MANILA -- Battling a serious medical condition did not hinder one girl from pursuing her dream to finish her studies -- and she even proved that she can do so with flying colors.
It was in 2010 when Tiffany Uy was diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy tissues of the body.
At first, Uy said she thought she could adjust to the demands of college life and succeed in living a normal student life like her classmates but soon enough she felt the toll of her medical condition.
A graduate of Manila Science High School, Uy initially enrolled at the University of the Philippines (UP)-Manila but the smoke from jeepneys and cars plying the busy streets of Padre Faura worsened Uy’s already frail health and was later on advised by her doctor to transfer to UP Diliman where she may be less exposed to pollution.
“At first, I felt the pressure to finish school on time because I was in a block but when I transferred, I was on my own. I realized I was given the same opportunity as any student. Many students can't even afford school so I really wanted to make it a point to keep trying to pursue my dream to finish,” Uy, who took up Public Administration, told ABS-CBN News.
The young girl admitted that she was at first scared of telling her professors and classmates that she was sick and usually went to school with bandages on her knees and ankles. There were also times when she considered stopping her studies.
She admitting to being advised to lessen her load, take a leave of absence or just transfer to the UP Open University.
Uy recalled breaking down so many times. In 2013, she was forced to drop several subjects because she could no longer walk to class.
“I had to climb three floors to talk to my professor and she kindly told me that she had to drop me from the class and I felt so defeated,” she said.
Despite feeling that she was letting people down, Uy said she still felt scared to tell her professors that her medical condition was getting worse.
“I didn't tell one professor about my sickness and he said, ‘Bakit ngayon ka lang pumasok?’ I felt so embarrassed that I was letting so many people down and I was still too scared to tell them how bad my sickness was getting. I felt like people thought I was a lazy kid who didn't want to go to class and I always felt like tearing up when I wanted to explain so I almost wanted to take a leave of absence,” she said.
But as more semesters passed, Uy soon mustered the courage to ask her professors for extra work to make up for her absences.
“Although I was really embarrassed to ask for help, I got the courage to ask my friends to tutor me in subjects I missed out on. I asked for PowerPoints, seat works and kindly begged for the time to be tutored,” she said.
On normal school days, Uy said she would usually wake up with stiff joints and had to do some stretching before attending her morning classes. She took naps between breaks and whenever she was feeling body pain, she would go to the gym to exercise.
BEYOND WHAT IS EXPECTED
Given her school work and health condition, one would think that Uy no longer had time -- or the strength -- for other activities.
But the young girl proved that her medical condition will not stop her from honing her skills. She even ran for her college’s student council three times. She was a councilor for skills development and was chairperson in her graduating year.
“In college, more than organizing events and providing services, the student council mobilizes the students to promote advocacies and spread awareness on social issues. I felt the most fulfilled when I worked in the council and I had the opportunity to work with amazing people so no regrets,” she said.
Her hard work and perseverance did not go to waste as Uy graduated cum laude from UP Diliman this year.
Asked what pushed her not to give up on her dreams, Uy said she thought about how her younger and healthier self would have felt if she gave up.
“She would probably push me to keep trying despite all the obstacles because she wanted to fight,” she said.
“I thought of other lupus patients who experience similar symptoms as me and they continue to live their lives to the best of their abilities. These stories serve as a daily reminder of how blessed I am,” she added.
Today, Uy still has problems with her health but she said she likes to think that she is doing better than when she was first diagnosed with lupus in 2010.
"Usually I just say there are good and bad days. I try to count more good days. Like if I do get muscle pain in my knees and I still opt to do a quick jog on the treadmill, I still count it as a good day mainly because of the mini achievements," she said.
Now that she has finished college, Uy wants to serve her country by working in the government though she has no specific position in mind yet.
“I want to use my knowledge in research and skills in management to good use. There are many things I still have to learn but I will be patient and take everything one step at a time,” she said.
And for those who sometimes feel defeated by their own medical conditions, Uy has this piece of advice:
“There will be days when you will give up and it is okay to break down, cry and feel a lot of anxiety when you feel worthless inside and maybe you feel like no one understands what you are going through but remember to find the light at the end of the tunnel because that it is what will make the difference between deciding to give up entirely or deciding to pick yourself up to try again. The struggles will be there but acknowledge and celebrate the victories in your life. Live life to the fullest but also learn to know your limitations. Surround yourself with a positive energy and dream big!”