5 important lessons on strength in difficult times

It’s been nearly two years, but I can still feel the pain, anguish, and trauma brought about by Rianna’s sickness that almost cost her life.

Rianna is my nine-year-old niece who suffered from mycoplasma encephalitis. She was hospitalized last October 17, 2015. Encephalitis is an acute inflammation of the brain. The majority of cases are caused by either a viral infection or the immune system mistakenly attacking brain tissue. It is a rare disease that occurs in approximately 0.5 per 100,000 individuals – most commonly in children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems.

So just imagine our shock when we found out about her condition. Of all kids, why Rianna, a very charming, talented, sweet girl who’s well-loved by many? Why this has to happen to our family?

I cannot even start telling you what my family and I had been through without getting too emotional. Aside from the emotional pain, her 10-month hospital confinement cost our family almost PhP 13 million (hospital bills and daily expenses combined). Where in the world are we going to get that huge sum of money?

Well, thanks to some charitable institutions, government offices, fundraising events/campaigns initiated by our good friends, and monetary donations from our families, relatives, and good friends we were able to manage that huge financial debt.

While Rianna is at home now recovering, we are still struggling to make ends meet as we still need to support her monthly medications and vitamins, rehabilitation, physical therapy, and check-ups, making sure she won’t have infections, colds, coughs, or fevers, or else she’ll have seizures and we’d go back to square one.

It was hard. What more if we don’t have means to support her. But despite everything, we are still thankful that God gave this second life to Rianna and to our family. I also think this is a blessing in disguise. Not many people are given a second shot at life, but we have been given this one, isn’t this enough to be thankful for? While it cost us a lot financially, it kept our family bonded and united, and we’ve become more open and closer unlike before.

Up to now, I still get paranoid whenever I receive texts from my sister informing me that Rianna has a slight fever or that she’s having minor seizures, most especially if I don’t receive any response from them if I inquire about Rianna.

I don’t want to go through seeing her fighting for her life again, the anxious feeling of waiting for her test results hoping she doesn’t have any infection, the look on the doctors’ faces whenever they try to explain her delicate and complicated condition, sleeping on the cold floors and benches outside the ICU, spending weekends, after office hours, and special occasions at the hospital, sleepless nights, endless crying, receiving frantic phone calls and texts, looking (to almost begging) for funds to pay for our hospital bills EVER AGAIN.

But as Eleanor Roosevelt say, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I have lived through this horror I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do that thing you think you cannot do.”

And if there is one important thing I’ve learned from this experience apart from gaining strength is that you have to hold on and keep the faith and believe that everything happens for a reason. Two years have gone by so fast. I cannot imagine we’ve been through all that! But with steadfast prayers and support from our family and community, our family survived it all and God has always provided for our needs and Rianna’s even before we ask them.

It wasn’t easy to be strong. I still break down, cry at night or whenever we talk about what happened during our family dinners or casual talks, but life must go on. We just have to remain positive because I know that things will get better soon.

We also have to stay strong for my sister, Rianna’s mother, who had to take care of her solely 24/7 and endure the pain of seeing her only daughter suffering every single day. There should be no room for negativity. 

I also learned to manage my expectations. During our hard times, I learned not to expect people to understand our plight because those people whom I thought cared didn’t care at all and those whom I didn’t expect to care, simply cared. I learned not just to manage my expectations, but also not to expect anything at all. People will help if they want to, you don’t have to beg or ask them. 

Be grateful. Help came to us in all forms so we learned to appreciate them and be grateful because who knows that’s the only thing they’ve got? A friend who has a sick child extended a helping hand because she said she knows what we are going through – she understands. Some people are also bearing their own crosses we know nothing about. The least we can do is to try to be nice and understanding and accept whatever help they can give. 

Learn to forgive. It’s easy to blame someone for what happened to Rianna just for the heck of blaming – her parents, doctors, or somebody else – but at the end of the day, no one wanted this to happen. No one wanted to see her suffer. I cannot even wish this to my worst enemy. 

They say, there will always be people in our lives who will treat us wrong, but be sure to thank them for it made you a stronger and better person than before. I learned to forgive myself for my shortcomings and other people as well for theirs. Nobody’s perfect anyway.

And lastly, I learned to treasure my family, friends, and relatives who’ve been there with us during our difficult times. “Family is the best thing you could ever wish for. They are there for you during the ups and downs and love you no matter what.” While hard times will always reveal your true friends.

That being said, up to now I’m still struggling to share this experience without being too emotional. I had to edit this post several times and still haven’t shared the full details of our experience. I promise on my future posts, I will do my best to share everything.

“The pain that you’ve been feeling can’t compare to the joy that’s coming” (Romans 8:18). I say, Amen to that!

Before I end, I’d like to thank one amazing person, Ipuna Black for introducing me to this blog collaboration and for inspiring me to write everyday and to Jane Love for the encouragement and the push. This is actually their second collab. I’m really happy, excited, and so grateful to become part of this collab. Hopefully one day, I do get to meet all of the writers in person and in one time zone. You know what I mean guys!

This is a monthly blog collaboration and our theme for July is Strength. For more stories on Strength, check out these 11 amazing and truly inspiring writers who participated in this blog collaboration. Happy reading and hope we inspired you:

Tajwar Fatma 

Ipuna Black

Jane Love  

Jothish Joseph

Barb Caffrey

Addison D’Marko

Nicolle K

Ajibola Sunday

Sonyo Estavillo

Camilla Motte

Manal Ahmad

Published by Mylene Orillo

Mylene Orillo is a contributing writer at My Pope Philippines. Prior to that, she contributed to the Health & Lifestyle magazine.  She's a former correspondent at The Manila Times; former editor-in-chief of TravelPlus magazine; and former assistant editor of Health & Lifestyle, Zen Health, and DiabetEASE magazines by FAME Publishing, Inc., a company owned by cardiologist Dr. Rafael Castillo who has given her the much-needed break and opportunity in the health industry and medical field.  Her previous job as a Media Consultant at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Writer-Researcher at the Headquarters Philippine Army ignited her passions for charity, volunteering, selfless service, and love of country. As a young girl, she loved reading her mom's collection of Mills & Boons pocketbooks, which started her passion to write romance stories.  She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Sto. Tomas in España, Manila. She is now working towards earning her master's degree hopefully this year. She loves traveling, long-distance running, reading romance and non-fiction books, watching Korean Drama series, feel-good rom coms, military movies, and documentaries during her spare time. Someday, she wants to meet Prince William and Pope Francis, settle down with the love of her life and have a family and kids of her own; and become a bestselling romance author.

28 thoughts on “5 important lessons on strength in difficult times

  1. Thanks for sharing this story and I’m sorry to hear your niece’s illness; I hope that her condition improves sooner rather than later, and do take care of yourself too. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Mylene,
    I had to tear up reading this post. It hits so close to home. I never realized how expensive healthcare can be. Jy only spent 2 months in the hospital. 10 months for Rianna! ❤️​ When a child is sick, you do find strength that you never knew existed. I wish you and your beautiful family nothing but the best. I’m so grateful every day that I got a second chance with Jy. You all have more time with your precious Rianna. It’s crazy that both situations happened at the same time. I hope we meet someday too. Jane is a rock as well. Thank you for your kind words too. They mean a lot. I’m about to work on my book now. Write write write, Mylene! ❤️​

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I know Ipuna. I know you understand. Honestly, I was inspired by your earlier post about Jy and I admired how you were able to write about it. When Rianna got sick, everything just stopped. It is only now that we are trying to start living normally. Much has changed, but as they say, everything happens for a reason. I’m just glad somewhere along those dark times, we meet people along the way who understands and knows what we are going through and you are one of them. Thank you for the support. Hope to meet you soon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I couldn’t write about Jy like really write about him until almost 2 years later! It’s too close to the heart when you are still living it. Jy had a LOT of therapy after, so my mind was there. I just pray for continued recovery for Rianna.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, I have lived through this horror I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do that thing you think you cannot do.”
    I completely agree with this 100%.

    I’m grateful to God for what he has done and has been doing for you and your family. And yes! There’s a joy coming so massive that y’all will be amazed. I have faith that Rianna will get healed totally very soon. Just keep holding on to God’s Word and confessing it for yourself.

    Also, yes. We’ll all definitely meet one day for sure. Or at you, Ipuna and I will sit down and chat over some tea. 😀 And thank you for your kind words.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “I also learned to manage my expectations. During our hard times, I learned not to expect people to understand our plight because those people whom I thought cared didn’t care at all and those whom I didn’t expect to care, simply cared.” This was such a strong line that really resonated with me. No matter what you go through, the illness and conditions that rock and rattle your family to the core, you realize that not everyone understands. I think expectations and managing them is a huge, huge thing that someone can do for their own mental health and personal wellbeing. When we expect others to empathize or expect too much from people, it only leads to disappointment. I am so glad that Rianna has a second chance at life and I know that you and your family are stronger and closer for it. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hey Mylene, what an awesome testimony you have shared. Thank you for sharing your heart. I understand, it was difficult to do. Sometimes that darkness needs a little light. God wants us to share our testimonies. They happen to us to help someone else. In the process. You all WILL be blessed. “hold on and keep the faith and believe that everything happens for a reason.” Indeed, its for a reason. Trust God. He will answer ypur prayers. We are all here telling our stories to the world for a reason. I will add you, Rianna, & Your family to my prayers. and #keepwriting. CAMILLA

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the prayers, Camilla. I am really overwhelmed with the kind words. I’m happy I collaborated with such amazing people like you. Yes, I will keep writing. The world needs to hear our stories. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This made me really emotional. It must not be easy for you all but hold on the strength. Best wishes to Rianna and you. One day she’ll be cured, have faith in God and his plans.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. What an amazing post and it is pointing out a real life event. Thanks for sharing and I can relate to few points, talking of managing expectations, practicing gratitude and forgiving, it takes an impeccable strength to do those things but Nature has endowed us with the innate strength to be courageous and do them when the need be. Thanks for pointing out those points for others to know, keep up the good work and stay blessed.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Dear Mylene,
    You are an incredibly strong lady.
    You didn’t give up then and I know you win give up anytime !
    Ri is a pretty girl. And she is just as brave as her aunt. I know how bad financial debts can get, But I’m happy you had the support of your loved ones.
    And this was a very emotional and empowering post ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you so much, Mylene, for writing this. It sounds like it was incredibly painful, but you learned a lot, and your niece is doing much better. (Hallelujah for that!)

    The bit about how you have to manage expectations struck a chord with me. Yes, you are absolutely right about how people react; some step up when you don’t expect it, others don’t when you do, and it’s hard to understand the reasons why. But if you try to expect nothing at all, you can be pleasantly surprised on the one hand, and be far less annoyed on the other (if you get annoyed at all, being so busy with the crisis at hand that you may not even think about these others who didn’t step up when they almost certainly should’ve).

    Yes, trying times do bring out the best and worst in people. I think they brought out the best in your family, and I’m very, very glad you and yours were able to raise that immense sum of money to care for Rianna.

    But as you say, money is not the point.

    (I don’t begrudge the health care system money, mind.)

    At any rate, I could tell how painful it was, and I sympathize greatly with you and your family. I’m thankful you made it through, and I hope Rianna will continue to gain strength, health, and enjoy the love of her family and friends for a long time to come.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for taking time to read my post. Yes, it was incredibly painful and traumatic, but thank God we are recovering from it, she is recovering from it. Although it is slow, we are positive that we will get to her full recovery. Thanks again for the kind words. It means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re most welcome, Mylene. I’m just sorry I didn’t find time to read it sooner.

        Sometimes the best recoveries are slow processes, but I know it’s really frustrating to watch. The only thing you can do is what you’re doing; think good thoughts, pray when needed (or wanted), be kind and good and loving to Rianna and the rest of your family, and keep being the kind-hearted person you are.

        I know it doesn’t feel like much, some days, to do those things. But it’s all you can do, and I think it’s greatly appreciated (whether anyone says so or not — I know families sometimes aren’t great at expressing their appreciation).


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