Have you ever gotten sick while you are far away from home? Trust me, it’s horrible.
So imagine this: you are in another country that is 6,457 miles away from home; you start swelling and the doctors can’t diagnose your illness; you undergo transfusion and chemotherapy; then when they are finally able to diagnose what is wrong they tell you that you have an incurable autoimmune disease. Pretty scary, right?
Meet Erika Valdueza, the Planetary Scientist who has not allowed anything to stand between her and the stars.
Erika has always dreamed of becoming a planetary scientist. She entered graduate school with hopes of receiving support and encouragement from her UP Diliman professors. But for 2 years, all she got were rejections and discouragements. One of them even told her that “she was born in the wrong country for this dream.”
Not letting this stop her, Erika pursued a career in the industry that she love. In 2015, she received a scholarship to do her masters in Europe. She pursued her thesis on the research of studying clays on Mars using remote sensing techniques. Erika was living her dream of doing what she had always wanted to do, and doing it in Netherlands.
Then, she started having edema and diarrhea. The emergency room doctors thought nothing of it and sent her back home, but after 2 weeks, her swelling from her legs went up to her abdomen. She went back to the hospital and was admitted into the infectious disease department to be monitored because of the diarrhea. Until they found out that she had Systemic Lupus Erythemathosus with Class 4 Nephritis.
“The diarrhea was because my kidneys were failing. My total urine for
24 hours would only be 100ml. They did various blood tests
and in the end they told me they’re 50% sure that I have SLE.
To verify if it’s Nephritis, I needed to undergo kidney biopsy.
Three days after the biopsy, the result showed that 100% sure it’s
SLE with Nephritis.
I had to undergo chemotheraphy IV or cyclophosphamide for 3 months.
During my treatment, I lost 12 kg and I had drastic hair loss. My family and boyfriend flew to be with me, and they have been my source of strenght.”
Erika went back home to the Philippines in January 2016 to recuperate. She took immediate actions in working on her health and after 3 months, she went into remission.
She went back to Europe to finish her thesis, and at the age of 30 years old, Erika Valdueza received her Masters in Applied Earth Science from the University of Twente in Netherlands.
We never know what life will throw us. Our attitude greatly defines who we are and who we will be. Erika never gave up when her professors told her that her dream to be a planetary scientist was impossible, she did not give up after being diagnosed with SLE with Class 4 Nephritis, and she did not give up after going back home.
The easy way out is the road that most people would choose. Erika chose the other road, the one less traveled, the one that is harder, that one that has brought her to her dreams.
Erika Valdueza, Lupus Warrior.