Monday, May 28, 2012


For once I told myself, "I will not make rounds on this patient today". It just felt so... liberating (arte). Besides, I thought, the patient is in the able hands of Helliza. A few days ago I frantically called up Helliza at around 4:30. "HELLIZA!" I yelled on the phone, "Wag ka mag-thoracentesis ngayon! BUKAS NA! Bukas na lang! Baka may mangyaring komplikasyon! Mahirap mag pneumothorax or edema pag gabi na! Kagaya nang nangyari sa akin dati at nag na-nightmare pa rin ako ngayon pag naaalala ko ito!!!!"

Helliza was already doing thoracentesis while we were on the phone. And the phone was on loud speaker. For the patient and the family to hear. For more panic. How could I have known.

A few days went by with nothing happening, so I said "I will not make rounds on this patient today". I felt gleeful, sheepish, at the fifteen minutes I would save. It wasn't like I would be doing anything important, I would probably just spend the fifteen minutes typing whiny blogs, but the vile, vile thought of being nakakalamang was just so cheeri-o. As I was about to go to Rob extremely famished and being generally nega for being salary-less for five straight months now (talagang dapat isingit), I passed by the side of the ward where I would be seen through a huge open window by, of all people, that patient. His wife called me. I immediately felt sad. Minsan na nga lang makalamang I begrudgingly told myself, behind a wide-grinned smile and an enthusiastic, "KAMUSTA PO!"

I was instantaneously snapped back to roundsing mode, ie, generic rehearsed smile, modulated voice, tempered temper, nods and "uhuh" at the proper time. While in my head, a tiny girly whiny self-pitying voice goes: "I am so hungry".

Surprisingly, they were very few questions about the patient's disease. Patient's sister instead just handed me a huge supot of Jollibee through the window. After a token resistance, I got the food and ran.... ran to the callroom.

And skeletonized the Chicken Joy and slurped the spaghetti sauce off the styrofoam in ten seconds, all the while thinking "THANK GOD FOR FREE FOOD! THANK GOD FOR FREE FOOD!!!!" with spaghetti sauce smeared on my mouth and chicken strips stuck in my teeth and shame etched on my forehead like a guilty, soul-less, piece of hungry trash.

You should really make rounds daily.

Oh, Matter-Eater Lad

We hate going to malls on a Sunday, so imagine the aggravation of going to, of all the bleeping malls, SM Megamall. Everyone was in megamall, but it was the nearest place where we could dine after... going to church.

Smoketh and I are Catholics, but we occasionally dip into Christian worship services. This started in college, when I was still in my pretentious self-discovery crap mode and I would attend everything. The last time I got into a service was 3 years ago accompanied by Tits aka Titi. Recent events of anguish and stuff sort of made me want to attend again. I prodded Smoketh to come. I told her she could meet boys there. "See anyone you like? That one? Eh that one? Ayun o baka type mo," I pimped as we were making our way to the balcony. Smoketh, now being a consultant, is in a self-discovery crap mode. In the past couple of months she has beached in Bolinao, done scuba in Batangas, broken her leg while sand-surfing in Ilocos, traipsed along the fields of flowers in Bataan, gone to an assortment of church services, talked up random people in the street, and made asikaso all the papers and documentations she would ever need in her life. She has recently joined a random choir so she could meet boys. There were no boys.

So after church we started walking amongs the multi-crowds in Megamall, and I sort of tricked her into my ultimate destination--Jae's Collectibles. Jae's Collectibles is a tiny action figure shop that sells the sorts of toys I am into, and it's situated at the farthest end of the mall. Smoketh, still sort of fresh from her brokenleggedness in Ilocos, was such a boyscout as she limped through buildings A and B to get there.

And what should I see standing there in the eskaparate, as if waiting for me, but... a lose action figure of... Matter-Eater Lad!!! Matter-Eater Lad is a member of the DC superhero group Legion of Superheroes which was quite popular from when it started way back in 1958. The Legion of Superheroes first featured in Adventure Comics, which was my favorite among my dad's stockpiles of ancient comicbooks. Back in elementary and high school I would bring Adventure in school and show it to Namtab Pots. As a consequence only three people in existence are aware of Matter-Eater Lad's existence: My father, me, and Namtab Pots.

Which begs the question: Why is Matter-Eater Lad not any more popular? Sure his only super power is being able to eat anything and he comes from the planet called Pepto-Bismoll, but why can't he be at least in the same league as Brainiac 5, Saturn Girl, or even Proty? If he gets imprisoned he just eats the prison bars. Alternatively, he can just eat his way out by creating a tunnel in 10,000 munches. Writers have always struggled to create a storyline for him, as he can't just be in prison all the time.

So Matter-Eater Lad is unpopular. But at the present time, in this state of abject poverty, I wouldn't mind getting his powers. Because I no longer have to think of where to get money for my next meal: I could just eat the used syringes and be sated for hours.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


At sino ang mga pagala-gala sa ospital kundi... mga bagong interns! Mga bagong hellows! Mga bagong pasyente! Nagtataka kami nung una noong mga huling araw ng Abril dahil may mga naglalakad-lakad na grupo na wari tumitingin tingin sa paligid habang may ilang nagpapaliwanag ng mga bagay-bagay. Apparently ito pala ay mga bagong interns na tinu-tour. "Tandaan, hindi sa laboratory sinusubmit ang ABG," sabi ng isang bibong intern. At sa ibang grupo naman ang aking na-eavesdrop ay, "Ano ang mga pulang folder na yan?" "Yan ang mga charts ng pasyente."

Samantala, sa aming cancer clinic ay may dalawang incoming 4th year medical students na nag-eelective. Hindi namin maintindihan kung bakit nila gustong mag-elective dito. Nung panahon kasi namin (noong unang panahon), ang goal namin sa pagkuha ng elective ay... makapahinga. Hindi na kami magkukunwari--gusto lang namin ng pinakawalang gagawin na rotation. Yung hindi kailangan mag-aral, mag-isip, at kung pwede, yung hindi kailangan pumasok. Bakit ba, walang pakialaman. Kaya wala ring pakialaman kung gusto nung dalawa ng relatively toxicer rotation.

For more, bibo sila. Tumitingin sila ng maraming pasyente at kumpleto ang history, physical examination, at pinaka-detalyadong personal and social history. May case presentation sila every week, and for MORE, high-level ang kanilang mga slides. Yung may meta-analysis, RCT's, and other supporting stuff pa. Pwede nang pang-audit. Iaccelerate na yang mga yan to hellowship!

Nahiya tuloy ako sa sarili ko. Dahil nung 2004, ang kinarir ko lang nung elective ay ang pagbili ng action figures. Maituturing kong golden age of action figurehood ang taon na iyon dahil ang ganda pa ng Marvel Legends by Toy Biz at Lord of the Rings Action Figures by Toy Biz. Madaming rare action figures noon na mabibili mo lamang sa regular price kung masipag ka. Kaya 10am pa lang ay nakabantay na ako sa pagbukas ng Robinson's. Tapos tatakbo ako agad sa toy section at iintayin ang pagbukas ng kahon ng mga bagong deliver na laruan. Dahil elective ay nagagawa ko ito araw-araw. Nag pay-off naman. Nakabili ako ng very rare na Juggernaut, Eowyn, Cable, at marami pang iba. Tuwing iniisip ko ang paborito kong taon na 2004 ay naaalala ko ang amoy ng mga bagong bukas na laruan na ito. Mmmmmm.


Back in our community rotation during internship Len-Len and I were marooned to a far away barangay in Batangas. Community rotation was fun because I was able to catch up in my comic book readings while Len-Len and I were squeezing ourselves in a tiny papag bed. "Anong binabasa mo?" I asked Len-Len as he had been reading something in his Palm Pilot (Palm Pilot!) for hours now. "Harrisons. Hay, nakatapos ako ng isang chapter today!" he exclaimed. Nahiya ako sa sarili ko.

Len-Len was particularly popular in the community for his white glowing Chinese skin. "Anong secret mo dok? Ahihihi" the BHW's would ask him. "Natural yan," Len-Len would say with conviction. A couple of years ago while still pre-resing in Internal Medicine HTGOF was furiously charting amidst the kainitan of the wards. While everybody else was sweating and getting grimy and stuff just by sitting in the wards, a patient's bantay approached HTGOF from out of nowhere and said something like "Totoo ba yang kutis mo, parang porselana!" A few months later, already an IM resident, HTGOF woke up, went to her bathroom, looked at herself in the mirror and said to herself, "I'm quitting Internal Medicine. I'm going to be... a dermatologist." (I am just imagining this epiphany scene but something like that must have happened.)

I'm pretty sure this is a generalization but there must be something in the oriental gene that renders their skin hairless and poreless. While getting mucky and grimy and oily in the humid HK weather upon entering a train car Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore and I noticed three generations of women sitting across us. No matter the age they were like walking shafts of light. Now I am not vain at all, in fact I am the opposite of vain ie, I have no grooming skills. Looking like trash has served me well in life. But in this particular instance the three women were just... glistening.

"Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore," I said. "Ilabas mo yung iyong.... blue tissue na pangtanggal ng oil ng muka!"

UHBJAW did with a sense of urgency. We frantically wiped our oily faces.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Koopa Paratroopas

We don't usually do this as cancer hellows, but this morning all four of us attended the Thursday audit. The audit is a weekly conference where first year residents present one of their mortalities, and receive comments and questions and stuff from everyone in the hierarchy of medicine. In my two audits years ago the best thing I've learned when I was being grilled in front of everyone was: just smile, give a faint nod, mumble yes yes thank you yes, and in general just have that facial expression that you're listening and you appreciate their comments and stuff even if in your heart of heart of hearts all you're thinking is I WANNA GET OUTTA HERE! I wasn't the sort who would say out loud "Thank you point taken thank you for your comments point taken" because no matter how well-constructed the statement is and no matter how articulately you say it it still has the tendency to sound disingenuous.

The hierarchy of medicine reminds me of my mother's comment some twenty years ago when she was trying to urge me to become a doctor: Magdoktor ka dahil ang doktor, walang boss. AHAHA. AHAHAHAHHAHAHA. As I soon found out, it is an endless series of bosses of various virulence, like the ascending bossness of King Koopa/Bowser in Super Mario. It is a ladder with many many many rungs, a staircase with many many steps, a pyramid with etc etc. I've been training in medicine for over ten years now, my hair will completely turn white in a few months, and now I'm in hell, ie, a hellow.

Five minutes into the audit and I was turning in my seat, looking for ways to distract myself because I no longer have an intact attention span. For more who should come in and sit beside me but Helliza, who has regaled me with an enjoyable five-paragraph rant in four minutes. I borrowed her iPod and played games till the battery was drained. I whispered stupid questions in particular: "Who's that? Eh that? That? Who's that?" having seen for the first time some of the other sections' hellows. Shifted some more in my seat. Nothing is happening, I thought.

Three years ago I remember that while sitting in the jampacked audit who should come in late but Anj M. and Gay B. They were probably an hour late. They looked flustered. As they walked through and made singit through the seated people they were whispering to some people in the audience, "Talo si Adam Lambert! Talo si Adam Lambert!" and we realized they had a batch screening of the American Idol finale in their callroom. Soon enough nobody was listening to the presenter much to his relief, because everyone was buzzing with "Talo si Adam Lambert!"

 This time while sitting in the audit Helliza and I each received a text message at the same time, from our moms.

Helliza's mom: Talo si Jessica!
My mom (who always makes this mistake): Talo si Jessica Soho!

Talagang dapat maka-scoop.

Slinking Further

Being that we were in a state of absolute morbidhood Smoketh and I discussed what we would do upon my death. We can't be totally blamed for going one step further down the nega road, in the past three months I've been in four funerals, all from, what else, cancer. Truly there must be some truth to those strange beliefs going around during wakes and burials that we are not adhering to and are in fact mocking, said Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore, such as not saying thank you when someone gives their condolences, not taking out food from wakes, etc.

"When I die I don't want big wreaths and flowers and stuff," Smoketh declared. "Donate money to Sagip-Buhay instead." Sagip-Buhay being our Internal Medicine funding for indigent patients and stuff. Back in residency some of the residents were really instrumental in amassing huge amounts of money for Sagip-Buhay in the form of movie premieres, fashion shows, and stuff. My contribution to the cause was limited to ghost-writing the souvenir program speeches of the important people, inserting sly comic book references to the speeches such as "we must light the Blue Lantern of Hope!"

"When I die," I told Smoketh, "I don't want eulogies. In the spirit of being totally self-absorbed even in death, I want you to have nightly blog-readings of ALL my entries in!"
"Then it will be a 15-day wake. For MORE abuloy! Then you can give the abuloy to Sagip-Buhay!"
"NO!" I said. Keep in mind that I ranted the following in an empty stomach and while being in a state of wagelessness for 5 months.

"NO! I don't want to donate the money! The money will literally go with me to the grave! And NO! I don't want the money burned! I want to be buried lying on that pile of money! And NO! Just so no one can steal the money from the grave you can punch holes in them or shred them because nobody will make pakinabang from that money! NOBODY!!!!"

I have adequately calmed down since then and am declaring that of course I don't mean what I said. Of course all proceeds will go to Sagip-Buhay.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fun Fun Fun Now

If there is one moral lesson we are learning in our present state as hellows in cancerhood it's that we should have fun fun fun NOW because tomorrow we might wake up, take our daily baths, and in the process of soaping palpate some bleeping mass somewhere in our bodies. Or if you're the sort of person who looks at the more positive side of things and are able to introspect and rise pre- and post-obstacles and stuff, you can transpose that moral lesson to that where we shouldn't take anything for granted live life to the fullest etc. if that's your sort of thing. We can be extremely paranoid for tomorrow or have fun today, either way non-super-power mutations might happen any time with no explanation whatsoever. It would have been gleefully dramatic to call up your friend and say "I'm a mutant" if that means you develop the ability to split into five people, but not if that means you develop Poorly Differentiated Mixed Carcinomatoid Sarcomatogenic Crap.

We were wondering: would it be more annoying to get a disease if you can attribute it to your past misdeeds/sins/vices, or would it be more annoying if it's totally random? Or if "annoying" devalues what one would really feel and we're the sort who keen and wail, then which of the two would be more disheartening, crushing, etc? These commentaries are constantly running through my head as I begin to drift off to sleep from the total boredom of rounds, tumor boards, lectures, reportings, and such. Sleepiness and paranoia are a deadly combination. Maybe my yawning is a defense mechanism and stuff because I no longer want to hear these things (ie, rindi), or maybe my yawning is from my seedy late night rendezvous. Wait, I don't have seedy late night rendezvous. So much for having fun fun fun now.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bottom Licker

Many years ago when we were very young my father promised us he would take us to the Magnolia Ice Cream House two towns away. We've looked forward to this event for weeks on end, imagining those tall ice cream preparations with syrup and nuts and cherries and stuff fancily called parfaits or skyscrapers and such. That day came, and he ordered for us. We each got a scoop of mocha ice cream in a glass. We didn't mind, money and ice cream were hard to come by those days, and in two seconds each glass was licked clean. Growing up we've experienced years of pagtitipid, and now, as adults (adults! Gaaaah!) we wouldn't have it any other way. To quote Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore, "hindi naman masaya kung lahat nakukuha mo". Such pagtitipid mode eventually paid of, as we were able to prepare for more important stuff later on such as health care, and of course, the still hellish hellowship. People who know me might say I am a total faker, that I am scrimping on stuff such as grooming and food so I could get action figures and comic books. I don't know what to say about that.

On the flip side, having grown up with the perpetual mindset of having to save for things has turned me into a totally annoying companion in shopping. Because in the first place I hate shopping, and for more, I couldn't keep my opinions to myself. In a recent trip Uni-Horned Beef Jerky Alanis Whore was gawking at a huge automated Sully doll which would dance and stuff, worth $200HK. "Ay, matutuwa lang ang pamangkin mo dyan for one day then pagsasawaan na yan!" I berated. This halted UHBJAW's desire to get it, until two stores later when she finally bought the doll. I was starting to feel guilty, forcing my opinion on others and such, until I overheard a pinoy couple behind me who was watching her as she was testing the doll. "Meron nyan sa Quiapo," the guy was telling his wife. Moral of the story: Don't shop with me.

Later on in a market I happened to be staring at an embroidered keychain shaped like a panda. I was just staring at it for two seconds, so of course the vendor was all over me. "JUST FIFTEEN DOLLARS EACH!" she said. I looked away. "TEN DOLLARS EACH!" she said. I walked away. I could no longer hear the things she was screaming, until I was about two stores away when she finally yelled at me, "ONE DOLLAR! ONE DOLLAR!!!!"

A couple of weeks later UHBJAW reports that her niece still enjoys the dancing Sully doll, having thought of interesting ways to play with it, such as putting it in a prone position so it looks like it's swimming.