My absurd death threat—or not | Inquirer Opinion
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My absurd death threat—or not

11:46 PM October 19, 2011

Last night, my trainer called my attention, telling me I had to rush to our clinic because of an urgent matter regarding my pre-employment physical examination results. I thought: “Oh, I know what the doctor is going to tell me: Get your ears cleaned and stay healthy.”

I went to the clinic as soon as my shift ended so I could go home early, but I had to wait because there was no doctor available when I went. I came back after an hour and the doctor discussed the results of the exams with me. He said I had to have my ears checked, as I expected. Then, he told me to have another urinalysis because there was something questionable with the lab results. Well, according to him there’s nothing wrong with my blood and other aspects, but there seems to be a hazy part in one of my lungs. The last part kind of hung in the air for a while before it fully dawned on me.

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“I have a spot in my lung?”

“Not really. There’s just a hazy part and we just want to make sure it is not something serious.”

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I was then told to get a spot view (like a close up X-ray or something) of my right lung, as soon as possible, and show him the results, as soon as possible.

Hazy. Right. The room became kind of hazy and my head overflowed with scenarios of my death (and my wake, funeral, etc.) and my family’s bereavement. I went out of the clinic and walked out of the building feeling like a different person. I felt afloat. I wanted to give everybody I know a big warm hug. I wanted to call my mom to tell her about it. I couldn’t. I did not want to burden her with something bad, something uncertain, in the middle of the night, with the risk of hearing her say, “See? Now you realize smoking will get you nowhere.” At this point in my life, I couldn’t bear to hear condemnation. I thought I’d tell my brother when I got home. I couldn’t. How was I supposed to tell him? “Brother, I may be sick. There is a hazy part in my lung. You may have to find a way to support yourself. I’m sorry.” I can’t possibly tell him that, but I couldn’t think of anything better to say. So I thought, no, don’t tell him. Not yet.

What can it possibly mean? What sorts of lung disease can a hazy lung possibly lead to? My first recourse was to consult the Internet. What I found there may be true or not, but I wish I hadn’t let my fingers act on my obtuse paranoia. In one click, a vast horizon of lung complications that a hazy lung can lead to spread out in front of my eyes. Tuberculosis, lung cancer, emphysema, some condition that had the word fibrosis in it, etc. I felt a surge of panic. I can’t afford to get sick. I have two jobs to keep, mouths to feed and bills to pay, and I have no decent savings. I haven’t yet gone on a real vacation with my family—I haven’t yet been to Baguio, for chrissakes. I haven’t won any award yet. I haven’t finished graduate school yet. I haven’t gotten engaged yet. There’s just so much I haven’t done/said/felt/seen yet. I cannot afford to have any sort of potential terminal illness. I cannot die yet. I am only 26 and I cannot die yet.

Happenstance the X-ray machine malfunctioned. Or the hazy part’s just a scar, or the shadow of a ghost that passed by just when the X-ray machine captured the image. Maybe I am overacting. Whatever—it will definitely take time for me to accept that my life is coming to an end. But then when I think of everybody who had gone from this world, what right have I to demand or bargain for a life extension just to do what I [think I] want?

Death claims lives in the most unexpected, most uncanny, sometimes silliest and most painful, of ways. Some get stabbed by a knife. Some get ran over by a truck. Some get eaten by fire. Some get bitten by a mosquito. Some get “hiccups” in the middle of a meal/laugh/sexual intercourse. Some, on the other hand, spend years of affliction trying to delay it. In case my spot view results turn out to be on the terrible side, who am I to ask for more than a hint that my life is indeed ending? A hint should be great enough an opportunity to still exhaust what remains of my time and health, and I should be thankful for it. Beyond words.

I went home with a heavy heart and a mind in chaos. I thought I would not be able to sleep. I fell asleep out of exhaustion anyway and woke up the next day, tired and restless. I am having my spot view this afternoon. I may look calm, but my screws are unscrewing themselves involuntarily each minute.

The bright side is—should the results prove that I indeed have something wrong with my lungs—I still have time to do meaningful things in my life. I may not be able to build my family a mansion before I die—God forbid, but I hope I can leave them something that can make their journey through life easier without me. A happy memory is all I can financially afford right now, among other little things, and I have to think of something more worthwhile than that. On the other hand, damn that machine!

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(The article above was written several days ago. She underwent a spot view X-ray and the results have been discussed with her already. Her lungs are clear, thank God! There must have been a glitch in the X-ray machine’s operation the last time. She is now at peace, trying to spend more time with her family, and she has quit smoking for real.)

Paula L. David, 26, is a full time office staff at Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Intramuros, Manila and part-time e-Rep at Aegis PeopleSupport, Makati.

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