On Disease, Recovery and Support

On Disease, Recovery and Support


Last fall, two of my relatives in the Philippines got sick with Dengue. This spring, another two needed invasive surgeries for serious conditions, one for kidney stones, and one for gallbladder stones. In each instance, they approached me for financial support, which I was able to provide.

I felt empowered about being able to help, which is a new feeling to me, and I have to say that it’s pretty great. Growing up an orphan, the feeling of shame and guilt never left me because of the awareness that someone else had to be financially responsible for my needs. Adults indeed, are supposed to provide for children, but knowing that brought no relief at all. As a teenager, the first paycheque I had in the summer of 2008 working in retail was momentous. The first time I sent money via Western Union to my brother prior to him coming to Canada, was just as great.

I felt sympathetic to the suffering that was caused. I also learned to hold my thoughts in whenever people shifted to judging and victim blaming. In many ways, diet plays a significant role in many health issues. Diabetes, kidney troubles, hypertension and liver diseases usually correlate with our fellowmen’s typical diet. A major thing that I realized, is that in homes here in Canada, kitchen stoves come with ovens, which provides the option for a much healthier way of cooking: baking. My cousin who had gallbladder surgery said that the doctor told her to hold off on eating fatty foods moving forward. A common way that food is prepared is frying, so this would be a challenge. Convenient and cheap fast food options is everywhere and can be tempting, because finding the time to plan meals and cook food also takes time. I’m just content that they know what changes they need to implement.

As for dengue, here in Alberta we do get overwhelmed with swarms of mosquitoes when outdoors during the summer. We’re pretty lucky that for the most part, the bites are just annoying and itchy. When I was chatting with my colleagues at lunch, none of whom are Filipinos, I told them about all the different diseases, from mosquitoes and other factors, that we had to deal with in the Philippines during typhoon season. Those diseases include dengue, malaria, leptospirosis, Japanese encephalitis, to name a few. My coworker, who grew up in rural eastern Canada, simply exclaimed “oh my god, that’s terrible”.

A very useful tool these days is that when sending money via Western Union or e-transfers through online banking, with the touch of a button, a transaction history pops up, which is convenient and easy to read. With the objective information handy, whenever I get to say ‘no, not today’ to helping, I can back that up with saying “over the past number of months, I have already sent a few thousand dollars, so I’m maxed out.” This part is what is difficult for many migrants. This is where I appreciate that the requests that I received are more optional, since they are from extended family. I think because the relationship is a bit more distant, they are more courteous when making a request, and even more expressive of their gratitude. I wonder, and really hope, that immediate family members are sensitive to making requests and are expressive with appreciation.

I feel empowered to set boundaries, to say “no, not today” because I now sincerely believe the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. It can be difficult, but important, to establish a set of financial priorities: pay for all needs and expenses here, pay off any debt here, have a bit of savings if possible, and be aware of the total amount of money being sent so far and the different requests received.

The requests for aid from my relatives had come so close to each other, that given my budget this year, I won’t be able to help out for the rest of the year. I’m hoping that they will find other means of support, just until I have my new budget for next year.

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