How Health-Challenged Really Am I?

A letter which I sent to my youngest sister in December 2016 will answer the question.

December  18, 2016

My dearest Bicbic Sha,

Warm and Peaceful Greetings from Kuwait!

Thank you so much for always finding time to write to me. Am sorry though if it is only now that I am writing to you. Been busy with my health and especially in the past two months, I had been out, for 8 weeks in a row, and up to 3 to 4 days in a row (in a week) to meet my various doctors and Specialists. It is the time for my quarterly check and the just concluded last 3 x 3 visits correspond to the nine (9) specialists following me up.

To make you really understand what I am facing every day of my life, I will tell you what illnesses or diseases I have which necessitate seeing nine (9) Specialists.

First is Osteogenesis Imperfecta which we both share. An Edocrinologist is following me up and is trying to treat my brittle bones with a yearly injection of Aclasta, a bone strengthening solution which is somehow halting the fast degeneration of my bones. Aclasta is a very expensive medication, given slowly via IV (intravenous) route and taken only once a year. I already have had three treatment sessions and the first one I shared some photos on my Facebook. I used to take Fosamax, in tablet form and for a year, I supplied Hannah with it and it really helped her a lot. You can ask her the effect of Fosamax tablets to her. I stopped giving her after my supplies got depleted. When I was started with the injectable, which is the Aclasta, my supply of Fosamax stopped. Even Fosamax is very expensive here but I got them all FREE! The Aclasta is worth KD350 (current exchange is KD1 to PhP162.65) but I get it FREE because of Waleed. There is a law here which stipulates that non-Kuwaiti wives of a Kuwaiti should get the same privilege as that of a Kuwaiti, health-wise.

One time, you will go to Jojo’s Internet Café and we will chat then I will show you some photos of my visits to the various health facilities here in Kuwait including a few photos when I got hospitalized twice this year: in April and then last August.

Second is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). It got discovered during my hospitalization because of chest pain and shortness of breath last April that there is a plaque (fatty deposits) in one of my major arteries which supply blood to my heart muscle, the so-called pericardium. I went through a very expensive diagnostic procedure called Cardiac Catheterization. A very tiny tube with a tiny camera at its head was inserted in a major artery in my wrist and passed through my right arm until it reached my heart. I was seeing on a big screen (monitor) the whole procedure and because my hearing aids were fixed in my ears (I removed them prior because I thought it is not allowed in the OR to wear any gadget) I heard the surgeon’s explanation.

The stenosis or blockage seen, thank God, was insignificant, less than 30% only of narrowing of the artery where the plaque is lodged. He said that there is no need to put a stent and a balloon, a procedure known as Angioplasty, and the discovered condition of my coronary artery can be managed medically. I was started immediately with three types of medications and one of them is a blood thinner which will ensure that no clot is formed once the plaque disintegrates. If a clot is formed, it will travel fast to my brain and will cause rupture of blood vessels, a condition known as stroke or CVA (cerebrovascular accident), the cause of Papa’s death as per his death certificate. It is also the same stroke which caused the demise of Nonoy Bulog ten years ago. This means then that it is hereditary and there is that BIG possibility that you, Hannah or Bingbing Stella, will develop it. You all actually need to be seen by a Cardiologist, one of the 9 Specialists who are treating my myriad health conditions.

Third is Leiomyosarcoma (LMS) of the uterus, a very rare form of cancer which got discovered 16 years ago after a myomectomy was performed to remove the “fibroid” or leiomyoma, the medical term for fibroid. It is generally referred to only as myoma, which is wrong, because when the right term – which is leiomyoma – is used, any woman who will be diagnosed with a fibroid or myoma as commonly called, will not suspect that her myoma can turn cancerous! But there is this Leiomyosarcoma or LMS and I developed it nearly two years of having the fibroid in my womb. Had I known that the myoma is actually a leiomyoma and there is this rare cancer called Leiomyosarcoma, I could have opted to have the fibroid removed the first time it got discovered. As you know, I had a recurrence two years ago in my pelvic region and it got surgically removed at St. Paul’s Hospital in Iloilo City last October 17, 2014.

Just over a month ago, the 1.8 cm nodule discovered in my right lung via a plain Chest X-ray, was proven to be non-malignant per CT Scan I went through. It gave me a “scare” because the natural inclination of an LMS of the uterus is to metastasize first in the lungs, then the liver. It is always the trend among the ULMS sufferers. My case is quite unique in that my first metastasis was in my pelvic area, sitting on the right side of my urinary bladder. This kind of metastasis are generally seen only among Retroperitonial LMS or RLMS.

Fourth is Diabetes Mellitus or Type 2 Diabetes. I was diagnosed with it during my confinement at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center (KCCC) for removal of my whole reproductive organs. My fasting blood sugar results were consistently high and as soon as I was discharged from the hospital, I went to a local Diabetologist, as per referral of my oncologist. As late effects, I now have hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol levels in the blood), neuropathy (nerve damage), mild kidney damage and microalbuminuria (protein in the urine). I currently take two meds in tablet form – Glucophage and Forxiga – and two types of Insulin: the fast-acting one (Humalog) which I take 3x a day before food and the long-acting one (Lantus) which I take once in the evening.

Fifth is Gastritis which is an inflammation and erosion of my stomach lining because of acidity and I take a special medication for it, the so-called Omeprazole, which works by diminishing the production of acid in the stomach. One day I got hospitalized because of bleeding from my stomach and that’s when I was diagnosed with gastritis. I also suffer with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and a Gastroenterologist is following me up for these two conditions.

Sixth is hernia discovered in my umbilical area, which bulge is caused by a part of my large intestine and some fatty deposits. Am being followed up by a surgeon and it got recommended that I undergo surgery to repair the hernia but I refused. At the moment, it is not really causing any problem but the surgeon checks it from time to time to determine if the bulge has increased in size. There is this possibility of an intestinal blockage once the bulge gets bigger. The surgeon can actually feel the bulge in my umbilical area and so far, as per last check, it is still of the same size.

Seventh is Spondylolisthesis of my lumbar spine which causes sustained intense pain in the lower back. My 5th lumbar vertebra went forward a little and is not properly aligned with the rest of the lumbar and sacral vertebrae. There is now nerve compression and I am being followed up by a Spinal Surgeon who told me that if the compression gets worse and the pain also becomes worse plus the numbness of my lower extremities, he might operate on my back and relieve the compression and pain by applying some metal to straighten it. Am due for an MRI of my lumbar/sacral vertebrae on December 28, 2016, to check on the current situation of the compression because numbness and pain of my extremities are now worse than before. Am taking a very strong painkiller and something for my nerves to somehow take care of the numbness and pain. I also have scoliosis but not severe as to cause my back to curve on one side.

Eight is Left Vestibular Defect, Benign Paroxysimal Positioning Vertigo and Tinnitus. An Audiologist/Otolaryngologist  is following me up and I take two kinds of medicines: Betaserc 16 mg and Stugeron 25 mgs. 3x a day. I also have balance problem as a result of these conditions. And this is on top of the hearing loss. Am prone to falls because of this balance problem and I have had accidents of falling in the past and the last of which was last August 6, 2016 which ended my knee cap fractured. The bone got shattered and when it was fixed via a knee surgery, the smallest bone fragments were thrown away because there was no way they can be “stitched” or connected with a wire. My knee cap (left) is only now 70% functioning!

Ninth is Bipolar Disorder (which used to be known as manic depressive disorder), diagnosed over two years ago after an attempt to end my life. Am currently taking three kinds of meds: anti-anxiety (Xanax), antidepressant (Flouxetin) and antipsychotic (Seroquel).  Am being seen by a Psychiatrist every two months but when something not normal comes up, I can go to see him any time, just like three months ago when I couldn’t sleep because I was overly manic. My very active mind (racing thoughts) is able to transcend the effect of the medications. The tabs were then increased in dosage and now I am able to sleep well and long!

Aside from the major diseases I suffer with, I also have Allergic Rhinitis and I take Claritine 10 mgs before sleeping on a daily basis. Because of my diabetes, I am prone to infections of the gums, ears, throat and urinary tract (UTI). Only two weeks ago I was admitted to the Observation Room of the Casualty of Amiri Hospital because there was blood in my urine. I had an attack of severe UTI and I was given a high dose of IV antibiotic and upon discharge was given antibiotics in tablet form to be taken twice a day for straight five days.

I have never encountered any problem in getting admitted to the hospital or seen by any doctor. I simply just go to complain and there is always someone to attend to my complaints, and at no cost at all! Can you imagine what will become of me had I been living in the Philippines?

I already have written long and I believe I have more than made up for my inability in the past to answer your letters, hehehe. . .

Will be giving you your Christmas gift on Friday, December 23, but in cash (PhP1,000.00). You just buy yourself a gift. Will be giving the same to Nang Eque, Han and Bing, and my salaried staff (but only at 500 pesos each) – my traditional gift-giving during Christmas.

Merry Christmas and an Advanced Happy New Year to you.




About Author

Freda Editha O. Contreras
Writing is a God-given talent which I try to utilize the good way. I used it as a means to earn a living, my very first job after graduating from college, when I got hired as an Information Writer by the Provincial Government of Antique through Governor Enrique A. Zaldivar in January 1982. By profession, I am a Registered Nurse, and was only able to practice it when I got recruited to work in a private hospital in Kuwait. This was in November 1987 and since then I have been living in Kuwait, now retired since June 2002. Because of my knack in writing I got hired in 1994 to write for Kuwait Times and later became an Editor of 'Pinoy News' a weekly supplement of KT. In March 1996 I published the very first independent Filipino newspaper in Kuwait and the Gulf bannered as Pinoy Expat News or PEN. The paper lasted for only 10 weekly issues. This was followed by another publication and came out first as an insert of an ad paper and later as a separate tabloid. I used then 'Pinoy News' as it was my idea the first time it was used for Kuwait Times. This again failed and produced only three weekly issues. I then turned to the Internet and in 1999 I got hired as a Contributing Editor of, a writers' portal on the web. The last of my articles was published December 31, 2002 but my topic 'Overseas Filipino Workers' was still visible until January 2006. All the 38 articles I wrote have been compiled into a book which I published in August 2007. I discovered blogging in 2006 but was not really serious about my writing. I wrote according to my whim. Having this blog under my own domain name is now a welcome development and I plan to concentrate again in writing. As is commonly said: "A writer will always be a writer."

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