WHEN I was young, playing was my favorite thing to do.

In our village, I was known as an energetic, happy, and playful kid. Those times when you leave the house freshly showered and come home sweaty, your white clothes turn brown because of the dirt from playing.

But when I was afflicted with rheumatic heart disease, everything changed.

Instead of playing "tumbang-preso" and hide and seek, I had to start taking my medication, recuperating, and sleeping.

It's hard to live when you are sick, but I told myself that it was only a disease and couldn't ruin my life.

I turned my illness into a reason to keep living. I believe my disease is a blessing. Having this illness has allowed me to put my faith in God.

Although it can be hard to see sometimes, having a cardio disease is a gift that helps us grow spiritually, emotionally, and even physically.

The gift of my disease is that it serves as an example to others; it encourages them to pursue the blessings of the gospel. My illness is part of what makes me different.

I have learned a lot about myself and other people.

I have found that my illness has given me the ability to be more flexible in my thinking. This has helped me to be more patient with myself and others. It is also a blessing that many recognize and love me because of this affliction.

I don't see myself as an ill person, I see myself as a normal one. Carrying and surviving this disease until now makes me happy and proud because I did it. You can survive this illness if you just stay positive and are thankful for your life.

I share my story to let others know that they aren't alone and that they can still have fun. My disease is not an affliction but rather a gift.


Loel Cedillo is a 21-year-old communications student at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos and is also a board member of the Arts and Sciences Student Council.