Abby Asistio: Strength in Adversity

I first met Abby Asistio in a Novuhair event in Quezon City. At that time I ask myself, what was her problem, not having hair? I didn’t think it was a big deal. I figured, she’s lucky she isn’t disabled.

But I also learned from our parish priest that it is not right to compare your troubles with that of other people. Jollibee food may not be a dream for many of us who work in the city, but when I went to Romblon, I met people  whose kids can only only dream of Chickenjoy because there isn’t any in their town. And there is a huge part of our population who have yet to see the inside of a mall.

Which brings me back to Abby Asistio. She has a condition known as Alopecia, which is basically a disorder within her immune system which causes progressive hair loss. She has had it since she was a little girl and has lived with a lot of cruel comments, potshots and even ridicule from other people, even friends and family. As many would say, ‘kalbo lang daw ang nagpapatawa.’ Believe me, there isn’t anything funny about her condition.

Abby Asistio still pursued a singing career and worked hard to make some of her dreams come true. And even became a celebrity endorser for a hair growth product which seems to work well for her. Now with hair her confidence has grown and she has now accomplished a lot more than what she set out to do.

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It may be wrong for us to compare our troubles with others but it’s not a bad idea to learn from how other people overcame their troubles to live a life they’ve always wanted. Despite our differences in the nature of our struggles, there are ways to overcome and it always begins with acceptance. Once you have accepted your situation, you will be better equipped to formulate a more effective strategy to overcome your disabilities.

One of our friends in the community stands out as my personal beacon of inspiration when it comes to overcoming obstacles and that’s Kcat Yarza. She has been in and out of the hospital and is a sufferer of Neurofibromatosis. However the difficulty she is always always smiling and keeps counting her victories rather than her failures. Kcat and Abby are two of the bravest persons I’ve ever known and it would not be a bad idea to learn from them.

Kcat Yarza joins PwdPhil.com

Kcat Yarza thanks Cignal for the gift certificate and the Royce chocolate!

Kcat Yarza thanks Cignal for the gift certificate and the Royce chocolate!

Writer and PWD rights advocate Kcat Yarza has decided to join PWDPhil as founding member and consultant. Kcat was not born with the disability, she has neurofibromatosis type 2. It is a condition where tumors grow in various parts of her nervous system leading to permanent deafness and paralysis of certain part of her body and facial muscles. While in the last semester of college, the tumors had spread so badly that she had to drop out of college and begin what would be the most painful and challenging crisis of her life.

However, through the years, Kcat decided to fight her condition and than be defeated by it. As her condition worsened, Kcat grew stronger and fought ever more fiercely. Learning from her example, we must never give in to self-pity, no matter how strong the urge may be. In her fight against her disabilities, she also had to fight the social stigma of her condition. Being born as a child with clear hearing and healthy limbs, Kcat’s resolve was tested to its maximum when slowly she could no longer hear and move around as usual.

The social stigma of a disability, especially when the disability comes when you are the peak of your youth is painful and debilitating in itself. There are many ways of coping with the stigma of a physical disability. One is avoidance of meeting new people. Because people who do not know of a disability tend to react rather awkwardly or even sometimes with apathy, still others with hate and ridicule, there are PWDs who would rather avoid meeting people entirely and stick with family and friends. Although the isolation protects PWDs from embarrassment and emotional hurt, it is also caps their experiences and precludes them from opportunities that could bolster their livelihood, personal growth or even receive treatments for their conditions. Another way of coping is for PWDs to barricade themselves with exclusively friends and family, as many PWDs have been known to do. However, this also precludes them from opportunities and personal growth advancement. The most recommended coping technique is for PWDs to make others comfortable with their disability. Such is Kcat Yarza. When this writer first met her, it was pleasant and light. No sob stories, no wallowing in pity, no tears about her condition. We were talking shop mostly on what she can do for the group and possible projects we can all do for the good of the PWDs in general. Kcat even made a joke (which I found so funny) about her disability. The conversation went like this:

Madge (her mom): Kcat lip reads very well so even if she can’t hear you she can still understand you.
Me: I know of a fellow writer who lip reads very well that’s why I never he is hearing-impaired until he told me.
Kcat: Magaling ba sya mag-lip read? Sabihin mo kontes kami kung sino mas magaling sa min. If he can lip-read me then magaling nga sya. (Kcat Yarza’s facial muscles are paralyzed and her lips don’t move when she speaks, only her teeth, jaw and tongue.)

I was surprised at her sense of humor. Yes, she has made me feel comfortable with her disability. She is an amazing woman indeed. Kcat Yarza blogs at www.kcatyarza.com