, on which prayers are written, all over the patient's body. Eventually people in really depressed areas who couldn't even afford the "donations" for albularyo's would self-medicate with sahing. On many instances people would buy sahing from my mom, and my mom would ask, "Aay, san mo gagamitin?" This would progress into a long story about a mass palpated on the inguinal area, or an aching knee, or a black spot noted on the sole of a foot which started to swell and bleed.
"Aaaay, hindi gamot ang sahing," my mom would start. "Alam mo may anak kong doktor."

The latest extreme marketification stunt happened back in March when I was delivering my speech to elementary school graduates as the, barf, guest speaker. I didn't even know that my mother watched the darn thing. But it was even more unbelievable when she told me, beaming with pride at her own marketing zest, that while I was speaking on stage, she was slowly going around the audience area... giving my business cards to random parent saying anak ko po yan stuff!!! Eeeep!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sober

In one fantastic episode of the TV show Smallville a super-powered girl sits atop the town water tank making muni-muni. Meanwhile Lex Luthor is thrown into a cell for killing Lana Lang, while in China Lana Lang is shown very much alive, wearing a wig and looking all serious. We are made to believe that the super-powered girl is a young Wonder Woman when she stands up, puts on a pair of metallic bracelets, and does the iconic Wonder Woman/Linda Carter pose with her legs spread out and hands to her waist. She then flies up to the moon. To be continued. Throughout this montage of scenes plays the song Sober by Kelly Clarkson.
                I am reminded of this scene because I’ve realized that I have been very much sober since I've completed my sub-specialization stint in Manila, which is now almost over a year. Not from an active effort, but more from lack of opportunity. For 13 years I’ve lived in Malate, where a bar is just a few steps away. Oar House, a tiny cozy bar located along Adriatico, boomed at around 2010, thanks to the recommendation of Frichmond. One could just go there alone and in a few minutes see friends from the hospital--not that you'd always want to, sometimes you see that fellow/resident/nurse you've had a recent disagreement with and you're not sure you want to clink glasses with her as if she hasn't rejected your referral for hyponatremia (napaka-specific). Whereas our prior routine just consisted of ending our day studying in Pan Pacific Gloria Jeans Shrine Motherfucker 1, we’ve gained new endurance as the night would be further capped off with a couple of drinks in Oar House which we’ve started to call Whore House. Later on during sub-specialization boards aralan the night would be pushed further with a UN Avenue McDo visit. Those times when people started to become unavailable I would run to the Blue Room at 11:30 pm and drink by my lonesome, which I didn't really find poetic, pathetic, sad, dramatic, or weird--it is what it is.
                Strangely the song Sober has a stand-out line which perfectly captures how we think, or should think, during our reminiscences: 3 months and I’m still sober, picked all my weeds but kept the flowers. As an example, we always used to get to sit beside horribly noisy conyo girls in Shrine Motherfucker 1 and Oar House. Now those are weeds we want to step on.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Snap Out of It, DC!

By 2010 the long cumbersome individual storylines that have prevented the major characters of DC from coming together to form the Justice League once again have been coming to a close. The "walking saga" written by Michael J. Straczynski which saw Superman walking and walking and walking across the United States for 12 fucking issues has finally ended. Wonder Woman has finally come to her senses and was able to go back to her starry panties, surviving the dismal All-New Wonder Woman 14-issue run of… gasp, Michael J. Straczynski! And after getting transported into the past when he was zapped by Darkseid in the Final Crisis, Batman has successfully returned to the present after many, many years and many, many issues which seemed to run forever. Barry Allen is alive after 2009’s mediocre The Flash Rebirth, Hal Jordan is alive after 2004’s rather fantastic Green Lantern Rebirth. And most deliciously, Aquaman, The Martian Manhunter, and the original Hawkgirl Shayera Hall have just recently come back to life after The Blackest Night.

2011 would be a good year for DC Comics, I thought, as the iconic characters and their iconic versions are finally AVAILABLE. They could revitalize The Justice League, because guess what, the JLA at that point was composed of the ragtag group of Vixen, John Stewart, Plastic Man, and Jason Rusch Firestorm. Not that the member composition determines whether a book is good, but the phoned-in art and writing didn’t help. 2011 would be a good year, I thought, and then one fateful night while I was in Gloria Jeans Pan Pacific sitting in the Shrine Motherfucker 1, I’ve read the news on the net that DC would undergo… a reset. Even Action Comics and Detective Comics which have been continuously numbered since 1939 would be renumbered.

Dan Didio, Jim Lee, and the formerly reliable Geoff Johns have given all sorts of justification and tried to raise the excitement. Under the stupid imprint “The New 52”, 52 new number one’s would be published in September 2011. Brand new stories! Brand new origins! And try not to get too confused with these new stories, because the 5-year history of this New 52 world has already been well-planned, laid-out, mapped, completed, they promised.

But it was a lie. There was no plan. Storylines have become more confusing than ever, and not just because I’m a continuity Nazi who have followed over 70 decades of DC history. For instance, the book Earth 1 is in no way connected to the book Earth 2. In fact, the Earth 1 of the comic book Earth 2 is not the same earth as the earth 1 in the comic book Earth 1.

I have suspended disbelief and tried to accept the new continuity, but continuity was not the issue—the writing and art in general were just so inept. Apparently Batman and Green Lantern continuities were the only ones not rebooted, a mandate which does not make sense because how could their stories interact properly in a way that is coherent with the history of, say, The Birds of Prey, which has been completely hard-reset? And the incompetence and failure to properly plan apart from let’s sell 52 number 1’s showed fairly quickly—by 2013 only a handful of the original 52 titles have not been decimated.


Parody cover showing the major changes in the New 52

In 1995 the X-Men underwent the reality-altering story The Age of Apocalypse. I hated the idea when I've first read about it, but after the first issues were released I kind of wished it would never end, and I was bummed when after just 4 months the X-Men were back to its original timeline. But for The New 52, it’s been 3 years. 3 fucking years! When will this end! I miss reading comic books!  

A Tale of A Totally Jej Mishap and The Impostor Wife

In our primary internal medicine text book it is said that for oncologists, the main dictum of practice is not "first do no harm" but rather "first hasten to help", which is kind of weird considering that one of the main reasons I chose this field is that there is no real emergency that would interrupt sleep or a comic book break, at least not in a way that a cardiologist needs to run after the golden period of thrombolysis, or a gastroenterologist needs to clip those spurting esophageal varices. Still, while a few hours or a few days of delaying chemo might not change the prognosis significantly, just thinking of those dang invisible tumor cells possibly swimming in the blood stream and lodging themselves in the lungs from a foot melanoma makes me feel totally aligaga.

A few weeks ago one of my high school teachers came in with stage 4 lung cancer, already with poor performance status and in horrible pain, and you could tell by her greeting upon seeing me for the first time after 17 years-- "mamamatay na ko!!!"-- that there is an urgency for some kind of intervention. After a few days I've successfully administered chemo, and while she suffered a few expected adverse effects from the drugs her lung mass has significantly decreased in size and more importantly, the severe chest pain has totally disappeared. 

And I could have probably done the chemo a few days earlier, if not for the jeje mishap with the drug delivery. The drug company shipped the drugs via 2Go, but I haven't received the fucking drugs on the expected day. I've waited, and waited, and called up the company, and after twenty phone calls and twenty "we're investigating it" 's, I was finally informed that the drugs were indeed shipped out but were delivered to the wrong address. Said drugs were received by the person in the wrong address, who has promptly introduced herself as... my wife. I have not blown my top in a long time, but I could just imagine what the eavesdroppers in Dakasi SM Sta. Rosa might have been thinking when I screamed over the phone, "I don't care what happened to your delivery, I need you to give me a new set of DRUGS! I need those DRUGS now! Give me a new set of DRUGS now!!!"

I was eventually given a new set of drugs later that day which I've used immediately and which lysed the tumor wonderfully. I've lost contact with the company and never got new info about my Impostor Wife, but whoever she is, I take delight at the chagrin she must have had when she opened the attractive giant styrofoam box only to discover tiny bottles inside. In fairness to her, "Ondansetron" does sound like some new low-end gadget with which she could take some jeje selfies. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dizzizit!

While driving along Commonwealth at 9 pm Smoketh rang me up. Smoketh, as you readers remember (all three of you who were able to stick it out), can use the phone, read a novel, blog, and use a luffah while driving--all at the same time. She has apparently just completed her rounds and was rushing home, with the night drive her only time to chat with friends. She whined about our current state of affairs—young consultants starting their practice with the eagerness and desperation to recoup the losses of the past hellish years of training and getting deathly exhausted at the close of the day, sleeping with a broken heart, friendless, and socially dead. “Is this it? Will this forever be the pattern of our fucking lives?!” she screamed.
                “Yes,” I said. “Oh yes!”
My conversations for the past months while trying to build a practice that doesn't amount to a financial negative balance have been limited to talking to patients, most of the time appraising them of their prognosis coupled with the nasty business of telling them the cost of cancer treatment, which is usually preferable to the more frequent exchange with my secretaries, summarized as: Ay, wala na namang pasyente? Kailan nga ulit due yung rent ko? Last week?!?
Ang haba ng sentence. Ahahahahha.
We long for those nights when I would just bump into Frichmond in the hospital which meant instant beer drinking. Or when I could just talk to someone and use ten vulgar words involving bodily fluids, procedures, and illegal inhuman acts all in one sentence without fear of judgment. Or when I could just ask Tessieloopagooparoop in the middle of eating shawarma rice: Hey Tessieloopagooparoop, wanna fuck? To which she would nonchalantly reply, "No thanks!"
                So now I guess this is it… this is really it. We have officially jumped into an alternate universe, or more accurately, jumped from an alternate universe into the real one.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cancer or Salt

One of my favorite Bible stories is the saga of Moses, but it also features my most hated part of the Bible. Towards the end Moses, after all the things he has done, has been reprimanded severely and failed to reach the Promised Land. The last we saw him (or at least in the Charlton Heston movie which I must have seen a hundred times), he’s been sitting stranded on a rock at the top of a mountain with the Promised Land just a stone’s throw away. He has become instantly white-haired after seeing the burning bush, led a cantankerous, horny lot through the desert for decades on end, and even risked drowning by walking through a parted sea to the tune of Mariah and Whitney’s When You Believe, and he still never reached his destination. This has always depressed the crap out of me, and even in my Zesto-powered, grade 3 brain I knew that this couldn’t possibly be right. Over the course of my elementary and high school years the nuns would always come up with some explanation, but I still don’t buy that it’s punishment for giving in to the people’s clamor for water by using his magical staff to produce water without the proper authorization papers from God.

Runner-up for most depressing story is the story of Hegar, who after getting knocked-up by Abraham upon the prodding of Sarah fell victim to the menopausal tantrums of, who else, Sarah herself, leading to her banishment. I remember asking one of my elementary religion teachers why Hegar was treated so poorly, and I got some metaphysical-tautological explanation that after two sentences my brain switched back to constructing my fantasy X-Men Blue and Gold teams.

Of course the underlying explanation for all these rather strange and somehow morally contradictory stories is that: God has his reasons. This has sounded like a total umbrella reason/excuse, which has quite annoyed me, but now in my old age I kind of realize that things aren’t very different in the modern era and that indeed God has his reasons which we couldn’t even begin to understand. A good person suddenly develops weird cancers with very rare histology which requires very expensive palliative chemotherapy that has been proven to extend life by only 9 days but has been approved by the FDA because of some statistical loophole (i.e, the p value). We just accept this rather annoying luck of the draw and try to come to terms with it, because who are we to complain, at least it’s just cancer and not instant transformation into a pillar of salt.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Lollipop-Licking

                I have recently delivered a speech to the graduating elementary students in my alma mater. This is the sort of thing that comes with aging—along with filing papers in many government agencies, becoming a godfather of so many kids, and finally accepting that I won’t ever get abducted by aliens in my lifetime. I don’t have the most fantastic memories of elementary and high school and really didn’t feel like I have anything to share to elementary kids (unless you count anger, ennui, disillusionment, discouragement, raaaaage, and all sorts of addictions), but what the hellellellel.

                I’ve decided early on to speak in the vernacular—truly no one will ever be impressed with deep english words embedded in metaphors enmeshed in similes within complex run-on sentences. Honestly I wouldn’t think anyone would care either way what with the terrible heat and the desire of all students to just get their diplomas and get the hell out of there and then lunch at Alabang Town Center or something. So I prepared my speech and practiced a few times and discovered that my whole speech could be delivered in no more than… 8 minutes! Ahahahaha. I’ve tried to cut more fat with the five-minute goal and was able to cut a couple more minutes.

                While walking along the campus on my way to the auditorium I’ve seen this computer-printed message tacked on one of the school billboards:
                Lollipop moments—those moments when things don’t turn out the way you expected them to. What is your lollipop moment?
                For all my lecherousness I’m sure mas bastos pa sakin ang mga high school students, so I’m not sure why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to post that.

                The basic message of my speech to elementary kids: Study hard, don’t waste time, and always obey your parents—emphasizing that these are very basic and almost clich├ęd, but for their very fundamental-ness we take them for granted. Having made this obligation-service I’ve dedicated a couple of paragraphs to those students without any awards—I’ve perused the programme earlier and noted that while some students have pages and pages worth of awards and medals, most don’t even have a Best Dressed award. Not that they need consoling—I’m sure most of them don’t give a fuck and rightfully so—but just to thwart a few seconds of inggit, and mostly for the parents who sort of care, I’ve narrated this ultra-short anecdote: I was riding the jeep. One elementary kid said to another: Ang talino ni Susan, 100 sa halos lahat ng exam! Siguradong sya ang magiging pinakamayaman sa atin!


                All together now: AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Just Like Going On Ikot

Having amassed loads of advice on how to go about establishing private practice, I've distilled the major schools of thought on practice building into two:

1. That you should commit to one hospital and stick to it. It doesn't matter if you go for months on end with zero patients, your commitment and pure visibility in that hospital will eventually pay off. 

2. That you should commit to as many hospitals and clinics as possible, and in due time just shed them off one by one as your practice picks up, ie, spread yourself as thinly as possible.

The basic disadvantage of #1 is you would get bored to tears. Back in 1st year med school a family medicine consultant narrated to us her travails during her first few months as a new consultant--to sum it all up: she has read all the Daniel Steele's and Sidney Sheldons in existence. On the other hand, a consultant has told me the basic disadvantage of #2. Succinctly: pwede kang masagasaan sa kalsada any time.

I have taken the #2 approach. It proved to be fun, taking public transport from one clinic to another, which are sometimes several towns apart, occasionally going to Manila and QC for some teaching gigs, Batangas for another clinic, and even the far reaches of Sta. Cruz for a possible government hospital employment. I felt once again like a UP student boarding the Ikot jeep to go from one subject to the next, minus the stamina.

For six days a week I would jump from one place to another, never mind that most of the time this would lead to a financial status of not even zero, but NEGATIVE. As Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore has stated, days can now be defined as either “positive balance” or “negative balance”. Still, I’ve been fairly content with just having set tasks and goals for the day. Everything was a fine and dandy until just a few months into it pure kapaguran crept in, along with a powerful virus I’ve surely caught from that girl who’s been sneezing like hell inside the van a few days ago.

For all its commonness the lowly URTI is really such a downer. I haven’t had a bronchial asthma attack in two years, but the horrible URTI virus has triggered an attack. While breathing through constricted lungs and clutching my neck for overdramatization I shuffled through my things for my old Ventolin inhaler. As soon as I saw it I puffed 3 puffs which provided immediate relief. I’ve had persistent asthma for years back then so I’ve learned to suck the hell out of that inhaler. And then I realized—I haven’t used this in years, what if it’s already expired? I checked the label: Expiration-April 2013. AHAHAHAHAHAH! Well it worked, so who cares. Then I realized—I haven’t used this in years, what if the mouthpiece….

And then finally I saw it clearly: the mouthpiece was encrusted with my 2-year old whitish-brownish saliva. I could be growing fungus balls in my lungs right now. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

And For More Culture...

Back in high school we would get these required monthly subscriptions of magazines and comic books our parents paid for at the start of the year. One such thing is Gospel Komiks, with stories on how the gospels for that month can be applied in real life. The stories in Gospel are fun, except that the conflicts are always resolved the same way: the kontrabida would overhear the bida praying out loud how the kontrabida is making her miserable and asking for providence and guidance on how to deal with this nefarious bitch, making the kontrabida feel kunsensya eventually change her evil evil ways. This never worked in real life. I once prayed out loud for a Mitsubishi Family Computer for my parents to overhear, and come Christmas time they got me a pair of Hanford briefs.

There was this another monthly religious magazine which we did not read as much, and Namtab Pots and I would always skip to the poetry column of someone named Tito Leo. In his column he publishes a couple of poems sent by his readers. He then critiques each poem, more often than not ripping them to shreds. The religious theme and touchy-feely feel of the entire magazine did not stop him from being the critic from hell. It was the only fun portion of that magazine.

Sort of inspired by that column, and having edited the school paper (being able to publish a record-breaking... 4 issues in my editorship), I tried my hand in poetry. In college I would write a lot, scribbling them in a sort of journal, which makes me want to vomeeeeet now. After that short stint in college I've reverted back to prose writing, and since there were no blogs then I only had one reader other than myself: Mrs. Therese. Her comments are usually funnier than my actual stories, but I think my prose have aged well as I can still read them and not cringe. I've recently tried reading one of my college poems, and it made me want to dunk my head in the toilet bowl in pure infernal kahihiyan.

Recently our oncology chair in PGH has decided to put together a sort of literary publication, with the over-arching theme, of course, being... cancer. She asked me to write one, and not having written a poem since 1998 I had my reservations--do I want to put out yet another evidence of juvenile cheesiness with which I could be blackmailed ten years hence? I've relented, so here... in its poet-poetan glory (yes you've been reading one long segue)... is my poem called "The Rarest".


The Rarest
Wilfredo L. Liangco

I guess I shouldn’t have played
CANCER
In Scrabble
Twenty years ago
(10 points, not even a double).
Because nothing else
Would explain
Why I’m growing a new lung
In my liver
Or is it a new liver
In my lung
Or a new brain
In my calves
Or a new bone
ETCETERA.
Nothing else
Would explain
Why it’s not the vagrant druggie
Or the recidivist
Or the rave partyist
Or the faux-religionist-moneyist-terrorist sin trifecta
But you still say
It’s not my fault.

Explain away,
Why my body is revolting
Against itself
And your drugs.
Explain away why don’t you,
How you can look
At my scans
And swoon
Golly-gosh-gee-wow
What an extraordinary scan it is!
How I’m rare
And special
And a mutant
The mutantest among twenty million people.
Patronize away,
How you would write me
In a case report
And showcase in New Zealand
Because I’m rare.
I guess all I can say,
Is gee thanks,
Glad to be of service
In muscling up your travels.

Maybe then I should be
The president
Of a support group of mutants
Being rare
The rarest
And we’ll share stories
Of disenchantment
And the regret
Of not having puffed that puff
Twenty years ago
For a healthy lifestyle.
We’ll gather around
All in a room
Except in six months
We might need new members
A new president
A new muse
A new song
New platitudes
Or how about a new treatment
How about that.


O di ba. I've wanted to end on a positive/cheery note, but all I could think of was to write a perfunctory "AHOY!" as the last line, which did not exactly fit. Wow, how much more cultured could I get, I've watched a fantastic musical AND attempted to write poetry in the same month! AHAHAHAHAHAH!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting Cultured

Many months ago my friend from high school Ruth Marx (not his real name; I've christened him Ruth Marx because he was the only one who knows who Ruth Marx is) bought two tickets for the musical Wicked. Then he learned that his supposed date couldn't get a leave from work and told me that if his next options wouldn't make it he would take me. I'm not into stage plays and musicals as I've fallen asleep in the few I've seen (ie, Wizard of Oz where Smoketh and Frichmond had to wake me up repeatedly in Greenbelt many years ago). Last week Ruth has confirmed that there was no one else to take, so I jumped at the chance. I always jump at the chance to get free stuff, a skill I've honed in fellowship training.

Being a person with no culture and breeding, I know only two things about Wicked: it has Defying Gravity as sung in Glee, and that it's a prequel of The Wizard of Oz. As expected I've seen a lot of PGH people in the area. While waiting near the fountain area who should run zipping past me but someone who looked like... Frichmond. She whizzed by so fast (expert jogger na) so I decided to wait until she got back up in the circular track before I scream "Frichmond!" Frichmond-look-alike did not return, and as it turned out Frichmond-look-alike was indeed Frichmond. Whenever I see Frichmond I taste cold beer in my mouth. This is learned behavior as Frichmond has been my only drinking buddy in the past two years in Whore House. During the twenty-minute break I saw Bubble, but was not able to call her as she was running to the ladies' room, and I was also running to the men's room. I also saw M.Q.M, but I think he was conversing intently with a date so I've decided not to bother them. I also saw Fungelya, but we hated him back in residency so there was no point in being perfunctory.

There were so many wealthy-/cultured-/bourgeois-looking people in the waiting area, and whenever I'm surrounded by these sorts of people I get the urge to ask loudly, "San po ang kubeta?" As we were waiting for the show to start inside the theater I continued looking around the audience asking Ruth, "Ay, bakit walang artista o sikat na tao? Bakit walang Kapuso? Ajejejejeje." I now can't tell if I'm being earnest or just making fun of jeje-ness.

"Ayun o, si Justice Secretary Leila de Lima," Ruth said. I got thrilled at the prospect of seeing a famous person but when I turned around, it was not Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Kamukha lang.

The show finally started and I was amazed at the entire look of the musical--the props, costumes, etc. We were five rows away from the stage so we got to see a lot of details. In my head, stage play props always consist of crepe paper, cartolina, sequins from National Bookstore, and painted styrofoam, but this was not the case. It pays to be inosente (in the derogatory sense)--the feeling of amazement and wonder is thrilling, something I haven't felt since those elementary field trips to the Planetarium and UP Diliman. And the voices, I didn't think people could sing that high. By the time it was Defying Gravity I was completely won over, and I now understand those people I've longed thought of as O.A. who travel to Singapore just to watch this musical.

There was a bit of down time after the break, but things started to pick up again quickly. During one of the most poignant performances, the one where the two witches were singing change for good, you could feel the audience getting drawn in, some were sobbing. The air was thick with emotion until, a few seats from me, there was a sudden loud CRASH!--a chair collapsed from the weight of a huge guy in the audience. Everyone got distracted for two seconds and glanced at the source of the infernal sound, but quickly focused their attention back at the stage. For a few minutes the humongous, corpulent guy sitting on it couldn't move--he got stuck in the crashed chair.

Crashing sound from a broken chair due to high BMI aside, Wicked was one bad-ass motherfucker. Magaling, Alfalfa and Belinda, magaling.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Isang Sakong Pasensya Cookies

Nakaka-apat na buwan na ako dito sa isteyj ng buhay na tinatawag na "private practice". Hindi naman ako nag-eexpect na winner agad ang practice, at pinrepare ko na rin naman ang sarili ko sa often-cited phase na "pagbibilang ng butiki sa kisame" o "pagbibilang ng crack sa pader" o "pagmamarathon ng Law and Order SVU" sa clinic, ie, zero patients, or more appropriately, THERO patients. Ganunpaman, nakakairita pa rin. AHAHAHAHAHA. Parang hindi sulit ang pag-aaral at pagte-train ng maraming, maraming taon all for this. Sana kirarir ko na lang ang pagsusulat, o kaya ay nagpaganda ng katawan para makagawa ng home-made porn. Ang mga buwan na nakalipas ay mas pinahirapan pa ng mga preparasyon, ie, mga kapapelan at kagastusan.

Matapos naming makadaan sa butas ng karayon na medical oncology boards ay nag klinik-klinik na ako sa mga maliliit na primary care clinics. Nagreserba ako ng isang weekday para mag-asikaso ng mga bagay-bagay, ie, ADULT STUFF. Hindi na ako nag-hire ng accountant dahil wala naman syang i-aaccount, kaya ako na lang mismo ang pumunta sa BIR para mag-register. Umabot ito ng apat na oras. Pero hindi pa syempre doon natapos ang registration, kailangan ko pa intayin ang ilang linggo para makuha ang mga booklet ng resibo.

TAPOS, kailangan din pala mag-ayos ng Philhealth na nagkakahalaga ng lampas sampung libo. PERO, requirement pala dito ang makakuha ng certificate of good standing sa PMA at sa local chapter nito ATSAKA sa specialty societies, na syempre ay may kaakibat din ng mga KABAYARAN. Inabot ako ng DALAWANG buwan para makuha ang mga leklat na cerficates of good standing, umikot pa kasi sa buong LUZON ang mga papeles para mapirmahan ng iba't ibang doktor. Na-sense na siguro ng local chapter officer ang aking pagkabagot ng sinabi kong "PWEDE PO BANG AKO NA LANG ANG MAG-IIKOT AT MAGHAHAGILAP NG TAO PARA MAGPAPIRMA?" AHAHAHAHAHA. Syempre ang sabi nya, "HINDI!"

So finally nakapag-file na ako ng Philhealth gamit ang perang pinangutang ko pa (dahil 1,000 na lang ang laman ng bank account ko by that time AHAHAHAHAHAHA). Sabi ko, finally makakapag-admit na ako ng patients at kikita-kita na kahit papaano. BUT! TWO MONTHS pa ang inintay para magkaroon ng accreditation number. Tama si Renrerenrenren na isa nang ganap na pulmonologist (congrats!)-- kailangan ng isang sakong PASENCIA COOKIES sa pag-aayos ng requirements. Pwede ko namang ayusin na ang lahat ng ito kahit nagte-training pa lang ako, pero syempre, as usual, rate limiting ang pera at oras sa pagpunta-punta kung saan-saan.

Ganunpaman, hindi rin naman kikita from admissions dahil syempre, kailangan ng ospital na pag-aadmitan, at karamihan sa mga ospital ngayon ay nag-rerequire na ng mga stocks, right to practice, privilege to practice, privilege to hold clinics, hospital development fund, or kung anu-ano pang tawag basta ang gist ay magbayad ka sa ospital ng P150,000 to P450,000 para maging active status ka. May option namang hindi magbayad at maging visiting physician na lang, PERO, para makapag-admit ay syempre kailangan ng... PASYENTE! Na wala. AHAHAHAHHA.

No wonder, at this stage ni Thymes a few months back, ay nagdecide syang bumili ng plane ticket, magsuot ng burqa, at pumunta sa Mindanao kung saan wala syang kakilala para doon mag-practice. Ito pala ang tinatawag FUCK IT stage. Or for more drama, FUCK EEEEEEEEEEET stage.

All together now: FUCK EEEEEEEEET (or kung maganda na practice mo, good for you, hindi kailangang sumabay).

Friday, September 27, 2013

5 Points!

Back in first year high school we had a pretty world-weary disillusioned guy for a history teacher. Our ideas, fresh from elementary graduation, bursting with idealism and the notion that every conflict can be resolved by flowery words, would always be shot down with a dose of realism like a pail of cold water at 6 in the morning. After taking one of his quarterly examinations he proceeded to discuss our answers to his essay question to be answered in 5 sentences (5 points): How would you resolve the conflicts in Mindanao?

He asked us to recite what we answered in the exam. All our eager hands shot up, some with wriggling action for more demonstration of eagerness. Most of the answers went like this, with more commas and semi-commas to stretch the 5-sentence limit:

We will sit the leaders down and discuss our differences in a peaceful and diplomatic approach. We will list down our differences point by point and try to discuss and resolve them one by one. We will tell them that religion should not divide us but rather keep us together, because our beliefs might be different but what matters is that we both have faith--faith that the people will survive these trials and tribulations and conflicts and afflictions and that we could rise post-obstacle more defined more grateful, we would heal be involved, and be unstoppable.... etc. 

I distinctly remember that whenever somebody (most of us, including myself), would give him that sort of answer he put on some sort of weird facial expression that we couldn't understand then. Now that I'm old, I now know that it is the face of someone trying hard to be diplomatic and nice to these young, innocent idealists/idiots, the face of someone who is one threat of unemployment short from screaming: YOU FUCKING LOSERS!

He had that face on, until one of us finally told him the answer he was looking for, the curt answer that put our flowery faux-discourse to shame, the answer which i now believe is the right one, the answer that gave this one classmate the perfect 5 out of 5 points. Her answer:

I will give them money. Lots of it. I will give them the land that they want. 

As the mighty Alanis said in her song 1998 song Thank U: Thank you, disillusionment!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Post-Boards Stages of Whining

Thymes has decided not to receive any calls and never replied to any text messages for weeks and weeks after topping her cardiology subspecialty board exams. It seemed like she wanted to disappear from the world. She was, apparently, depressed. For months and months she sat in their living room, whining about how nothing has come out of her academic achievements. At times she would just stay in bed, not taking a bath for days,standing only to pee. It was like a bipolar patient crashing after the euphoric state. Like a couple who have just completed their wedding vows and now realize that they are not special. Like a cat who couldn't get that plastic strip sticking out of his ass out of his ass without the help of a person pulling it out, because why the heck did he ever eat a piece of plastic.

So she went to a nearby city to finally start establishing a career. Much to her chagrin hospitals and clinics were not tripping over themselves to get this topnotcher. She decided to be aggressive and apply in a clinic. "ANO?!?!" she screamed as the secretary told her that her rate as an employee would be P150 pesos an hour. She looked for other jobs and found one that required her to read ECG's. That day she earned her first paycheck--P140 for reading two ECG's, and she went back to her P6,000/month apartment weeping like a diabetic foot.

Finally she looked at the skies, pumped her fists, and uttered the classic line that anyone who's ever been frustrated and fed-up cries in faux-optimism-- "FUCK EEEET!!!" She saw an ad in the internet for a consultant job in a far, far, far away province down south--let's call it Kahndaq--and immediately emailed the owner that she is interested. The next day she talked to the owner on the phone. The next day she took a plane, and became the queen of a tertiary hospital and 12 secondary hospitals in Kahndaq. She is now THE department of internal medicine and THE section of cardiology of the entire province of  Kahndaq.

"Baka pag-uwi mo naka-burqa ka na," I told her.
"AHIHIHIHI," she said.

I am relating this because currently I am in that stage of staying in bed for days on end without taking a bath. I'm not sure I could be as courageous as Thymes, but who knows what will happen when I reach the "fuck eeeeeeet!" stage.

Kaladkarin Files: Back in February

While we were having a round table discussion in NKTI on some kind of cancer I… wasn’t listening. My mind was a blur of so many things, such as: how I could make my way through those people cramped sitting together in front of the buffet table so I could get more fried chicken. Or what time the discussion would end. Or what comic book I would read upon getting home. Until I realized… it’s the last day of UP Fair and how convenient that I’m already in QC! I immediately texted my insta-kaladkarin friends Smoketh and Frichmond. Frichmond had to attend mass that day and wasn’t sure she could come, so I texted her: THIS COULD BE THE LAST TIME WE WOULD BE ATTENDING THE UP FAIR! AFTER THIS, WE WOULD BE SWAMPED BY REAL LIFE CONCERNS… SUCH AS EARNING MONEY!

In less than an hour Frichmond and Smoketh were driving around QC hunting for me as I decided to walk around QC in the middle of the night. Smoketh dragged us to a restaurant (Black Pea Soup? Black Pea? Black Soup? Black Pasta?) aka Kuya Bodjie’s restaurant. The first thing we asked the waitress: Asan po si Kuya Bodjie? We wanted a picture with a celebrity. The last time we had a brush in with celebrities was when some demented fan asked me to take her picture with Bamboo 10 years ago in Powerbooks ATC, and when Smoketh had a picture with Tiya Pusit in the isawan in UP Diliman. I still regret not telling that girl, “kami muna kunan mo ng picture”. Bitch.

The last time I’ve been to a UP Fair was in 2004, and before that was in 1998. So of course we decided to conduct ourselves with the “it wasn’t like this before it was so much better back then when things were crazier and people were fucking on the ground”-complex. The first thing we noticed of course was the ticket—it was nicely printed by Ticketworld. All together now: it wasn’t like this before, it was so much better back then when the ticket was just a pinunit-punit na bluebook!

I went to the back areas looking for those cheap, colorful alcoholic drinks that once opened our eyes to unexpected delights in the late 90’s. Those drinks which had once knocked Joni to stupor and caused Groin to put it upon herself to drag him all the way back to Molave Dormitory. Those drinks are no longer in existence. Instead there are support groups and free water, which I took and turned out to be… really water. We wanted to lurlurlur but there was no one lurring. “Pano kung mahuli tayo?” I asked Smoketh. “Ano gagawin nila, miminusan tayo sa Math 17?” We lurred. Everyone ignored us.

It wasn’t the hippie 60’s, but…. nung panahon namin… people were lying on the ground and talking crazy stuff, with the Eraserheads or the resident singer UP Diliman singer Jeffrey Hidalgo singing on stage, someone would scream somewhere and everyone would gather around for more screaming. Now the fare looked like a version of Bonifacio Global City. There were no alcoholic drinks or anything that would qualify as a vice, so for more mall-ness Smoketh bought a Red Velvet Cupcake.


After fifteen minutes we decided it’s time to retire. We went to a nearby Army Navy where Smoketh and Frichmond looked sleepy as hell. It was only 11:30. Sign of the times.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Life With Archie

As I’ve been ranting for almost two years now, DC Comics has decided to do a hard reset of its already multiply-reset multiverse, redesigning most of its characters and turning them into horrible clown whores, with the books written by horrible writers and illustrated by horrible artists stuck in the multiple-pocket-polyester-costumed 90’s. Even the once-reliable writers Geoff Johns and Scott Snyder have turned in really horrible work. And this is not me having poor vocabulary—there’s just no other way to describe all the aspects of this movement called The New 52 but bleeping horrible. Bwiset. Marvel, on the other hand, despite doing some annoying stuff like making Cyclops kill—KILL!!!—Professor X, is turning in a much better work. I have always been a DC kid, but sadly, not anymore. Not until they announce that The New 52 has only been a dream, a hoax, a hallucination—and yes, that’s a 60’s Silver Age DC comics reference there.


Which is why I’ve started looking for something else to read. My attention span has severely been damaged by fellowship, so I found it harder and harder to finish fiction novels. So instead of committing to Anna Karenina and other encyclopedic Russian novels, I opted to read something equally profound—Life With Archie. Yes, Archie Andrews. In 2010 a storyline featured Archie marrying Betty and marrying Veronica in two alternate stories. Life With Archie followed these two different stories of how his life would turn out if he married Betty or Veronica. Two parallel stories in one comic book, with Dilton Doiley as the only character who gets to witness these two parallel universes. It’s wonderful fun, with Mr. Lodge playing the role of the resident corporate kontrabida. The issues follow the pattern of the usual soap-operas, such as The Choklit Shop having financial troubles and on the brink of getting bought out, Moose running for mayor, Archie becoming a struggling musician in the universe where he married Betty, and so forth. In other words, pure comic book fun. So until DC goes back to its pre-New 52 Universe, and Marvel comes up with something that would explain away Professor X’s death (which would be hard considering that the Red Skull got Professor X’s brain and implanted it in his own head. I know.), make mine Archie. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bursting With Posiness Part 2

Previously I’ve started a list of things that make me happy, as inspired by Smoketh’s sudden burst of posiness. As Green Day sang in their fantastic 2005 album American Idiot, “I’m the son of rage and love! The Jesus of suburbia!” Which leads me to number 6: I’m happy and thankful…

1.       That I think I have a good taste in music. I don’t sing or play any instrument, but I think I have a pretty good taste. It’s always difficult to defend one’s taste without sounding like a pretentious twit, so we’ll leave it at that.

2.       That I enjoyed residency training. Although strictly speaking this isn’t a source of happiness now, I’m including this because I’m missing my residency batchmates. Must be the recent storms, which have affected our batch more than anything.

3.       That my throat wasn’t slashed during the bare ass incident. I could have died right there and then and made a mess in the middle of Taft Avenue, but my exposed ass made me laugh off, if not altogether get kinkily titillated from, the potentially deadly incident.

4.       That my dorm/boarding house days are over and I can now enjoy once more the mundane creature comforts of home. That I can now take a bath in a clean bathroom. That if I accidentally drop the soap I wouldn’t be afraid to use it again. That upon waking up there’s coffee and pandesal and egg, which I can eat while watching tv and getting annoyed at but at the same time get morbidly fascinated by and at the same freaking time learn absolutely nothing substantial from that horrible show Anak Ko ‘Yan. And write run-on sentences on the side.

5.       That if I decide right now to, say, watch a movie, play chess, or read a book on ornithology, I can. Right now. RIGHT… NOW! AHAHAHAHAH AHAHAHA AHAHAHAHAHAH!!!


Of course for every item to be happy about, there are 8 or 9 to be sad about!

Bursting With Posiness Part 1

Smoketh has recently written a new entry in her blog detailing the various sources of happiness in her life. Since she left PGH she has become the poster child for everything positive and cheerio. She has read all the new age books in existence, walked along the beach wearing a white flowy dress while singing the entire The Beekeeper album by Tori Amos, and lit incense sticks all over her mansion. She now regularly uses terms like “Self-Releacceptance” which is loosely defined as the acceptance of the release of the self from within to without without releasing the acceptance itself but instead self-accepting its release. Not to be outdone, I have decided to perform a trial of cheeriness and list the ten things that make me happy and thankful right now. Cheerio! I’m Special Agent Fox Mulder, and I’m happy and thankful …

1. That my hairline is intact. I don’t have much by way of looks but I’m glad I’m not balding, at least not yet. I intend to keep my wild, bushy, unruly, itchy, dandruffy hair that ends up looking like an aardvark when I try to shape it with gel… for as long as I can! Which reminds me of a conversation with Burns in Gloria Jeans: “Bakit pag kumakamot ako ng buhok may nahuhulog na mga white-white?” I asked. Burns yelled: ANG TAWAG DYAN, BALAKUBAK!

2.    That I’ve been getting the right amount of sleep lately. Back in training there was always something that needed to be done very late, or something I had to wake up early for; and if there was enough time to sleep I wouldn’t want to waste it on sleep. Now, there is absolutely nothing to do—to the extent that I would pee as an activity—so now I can always sleep.

3.      That I have read as much comics as I have. I don’t know why, but I’m just glad that all those superheroic adventures are somewhere in my head. I haven’t learned any life lessons from them or whatever, but it’s just jolly-gee-whiz fun reading them. I have decades’ worth backlog of paperback fiction, but comics are a daily habit. There are as many if not more horrible comics out there, but chancing upon the truly good ones makes it all worth the trouble.

4.       That I’m not particular with clothes or general grooming. I hate buying clothes because I hate trying them on. In fact this laziness in changing into another set of clothes has greatly influenced my choice of internal medicine as a specialty, because I’ve decided early on that I don’t ever ever want to change into scrub suits ever again—so all the surgical specialties have been voted out!  Granted my over-all kadugyutan has negatively influenced my social growth, but so many other things have already stunted my social growth that there is really no growth or ungrowth to speak of.


5.       That I can write and I kind of like the way I write. So my writing career has gone nowhere--thank you real life-- while my friends have gone on to win Palancas and stuff, but I’m still content at the entertainment I get from my own writing. As the saying goes, if the macaroons you bake taste like poop, you have to enjoy the taste of poop to enjoy the taste of your own macaroons. I invented that saying, but you get the idea. Specifically I like that I have no compulsion to write ingratiating, self-congratulatory drivel. Ahoy! Clang clang clang!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bare Ass

After having completed the stuff I needed to complete in PGH I declared that I would not want to go back to Manila for a long time unless absolutely necessary, primarily because of the stress of commuting. I’ve stayed in Manila for over 13 years and haven’t particularly experienced anything life-threatening, but the horror stories and the rain and the heat and the traffic and the risks of stepping on human feces (insert other WHINES here) are just too aggravating.
              
 Until one hot day when I got a text message that I needed to sign a Form 5. I immediately commuted to Taft Avenue and was in Rob Ermita by 8pm. With much elation I saw Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore reviewing for our upcoming oncology boards. She has successfully deleted her Candy Crush after much rebukation (not a true word), but was getting jittery from withdrawal because the people around her were playing the game with the demented circus-funeral background music in full blast. I also happened to see Frichmond and Queen. Queen was in exercise clothes and I immediately said, “ZUMBA?!” and I was right. Apparently I learned something during our medical oncology mid-year convention in Nasugbu a few days before, where I’ve heard the word “zumba” for the first time. During the mid-year a zumba expert suddenly went on stage and taught us how to do zumba. All the oncologists tried to mirror her moves, but we weren’t dancing so much as wriggling awkwardly. After 3 J-Lo songs I whined “ilang kanta ba to?!” Apparently there were… 12. 12 continuous dance tracks for someone who gets dyspneic after climbing one flight of stairs.
               
After a quick chit chat with Frichmond and Queen I ran to the oncology office to sign the bleeping form 5 and immediately took a jeep along Taft where I sat in front. Everything was cheerio until the guy sitting beside me suddenly giggled and talked to himself. He made weird facial tics and snickered. I knew that there and then he could just pull out a knife and slit my throat, but he eventually got off the jeep. I disembarked in Buendia and as I pulled my wallet from my back pocket I noted that the pocket has a hole. My wallet was still there so I thought it was just one of my ripped, gusgusin jeans. I have so many gusgusin jeans. It wasn’t until I got home that my brother Chiroptera noted that the hole was in fact a long, clean, vertical cut, obviously from a slash. I placed my hand inside the slash and was able to touch my bare ass. The cut was so deep that I was able to… touch myself.
               
“Obviously the weird facial tics guy was not after your wallet, but after your ass,” Sith Lord said.

“Obviously. I may be old and gray, but I still got it. Oh yes I still got it.” I said.

Enough With The Life Lessons! We'll Just Watch Movies! AHAHAHAHAHA

                The past two years have been the most harrowing I’ve ever had the misfortune of experiencing. Around seven years ago I wrote an annoyingly dramatic entry in my… Friendster blog (AHAHAHAHA!) where I declared that I was very much in emotional distress that I wanted to wrap my brain—and my entire head—in bubble wrap to shield myself from thinking… thoughts. I also declared that I had the sense to eat those tiny moisture absorbent packets in food packages that bear the label “DO NOT EAT” under the false notion that they were poisonous, until I’ve rotated in the toxicology clinic many years later and learned that it’s totally idiotic because, as we would advise many phone-in questions from all over the country, those packets are—all together now—inert. If I can go back in time I would slap myself for that drama over totally useless, juvenile stuff. The disastrous events in my life that followed, with everything culminating and piling up in pure horror during the fellowship training of the past two years, render those juvenile concerns extremely embarrassing. Die, my 26-year old self, you horrible, self-indulgent, shallow, drama-whore. You don’t know real drama until you personally experience the real life concerns of disease, poverty, and death. Die, burn, trip and impale yourself on the exposed steel bars along Faura, take a bath and stick your wet thumb in an electric socket, die—and take your old Friendster entries with ya!
                Living off ten pesos daily and hoping a charity patient would show me charity by giving me a professional fee of… Jollibee Chickenjoy, not for sentimentality, but so I could eat… Jollibee Chickenjoy might have taught me something about sacrifice, life, the value of money, the risks of gastric ulcer, etc etc etc, but I would trade all those lessons for security. What if I suddenly do impale myself on the exposed construction steel bars along Faura, how would I afford hospitalization? Granting my surgeon friends would operate on me for free, how could I even afford a charity-priced processing fee for a pack of blood? How, dear sponsor-who-sponsors-stipend-every-six-to-nine-months? How? AHAHAHAHAHAHA. How.  Enough with the life lessons! I’ll just watch movies about them!
                The four-month preparation for the oncology boards was not any easier. I got a couple of odd-jobs, but eventually I had to devote myself to studying, painfully embarrassed at the thought of my mom feeding me once again. And when you study you don’t only think about the material, you also get to ruminate on the horrible things of the past and the horrible things of the future. And when you finally do get to concentrate on the material, what is that material about? CANCER! Cancer cancer cancer. Volumes and volumes of fucking cancer, from dusk till midnight, compounded by the constant paranoia of everyone around me having cancer, and the regret of how things might have been have I known all the things I know now, and how things have turned out better for Mrs. Therese who was right, boy was she right.

                Four months hence we passed the boards and we were blissfully thankful, but we were painfully exhausted. Like winning a race but having horrible cramps afterwards. Or more like winning a race then getting rhabdomyolysis and kidney failure. You just want to lie down and stare at the ceiling, with those new letters that would be attached after your name floating in your head, annoyed that they couldn’t be eaten or used to pay the bills.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Last Night On Earth... With a Sandwich

On my last few nights as a dormer in Manila I would hunt down Smoketh and disturb her feverish studying for the renal boards and we would call Frichmond and we would go to... Subway. Maybe it was the finality of my dorm life (arte) after over 16 years of living on my own that made me want to make the last few nights memorable. For months I've been thinking of some kind of bucket list or such, and everyday that list would get revised, limited by time, funds, friends to drag around, and most importantly, laziness. And of course, the nagging thought: what's the drama. Because really, the only thing I wanted to do was eat a good sandwich.

And where should we find a good Subway branch but in some gas station in Macapagal. A few years ago DC Comics had a recurring advertisement feature in their books where superheroes were shown capturing crooks and such by using Subway sandwiches. It's like those Twinkies Cakes ads back in the late 60's and 70's DC Comics, if some you care to remember. One of the sandwiches Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman were pimping had one special feature: avocado sauce. Of course in Macapagal there was no avocado sauce, so I ordered the usual stuff with oil and vinegar and stuff, cold not warmed, with chips and a huge cup of sugar-rich soda. 

"Do you remember that old Tyra episode on cable where they featured a guy pornstar who felt discriminated?" I asked Smoketh and Frichmond. They don't, and just kept on munching. 
"He felt discriminated, because when they discovered that he was a porn star they fired him from his day job," I narrated.
"What was his day job?" Smoketh asked.
"Preparing Subway sandwiches," I said. 

And just because I'm really hungry I would gratuitously post a picture of Subway turkey avocado sandwich right now.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Flash Fact: Shameless Self-Promotion!

Recently met up with a college friend whom I haven't seen in a long time. She excitedly declared that she has finally bought our published book from Powerbooks. Thinking I have finally published a short story collection, she went through the pages and said "Bakit... puro liver?"

Yes, our book from the Health Series of Milflores Publishing, Fatty Liver, has finally been published. I, Katherine Lei-Mercado, and gastroenterologist extraordinaire Dr. Janus Ong have written this back in 2010 as part of our Internal Medicine residency requirement. UP College of Medicine Dean Agnes Mejia is the editor of the series. Other books already published in the series are My Kidneys and Me, Allergy, Anemia, Animal Bites, and Hypertension in the Young.

Fatty liver is an important medical problem and the lay should be aware of it. Truly I have miserably failed in my attempts in having a short story collection or a novel or an essay compilation published, but Fatty Liver traverses both medical and literary territories that I think it would be a great purchase. Also, the illustrations are... interesting.

While waiting for Dr. Ong for consultation with this book years ago, someone quipped, "Why would I buy that when I can just look it up on the internet?!" Indeed, why. Why? Because not only will you get a fun, educational book, with which you can indulge our dreams of signing it, you will also get to help many patients in the medical wards of PGH! Yes, all proceeds go to the Sagip-Buhay Medical Foundation, which raises millions of pesos each year for all our indigent patients in the internal medicine wards of PGH. Sagip-Buhay has provided mechanical ventilators (P1,000/day), high-end antibiotics like meropenem (P7,500/day), expensive diagnostics, and other medical needs to extremely poor patients who would otherwise be unable to afford these life-saving stuff. Am I in effect guilt-tripping you? Of course not, because whichever way you look at it, buying our book is a win-win situation for you AND the patients of PGH!

Other than the fantastic, well-written text (if I may float our huge armadas), you will also be treated to sophisticated illustrations by our illustrator... ME! AHAHAHAHAH. What experience do I have in illustrating these things? Why, when I was 5 until I was 12 I've written AND drawn 12 notebooks of comic books featuring my original superhero creation, Power Turtle, the stories of which are complete rip-offs of 60's Adventure Comics Featuring The Legion of Superheroes! Only my father and brother would read them, but those comic books were jolly good fun if I may say so MYSELF!

During the consultation process I've shown Dr. Ong my illustrations of chronic liver disease patients. These illustrations were put out to drive home certain points. Some of them he politely turned down, saying that they are like aliens and not really fit for this kind of publication. "It's like being drawn by people attending toy and comic book conventions and stuff" I think were the words. When we've submitted the final draft to our editor I sneakily put the illustrations back in, because truly she might find them awesome and awe-inspiring. Our editor's comments, "Bakit puro aliens?" Some of those drawings were henceforth left in the cutting room floor. But since you have kindly endured these paragraphs of self-promotion, I am hereby presenting you with...  for the first time to be seen in public (and aren't you sorry you are now part of this public)... the Director's Cut images!

This is cirrhosis! IT'S CIRRHOSIS!

A grotesque tuba-guzzling goblin with macrovesicular steatosis. Let's say he also has ehlers-danlos.


Basta!

Fatty Liver is now available in National Bookstore. We've seen copies in Rob Ermita, Glorietta, and Mega Mall. AHAHAHAHAHAH.
photo by Kathy