The news came crashing onto our family, one dull April morning, in 2012. I remember asking my father in law, who is also a doctor, about the diagnosis and he just shook his head. He himself was dumb with shock. My mum had cancer. Not any type of cancer......non-small cell lung cancer..the most dangerous of all cancers...Lung cancer?...I could not believe it. After all, no one ever smoked in our family. So, how the hell did she got lung cancer? And then, the second blast came....just like the aftershocks of an earthquake....the cancer had already spread to the liver and my mum had few months to live.
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In a daze, I sat watching as my close ones try to comfort me. "We'll surely find a way to treat her, don't you worry" they said without much conviction. I remember thinking that I have to tell my mum everything. It was out of question that I should hide this from her. I knew she would take it well as she never feared death. But how to announce it to her? That was something I needed to ponder upon.
Being quite a pessimist myself, I quickly realized that I needed to be strong for my mum. I spent the following days, surfing the web, looking for answers. 99.5% of what I read condemned my mum with a horrible death but the 0.5% which provided alternative therapies as a solution, kept my hopes high.
Armed with this 0.5% of hope, I told my mum of her diagnosis, quickly reassuring her that alternative treatments were possible. The news, of course, came as a shock to her as she never had a reason to suspect that such a disease was spreading inside her. Yes, she used to feel a little breathless and, yes, she did noticed a little lump on the right side of her belly but she used to account them for her chubbiness.
After numerous appointments with the oncologist, the latter outlined the clinical treatments she needed, to help erode the cancer, specifying that she must not miss any.
During the whole six months of her treatment, I was having my own battle. As I sat in front of my computer screen, reading and researching for positive feedback from other cancer patients, deep inside myself, I knew my mother will never get rid of this horrible thing inside her...I could not even dare to say the C-word at that time, leave alone thinking of her death.
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I remember hassling my mum with phone calls, asking if she had eaten those natural things, recommended good for battling cancer, from the net.
My whole energy was focused on treating her with natural foods. At times, I would blame myself when she was not feeling well. In fact, it was a battle against myself, convincing me that she would surely get better one day and that she would not die.
When the few months of ultimatum given by the doctor went by, I felt quite relieved and convinced myself that the doctor was wrong. Surely, she would get better with those natural ingredients that I were feeding her. By that time, the whole treatment process had been called off as my mum was not responding to them.
As days went by, she started to weaken, her breathing became harder and had full paralysis. And that is what exactly what she used to fear.....Painful-aimlessness-vegetation-indignities.....
Realizing finally that her end was near, I went to stay with her for a few days. Horrible would be too weak to describe those days and nights I spent with her. Hearing her moaning with pain, without being able to do something for her....she was no longer reacting with morphine as her liver was beginning to fail....It was something unimaginable to me and yet, I felt paralyzed and helpless. I really wanted to relieve her of her pain but could do nothing....
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How much I felt guilty at that time....If only I could accept the imminence of her death from the very beginning, I could have spent more time with her, telling her that I love her and that she was the most wonderful mum of all. I could take her in my arms, comforting her instead of hassling her with my discoveries on the net. In fact, I spent my times, denying myself the simplest truth.
And then, I had the most unexpected of all reactions....I wanted her to die. I prayed and prayed that God would end her sufferings. I prayed that God would take her by His side and place her in Heaven, a place where she would be happy and without pain.
One Sunday morning, her moaning stopped. Her face became like before, painless and as fresh as the morning. She stopped breathing and left us quietly. No more pain...no more sufferings.....and yes, I did cry.....I cried and cried because I felt angry with myself...angry that I did not have time to tell her how much I love her....how much she was a wonderful person....how much I'm going to miss her smiles and comforting arms.
One thing I really do not regret though. God gave me an opportunity to take care of my mum the way she took care of me. I remember, one night, she could not sleep at all because of her pain and was moaning all night. Having not slept for 48 hours, I did not have the energy to get off my bed. Then, I recalled how she would stay up all night when I was sick, during my childhood. How worried she were...This gave me enough courage to fight back sleep and get up to help her into a comfortable position. Though I know I cannot repay back her motherly love, I feel a little bit at peace, knowing that I have been by her sides during her last days, comforting her with my presence.
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This experience has taught me lessons...lessons that I would like to share with you dear readers:
For those who are suffering the same pain, please remember that, instead of trying to protect yourselves by not talking about the end of your loved ones, you will cope better with their death if you are more honest and talk openly about it. Keep the communication going.
It is also better to work together with them towards a better death than denying yourself the simplest truth. Work together with their counsellor to try to relieve their pain as mush as possible.
And last but not least, spend quality times with them. Make them feel loved and cared for and never ever leave them alone. For terminally ill people, this experience is lonely and they feel isolated as they know their time is limited.
I applaud your courage in sharing this powerful story. It is frighteningly similar to my own experience with my mum. I am sure there are many people who go through something similar. Hopefully your experience can help others to deal with what is one of the hardest things we can ever go through.