Let me tell you something about myself. I look unusual with dark patches on my face. My skin looks dark and reddish but, despite my physical appearance, my friends say that my smile and my laughter bring light to the room. Right now, I feel grateful that I am alive and free…BUT that was not the case before. Just like other patients who first learned from their doctors that they had leprosy, I felt betrayed and unloved by God. At that time, I wanted to end my life. Only the thought of leaving my daughter alone kept me alive.
At first, I tried to hide my disease from relatives and neighbors. But my aunt learned about it and whenever we had misunderstandings, my aunt would go outside our house and shout “leper”! Even my own family destroyed my personal things, thinking that these were contagious too.
Doctors told me that leprosy destroys one’s nerves if left untreated for a long time. My skin would become numb and I would not feel pain. But why did I feel so much pain from the way I was treated by my relatives? When my husband abandoned me and my daughter, why did it hurt so much? When I visited my husband’s workplace and he pretended not to know me, even denying that I was his wife, why did I feel so much pain in my body? I asked myself so many times: Did I stop being a wife because of leprosy? Didn’t I deserve respect even if I had leprosy?
All these questions played in my mind as I continued taking the pills called Multi Drug Therapy (MDT). The MDT cured me of leprosy within 12 months . I am no longer contagious. But why do people cringe when I get near them?
In this dark and lonely path, I prayed for light. God, the source of life and hope, led me to join the PGH Hansen’s Club where I found encouragement, met new friends, and got a deep understanding about leprosy. Through the Philippine Leprosy Mission’s (PLM) support of Hansen’s Club activities and projects, we were empowered economically and strengthened to trust God more in our daily lives. Little by little, I gained back my confidence and developed the courage to live independently. The livelihood training activities sponsored by PLM such as the soap and rug making helped me and other members augment our incomes.
I am glad I did not give up. My husband came back and we are now facing life’s challenges together. I have hope for the future and I am continually praying that our community will no longer discriminate people like me who had the disease… I hope they will show us compassion and understanding… just like my aunt who now calls me by my own name…