It had to take me a year before I finally found the courage to write about this. I had wanted to write down every detail, every agonizing moment pre-surgery, every triumphal sign of improvement during recovery, until the first day she went for a job interview. I thought of writing things down on my unused notebooks, but everything was too much for me to take.
I was also dealing with personal drama with my own family. But that’s another story.
The following days after surgery were trying times, but definitely promising. She would send me garbled text messages, which were really difficult to decipher. Letters were missing. Words were misplaced. Answers to my questions didn’t match. But she was responding. That’s the most important thing.
About two weeks after the surgery as I dropped by for a visit, the first thing that came out of her mouth was “Starbucks”. Surprised at the request, I had to ask, “Did you just say you want to go to Starbucks?” She mumbled “yes” with a naughty grin. I looked at her husband, who obviously disapproved. “Baka hindi pa nya kaya,” he said. I thought so, too, but she was persistent. She’s a brat, you see, and even in that state, we knew she would do anything to get what she wanted. And so we went to the mall.
I asked her if she wanted to wear a hat or anything to cover the left side of her stitched-up forehead, but she refused (I called her Frankie, short for Frankenstein, for it). When we got to the mall, people stared at her stitches. The spectacle probably grossed them out, and I’m not sure if she was aware of it. Normally, she would glare back. She’s that feisty. But I guess she was just too happy to be out of the house to care.
We couldn’t find Starbucks, and we couldn’t go any further because we were walking according to her weak and slow pace. So she settled for the nearest eating place. She could barely eat, though. She still wasn’t in full control of her sensory systems. She couldn’t swallow much, so solid food and liquids would fall out of her mouth. She would involuntarily salivate a lot, and she doesn’t even know it. I believe I used up all of the table napkins from the counter from catching her saliva. At some point she felt too tired to eat and probably from all the walking (the longest she ever did after surgery), so she placed her head on top of the table. Her saliva gushed out like water from a faucet. My heart was crushed at the sight of my best friend, weak and helpless. She, on the other hand, was already getting frustrated at her own weakness and helplessness.
The following weeks post-surgery were utterly incredible. She would go out more often, taking longer walks with her husband and son. A little after a month, we were already back in the field to watch her son compete.
By December, we were already going to the malls to do some Christmas (window) shopping and watch light shows. As if nothing happened. She would still have difficulty with her speech, but those who don’t know her that well could barely notice. This is truly God’s work right here.
It’s been a year, and she’s working like nothing happened. In fact, she was already working six months after her surgery! If I have my way, I’ll ask her to stop working already. But I guess working is in her lifeblood, so the most I can do now is to wish that someday we get to work with each other again. Even his son dreams of it, too, saying, “so you can watch over Mommy.”
But I have to admit the entire experience took a little from her. She’s a little mellow, aware that she has to take it easier this time. Nevertheless, she is the same feisty friend, loving wife, dutiful daughter, and doting Mom that we all love. To this very moment, I am still amazed at the way she took everything with such unbelievable courage.
I am also overwhelmed by the outpouring of love especially from her fellow soccer moms who stuck with her every step of the way, offering help in every form. Her former officemates, who either visited or sent prayers also gave her the strength to fight. My own officemates, who gave me hugs and encouraging words to stay strong for her and Malakai. My family, who considers Grace as their own.
I have to admit that out of all the surgeries and visits to the hospital these last nine years, I thought I was going to lose her this time around. But God had other plans. And so does she.
Even when you know someone can fight the toughest challenges in life, you still get scared when it gets as real as this. God really makes miracles that no one can comprehend. He created this superwoman, and I’m glad I know her – and she chose me as her best friend.