While I Was Reaching for My Dreams

Author: Johanna Erika Valdueza

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When you see me now you might think that I have never gone through a difficult past. That’s because I have finally recovered from the physical, mental and psychological storms I experienced. But let me share this chapter of my life with you.

Growing up, I have always wanted to become a planetary scientist. Many say that such dream is unrealistic since there are no available degrees in planetary science in the country. I pursued the closest degree I could think and took up BS Geology in UP Diliman.
It was my stepping stone to be closer to my childhood dream. I was young and full of ideals then. I had all the enthusiasm, passion and energy to make things happen. After finishing my undergrad, I decided to enroll in the graduate program of the university thinking and hoping that I would get the encouragement and support in reaching the seemingly impossible dream.

Much to my dismay, I was constantly told of how impractical and impossible they were. I only received rejections and discouragements. One of them even told me that “I was born in the wrong country for such dream”. I was dejected and disheartened. I decided to quit the program and worked in the industry instead. I stopped not because I was quitting on my dreams but I needed to put it on hold for the next two years to restrategize my life plans.

After two years, I received a scholarship to study in Europe. And that was it! I was meant to reach my dreams! I went to the Netherlands for my Masters program. One of my professors even helped me pursue a research thesis related to planetary science. All the stars aligned and deep in my heart I knew that it was the answer to all prayers.

I focused my time and attention to grad school and made sure that I was giving my best. I studied hard, really hard. My daily routine would only include two major activities: researching and studying. I was so engrossed with my studies because I loved what I was doing.

Until one day, I noticed that some parts of my body were swelling.

While I was reaching for my dreams, I did not notice that my health was taking toll on me. I never thought of it as something serious because deep in me nothing could stop me from finishing my degree, even a sickness! My thoughts and plans were clear and sure, but why did this sickness have to get in the way? I was almost close to my finish line but why did I have to get sick all of a sudden?

Every single day my condition worsened. I went to the hospital for check ups but the doctors never took my symptoms seriously. A friend of mine even had to insist that I should be carefully examined because I was getting weak and my body was swelling.

I was admitted and series of tests were done. I have a chronic illness. I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) with Stage 4 Nephritis in September 2015. SLE or Lupus (as it is commonly known) is an autoimmune disease. This simply means that my immune system is mistakenly attacking healthy tissues in different parts of my body.

It was my first time to know the condition and I never understood the gravity of the situation. When I finally realized what it was, I began to get worried about my health, my studies, and basically everything in my life. I was in a foreign country and I didn’t have my family, closest friends and relatives to take care of me.

I was worried with what each day would be like. It was frightening to say the least. But the God gave me the strength to endure, and the courage to overcome the overwhelming physical and emotional pain. He was there with me. He provided people to help me through until my dad and my husband (who was my boyfriend then) were able to take care of me. He even provided the insurance that took care of my hospital bills. I am at a loss of words each time I look back with the daily blessings especially during those difficult stages of my condition.

After the diagnosis and other major medical interventions, I underwent blood transfusion and chemotherapy for the next three months. However, I decided to be back to the Philippines to rest and recover. I focused on my recovery and at the same time tried to work on my thesis. Two months later, I felt a lot better. I made a very bold move to go back to Europe to finish what I started. I continued my studies but I made sure that my health was my top priority.

By March of 2016, I learned that my SLE was already in remission and my kidney function had significantly improved. I was able to defend my dream thesis and eventually earned my elusive degree, MSc.

After everything that I went through, the rejections and discouragements from my former professors and my unexpected medical condition, I finally finished my degree. I reached my dreams amidst all odds. I survived and recovered in all the uncertainties of life because of my determination, the love of the people around me and God’s faithfulness in my life.

Never lose hope. Keep fighting regardless the circumstances because He is there in our every battle.

JOHANNA ERIKA VALDUEZA
Batch 22

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