Cancer ; a word that carries heavy meaning to it and also a word I’m so familiar with. I’m deviating from my usual environmental post to talk about my experience related to cancer. It started when I was twelve, right after mum decided to stop work and be a full time housewife. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t me who was diagnosed with cancer but my grandfather. He was the first that I know of to be diagnosed with cancer and it was colon cancer. The treatment came soon after he was being diagnosed. I was already a regular visitor of SJMC (a hospital) since I was young, again not because I was sick but I was often given the duty to accompany others for their medical checkups.
With my grandfather’s treatment, I visited the hospital more and more, sometimes on a daily basis. I remembered how my weekdays schedule were; Mondays and Thursdays I have tuition for two hours after school and at night I would drop by the hospital if grandfather was admitted. On days that he goes for treatment, mum would pick me up and we go straight to the hospital to wait for him until he finished his chemotherapy treatment. Grandfather was in stage 3 at that time, so he went for chemotherapy. I would spend hours sitting, talking to my mum or read a book while waiting for him. I often have my lunch in the hospital cafeteria too and I personally prefer the cafeteria in the old wing. The cancer department was in the new wing so I’d usually cross a bridge to the old wing for my lunch. They usually sell cakes and corn in cup too which was my favorite purchase before we leave for the day. Once grandfather is done with his treatment we would send him back for the day. On days that he was admitted to the hospital, I usually visit him in the afternoon and another time at night. It was more or less an on and off routine until I was fifteen. During those years, I cared for my grandmother too which I still do but she doesn’t visit the hospital as often now.
From those years of visiting the hospital, I learnt how to maneuver a wheelchair (which isn’t easy actually), how to help shift a person from the car to the wheelchair and spent hours waiting in the hospital looking at other patients while my own visits the doctor. I learnt how to care for a person who is bedridden and that when everything else fails to taste nice, cold jelly is your answer to get them to eat. I learnt how to read the charts and pick up doctors’ phrases because at that age understanding scientific words wasn’t really easy. But above everything, I learnt that caring for a sick person requires tolerance and patience. I used to be scared and so emotional seeing people get sick, worried that they will leave me one day. But I came to realize that a patient battling their own fight needed emotional support more than myself who is healthy. So I taught myself to be strong for them. And that every laughter meant so much to them because it makes a patient forget temporarily the suffering they have to go through. A sick person can be very difficult at times, most of the time you can’t really explain or understand why they act in a certain manner but know that it’s probably because they are struggling with their own battles too. And cancer was one tough battle. I remembered how my grandfather’s eyes would twinkle when I listen to his stories about his past or that I told him something about my day. He automatically smiles when I arrived at the hospital and always talks about his grandchildren to the doctors, even the nurses sometimes.
After grandfather passed away, I had few other family members that were diagnosed with cancer. My other grandfather, my relatives and now my dad. And every single time, it breaks my heart to know that this disease doesn’t have a cure yet. And every year, I would always somehow end up visiting SJMC, if not because of cancer it would be because of other sickness. It felt normal going to the hospital, like I’m going to a shopping mall. But getting news when someone is sick, especially the people I love always gets to me no matter how much I’ve dealt with. I got the news when I was in the UK, during Spring term. I was studying with my friend at our usual spot and I had a feeling to call my mum. When she told me the news, I tried so hard not to cry because I wanted to be strong for them. But I ended up crying without caring that there were people around me. But I’m better prepared now. Because I’ve learnt to understand their feelings before putting mine, I try to fulfill their demands as it would make them happy and put them at ease. I never had a youthful childhood where I get to go out when I like, spend hours with friends, go camping and hike up a mountain to watch the sunrise. Instead I mostly stayed at home and was taught (although I was reluctant) how to handle household chores. Not surprisingly, every time when there’s something big like when someone is sick or I’m having a major exams that’s the time when we would not have a maid too. So I had to learn how to clean the house, do the dishes, wash the clothes etc etc. Since I’m the only girl in the family, my mum always told me that if anything I had to takeover managing the family so I was practically drilled since young. I used to get so sad and rebellious about the fact that other friends could happily go camping and do things while I had to stay home and learn all these things.
Even until today, I don’t go out as and when I like. I usually plan a week ahead my outing schedule so that it doesn’t clash with anyone and that someone would be at home to handle things if I’m out. But now that I’m older, I could not complain. In fact, I felt bad for all the time that I was away while they’re struggling fighting their battles here. It’s the reason why I’m home now instead of enjoying my last few months of degree in the UK. With mum breaking her ankle and dad going through treatment, I cannot let them do everything themselves anymore. And even then, they were sorry that I had to come back although clearly I didn’t mind one bit. Balancing my own life while managing the house isn’t easy to be honest. I had to make sacrifices and because I’m needed at home most of the time, that means less time to catch up with friends or go for outing.
But at this age, I realized that some people are worth sacrificing for. I also realized that it won’t always be the same. I can’t be fifteen all the time and my family are not getting younger by the day. I wanted to share this because I know sometimes families can be difficult. We don’t always understand the people we love but that doesn’t mean that we should neglect them when it gets tough. Sometimes also we are not allowed certain things although we see no fault in it, but give them the benefit of the doubt and try taking their advice into consideration before you make a decision. The people who love you and care for you, love them back even when there are days they are harsh to you. They don’t always mean it. Sometimes, they have a lot on their mind too. Forgiveness is something you have to learn to give as much as you can so that you don’t end up bitter and full of hatred. And patience is something you must try to give because the people who love you, they were patient when you threw tantrums, when you were sobbing and going through your own pain. Most importantly, don’t ever take things for granted. Your priorities, make sure they’re worth it. You can’t buy time with a person. You also can’t solve everything. Which is why, even when you give your best, don’t forget to leave the rest that is beyond your control to The Almighty. He knows how to heal and only He can make miracles. Pray for your loved ones, pray that they are protected and always cared for and if it’s time that they leave, pray that they leave in peace and that they’ll be in a better place. Cherish your moments and treasure them because you never know when it will be taken away from you.