MANILA – When life coach Ma. Desiree Cruz-Ballesteros was first diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), she was devastated beyond words.
Her children, family, friends, and newfound faith in God, made possible by a fellow patient, gave her the strength to stand up again and live life fully until she eventually lost the battle 11 years later.
Her strength paved the way for raising awareness on CKD and becoming an inspiration for fellow patients.
The advocacy of Des, who passed away in 2021, will live on with “Understanding Chronic Kidney Disease Direct From a Patient (Survival Through Faith),” a book documenting her struggles, physical and spiritual journey, and she live through her disease.
Des worked as a ticketing officer in a travel agency which she described stressful and time consuming, especially during peak seasons.
It was in November 2010 when an impromptu blood pressure check yielded an alarming 180/100 reading.
Soon, she began to feel bloated, lost her appetite and always felt fatigued. Several laboratory tests confirmed she had CKD.
CKD is a condition in which the kidneys are severely damaged, leading to gradual loss of function. This means the kidneys cannot filter excess fluid and waste in the blood, which in turn causes problems, like heart diseases.
In an interview with indie author John Luke Chica posted on YouTube on Jan. 8, 2021, Des admitted to a lot of shortcomings regarding her health.
Despite having an active lifestyle, engaging in extreme sports and outdoor activities like hiking and jet skiing, she had an unhealthy diet and unhealthy habits, like excessive intake of painkillers.
The result was end-stage renal failure, the tail end of CKD, which requires either a kidney transplant or a lifetime of dialysis sessions.
“I cried a lot,” Des said in the interview. “I was in denial, I can't accept. I went through the five stages of grief talaga, anger, denial, depression, and then, yeah, finally acceptance.”
“On the first four months of my dialysis journey, I was so depressed, I detached from my friends, I do not like to talk to anybody,” she continued.
Des endured her treatment as much as she could, despite having to turn away from her once frivolous lifestyle. She had several tubes inserted into her, and she had to undergo dialysis three times a week, aside from other forms of treatment.
She had to give up on a career opportunity as a speechwriter and trainer, which would have meant having traveling abroad, because she cannot skip dialysis sessions.
At one point, after overeating fruits, she nearly passed out before treatment and almost died of cardiac arrest.
Throughout her times of suffering, she received the support of various people who inspired her to trudge on.
On her first few months of fighting CKD, Des gained a friend named Mommy Beck, a fellow patient who shared God’s words to her, while she was in confinement.
She learned to care for her mental health while family and friends helped ward off her suicidal thoughts
“Naisip ko na [I thought] I have to conquer my disease, kailangan huwag akong magpatalo, also maliliit pa 'yung mga anak ko noon [I should not let it overcome me, my kids are still young],” Des said. “They still need me at the time, kaya pinaglabanan ko siya [I fought].”
In 2019, Des wrote the book that chronicled her struggles and how her faith carried her through.
“It's very rare to find someone who can write about her life and her battle against chronic kidney disease in such a way na hindi lang siya medical, hindi lang siya [it's not just] medically accurate, but also it's relatable,” said Kath Eustaquio-Derla of PaperKat Books, publisher of Des’ book.
Des would later on make other public appearances where she talked about CKD and gave hope to fellow patients.
“Take care of your kidneys, let's have an awareness about chronic kidney disease, I do not wish this to happen to anyone,” Des said in a separate interview with lifestyle blog Our Awesome Planet. “Kung pwede ako na lang, sa akin na lang [If only I can carry your own pain and struggles], because this is a very difficult disease.”
Des suffered a stroke and eventually succumbed on Oct. 7, 2021.
Those who knew her affirm that she would remain an inspiration to the lives she touched, to CKD patients like her, and those who are gathering strength to face life’s hardships.
The book is available on online shopping platform Lazada. (PNA)