Growing up in a Mexican family with six brothers writing became Sandra

Growing up in a Mexican family with six brothers, writing became Sandra Cisneros’ way of coping with the loneliness. Having a father who thinks daughters do not amount much to anything except to be someone else’s wife, was Cisneros’ constant struggle. It was this need for her father’s acceptance that shaped her life. Her successful writing career was marked with financial rewards and acceptance from her peers. But it took a decade of writing, when after her father read one of her Spanish-translated story that she felt his pride for her. Like Cisneros, we are shaped by the struggles that we experienced and continue to experience in our life. There are many difficulties or challenges that come into our life; but there is always one that is life changing. I grew up in a loving home in the Philippines, where I spent my days climbing trees, running up and down a huge pile of sand or gravel, and sneaking out of the house to play with our dogs during siesta. I was an energetic, strong-willed, curious girl. Life was uneventful and carefree, until one day on a visit to my doctor for a common cold that wouldn’t go away changed all that. After finding nothing out of the ordinary, my doctor spied a bruise on my arm. When I replied that I couldn’t remember how I got it, she ordered some tests and sent us home with the assurance that it could be nothing. But it wasn’t nothing. The results showed that my platelets, the cells in the blood whose main function is clotting, were alarmingly low. It wasn’t after a series of laboratory tests and a week filled with tears and anxiety, that I was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. What I had was an immune disorder wherein the immune system attacks the platelets, resulting to low count. From then on my physical activities were limited because I would bruise easily and was in danger of bleeding; I felt caged. It felt like the disease took away my childhood and replaced it with days of uncertainty. My family was heartbroken but remained strong. I would hear my mother tearfully talk to my father about her anxieties and my future, but I never saw her tears when I would ask her with my endless questions about the disease. Instead my mother, who is a nurse professor, would lend me her textbooks and tell me to read about it. It fed my curiosity about the disease, and at the same time I felt hope that one day I would be healthy again. Living with a disease is difficult for most adults and it is even more difficult when it happens to children and even with young adults. At eleven, most of my friends were physically and emotionally blossoming into young ladies. My friends talked endlessly about training bras and their crushes. I, on the other hand was experiencing the full effects of steroids and kept thinking of ways to beat the disease. My face was moon-shaped, my abdomen bloated, and I had that signature buffalo hump on my back. Yet none of those unflattering physical changes affected me, what was taking a toll on my emotional well-being was the uncertainty of my health. During the years with ITP, my platelets weren’t always low. They would go up to a normal level when I am on my medication and stay there for up to a month or two from the time the medicine was withdrawn. And then it goes down, and I would be taking the pills again. For eleven years it was up then down, then back up again. There never was certainty on how long my platelets would stay at a normal level. Even in its uncertainty, I never stopped being hopeful. But with every hope came hopelessness. Every time my platelet count goes down the depth of hopelessness got deeper. Over and over it broke my heart but never my spirit. And like some heartbroken people, I kept looking for hope. I found it in my parents, who never failed to remind me to pray and be strong; in my friends who didn’t see my disease but saw a girl full of strength, in my teachers who praised my performance in school after missing so much classes; and even from my older brother who never changed in the way he treated me. At a young age, I struggled with a disease that took me on an emotional rollercoaster. Whether I ate right or stayed away from stress; my immune system would still attack my platelets. I had no control over the disease. No control at all, that unexpectedly after eleven years I became free from it; my platelet count stayed in the normal range and never again dropped. All through those years I realized that while I did not have control over the disease, it made me strong and equipped me for the trials that will come into my life. Like Cisneros, my struggle with my disease transformed me into who I am today and it prepared me for another health struggle. After eight years of being free from an autoimmune disorder, I got diagnosed with another autoimmune disorder. Living with lupus is a health issue that I am certain will last me my lifetime. When the rheumatologist broke the diagnosis to me, he told me that I would be able to manage the disease well. I found hope in his words. Stronger and wiser from my previous health struggle, he was indeed right. For every morning that I opened my eyes, I am thankful and hopeful.

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