Woes of an OFW

WHAT you are going to read this time is extraordinary. It is not what I planned to write about but because of my present predicament, which you will learn shortly, I feel unable to function normally as I should. I ask you, please, to read the following letter which I sent to the members of OFW Club mailing list I administrate. It is my wish to make you understand the woes of an OFW.

By the time this article comes out, I will still be in the hospital.

My dear friends and members of this Cyberkadahan,

Year 2000 – the Year of OFWs – so it seems, is not a good one for me. What I have been through so far could have made anyone lose hope and faith in God. Yet, here I am – physically and emotionally scarred and spiritually near-drained – still trying to understand why I have gone through (and still am continuing to) a lot of trials.

We have heard it often enough that a person can only take as much and that God, in all His unfathomable wisdom, won’t give us something we can’t handle. How true is this to each one of you? And how far, do you think you can go in facing the hurdles of life? Especially if they are given to you one after another?

Please bear with me, my dear friends, as this message will be a long one. I know that there are lessons to be learned from my story and I would love to share it with you all. I hope that there’s no one among you who’s facing more than I do now. I really don’t know because most of you had been very quiet recently. Some of you may also be going through a lot this year and I would like to believe that I’m not alone!

When I learned early March this year (just 3 weeks after suffering for the first time from acute urinary tract infection – ah the pain and the discomfort!) that the fibroid tumor (discovered still small last year) had started to grow uncontrollably inside my womb (uterus), and that both my fallopian tubes are blocked (crushing all my hopes of conceiving the natural way), I was devastated! Initially, the doctor advised removal of the tumor by surgery. Ever hopeful (Waleed and I) that I can still conceive through IVF (test tube), we asked for non-surgical option. In April, I commenced taking Inj. Zoladex and continued until mid-September. All along I suffered the side effects, which, believe me, had put a lot of strain in my inter-personal relationships with colleagues at work, and with Waleed, insofar as my marriage was concerned. Any ordinary man or husband could have, literally, thrown me out of his life! Through Waleed’s love and friends’ support, I passed through the six months period of treatment.

In early April, my mother was rushed to the hospital because of an infected wound in her right foot. Two weeks after my Mom was discharged from the hospital with a clean bill, I received news that my children’s Nanny’s father died. Soon after that my Mom’s foot was discovered gangrenous and she had to be rushed to the hospital again. By May 4, I was beside my Mom as she fought for the infection on her leg and lungs. May 6 when I experienced a chest-suffocating pain (similar to the one I felt when my father died in 1981) after seeing my Mom in the Recovery Room minutes after her right leg (from 2 inches below the knee) was amputated. May 8, my old Nanny (who used to be my Mom’s personal maid when she was younger) collapsed and had a convulsion because of high fever. She was also rushed to the hospital where my Mom was and subsequently treated for pneumonia and later for TB of the bones.

When I returned to Kuwait on May 19, I started to feel the side effects of the sleepless nights and unrelieved tension I went through while looking after my Mom and Nanny in the hospital. I experienced for the first time the worst headache you can ever imagine of! And also first time in my life that I spent my birthday (May 26) writhing in pain in bed!

The ensuing three months came out uneventful – except for a drained savings – as I needed to see my mother again (July/August). First week of September, my eldest son, who I excitedly and happily enrolled last May in college, dropped all his subjects and refused to go back to school! Then exactly a month after that, my nephew, whose college education I was financing, also dropped out just before the final exams! Gone with the wind the nearly P70,000 I spent for the two – tuition fees, dorm fees, food and personal allowances + books and personal things!

Then exactly a month after I took the last of the injections, it was discovered that the tumor didn’t shrink and it even grew bigger! Surgery was the only option left and on October 19, I was ‘knifed’ by a surgeon. I need not tell you the pain and discomfort I suffered after the anesthesia wore off! And while recovering, I still have to endure more pain because of gas accumulation in my stomach and intestines. And I still suffer from the gas pain up to this very moment!

Do you think all is well after the tumor has been removed? NO, and it’s for this that I’m now posting this long message to you all.

Yesterday (November 16, 2000), I was notified to see my doctor. When I went late in the afternoon with Waleed, we were told that the biopsy report turned out positive for malignancy! Oh yes, my dear friends, I have CANCER of the uterus! Although suspecting it all along, I was still in shock – not because I may be dying soon (I fully accept the fact that we will all die sooner or later and that it is not in our hands to decide when it will happen) –it’s more on the realization that I won’t ever, ever produce an offspring for my beloved husband! I will have to be knifed again, as you must have guessed by now, and this time the whole lot – uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and cervix – will be removed! And it will have to be done ASAP – within this week, most probably, just a month after I was last cut surgically.

My main worries, aside from not being able to produce anymore a child for Waleed, are my children and family members: mainly my mother, my youngest sister and my old Nanny who are all medically unfit; my other younger sister whose husband is under my employ (my own special way of dole-out actually), my older sister with her two boys who I am temporarily supporting, and my only brother who is also dependent on my support. I also worry about the three family breadwinners under my employ: two as caretakers of my Mom, sister and old Nanny and another one as helper in the house. I also am worried about Arlo – my adopted son (a member of a cultural minority group) who is doing well in his studies (Vocational course). I promised him the last time that he’ll join me here in Kuwait as soon as he gets his diploma. What will happen to them all should my body finally waste off?

I can’t afford to die now! Please, oh Lord, not yet! My family needs me and I wouldn’t want to forsake them!

Sorry, I am being overly dramatic, I know, and I may sound corny to some of you. But, please, just indulge me this very moment. After all, we may never get to “see” each other in the future!

If you don’t hear from me in 2 to 3 days’ time – that means that I’m in the hospital again. All I ask of you is to pray for me: that the cancer cells have not invaded other parts of my body. I don’t want to run after every part of my body just to prolong my life. Let it be localized only in my reproductive organs and if it turns out otherwise, let me die the soonest!

Again, so sorry I am, my dear cyberfriends for giving you my worries.

In tears,



Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: December 5, 2000


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