Roller-coaster ride through hell

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR -

My fa­ther was cer­tain that he would live out his days to see all his grand­chil­dren get mar­ried, and even give my mother an event­ful fu­neral. When I was in my late 40s, my fa­ther died of a stroke fol­low­ing a silent heart at­tack at the age of 77.

My mother will be cel­e­brat­ing her 85th birth­day in a few months. I con­sider it a great bless­ing that she is still alive and push­ing the lim­its as she tries to adapt to cir­cum­stances be­yond her con­trol.

I had planned to en­joy my re­tire­ment by spend­ing qual­ity time with my mum. How­ever, a sud­den cri­sis prompted me to re-pri­ori­tise my life.

Early last year, my mother was di­ag­nosed with a rare form of skin cancer. I wheeled my mum from one clinic to the next, as she un­der­went nu­mer­ous di­ag­nos­tic tests and ex­am­i­na­tions. I lis­tened to med­i­cal opin­ions from var­i­ous spe­cial­ists and con­sid­ered al­ter­na­tive ver­sus con­ven­tional treat­ments.

There were days when my tol­er­ance level and ham­strings were stretched to the limit as I raced against time in the midst of so much un­cer­tainty. As her pri­mary care­giver, I tried to find a bal­ance be­tween her needs and mine.

My mother took it all in her stride with­out com­plain­ing. Her courage, willpower and en­dur­ing faith were a great source of in­spi­ra­tion for me.

Af­ter her surgery to re­move the can­cer­ous tu­mour, I slipped into de­pres­sion and spent many sleep­less nights think­ing of my own mor­tal­ity. I ex­pe­ri­enced de­spair, doubt, ter­ror and grief, and ques­tioned my own abil­ity to care for my mother

More than any­thing else, I wanted to pro­tect her from pain, and the loss of mo­bil­ity and in­de­pen­dence. It sad­dened me to watch my mum los­ing her vi­brancy.

De­spite her ill­ness, she re­mained calm and ac­cepted her con­di­tion. She even re­as­sured me that we would do our best to face any chal­lenge that came our way.

Her faith in­spired me to turn to God and I prayed daily for her re­cov­ery as she un­der­went a few more surg­eries.

There were many mo­ments when I was an­gry with God but my mum found so­lace in fo­cus­ing on prayer and heal­ing.

This tu­mul­tuous jour­ney made me re­alise that no mat­ter where you find yourself in life, there’s al­ways some­one who has gone through the same strug­gles.

What has hap­pened to my mother has forced me to slow down and take stock of my life. People of­ten ask me how I am cop­ing. Well, I have be­gun to ac­cept the fact that cancer is a grim re­al­ity of life. You just have to learn to cope with it when it comes knock­ing on your door.

The bur­den of a life-threat­en­ing dis­ease can crush the spirit of even the most ded­i­cated care­giver. It chal­lenges rou­tines and re­la­tion­ships for many. All of us have the same ba­sic needs: we want to be loved, nur­tured, ed­u­cated and in­cluded in so­ci­ety in ev­ery way pos­si­ble.

I re­alise that sur­vivors and their care­givers try earnestly to find ways to bal­ance life, cancer and its treat- Old is gold is a plat­form for read­ers aged 55 and above to share their wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and take on life. e-mail star2@thes­ Pub­lished con­tri­bu­tions will be paid, so please in­clude your full name, iC num­ber, ad­dress and phone num­ber. ment, and not feel like a vic­tim them­selves. A sur­vivor has to cope as best as they can with the phys­i­cal pain and emo­tional an­guish that each day brings.

Many sur­vivors have to try very hard to stay pos­i­tive and chal­lenge neg­a­tive stereo­types. Care­givers, on the other hand, share sto­ries of joy and sad­ness, united in the con­vic­tion that ev­ery­thing hap­pens for a rea­son. They learn to count their bless­ings in the face of death.

They say God runs the show, and faith is a huge part of our lives. It is be­yond what you can see but it is as real as any­thing you can touch or feel. Mum will be com­plet­ing her first year in re­mis­sion in April. She is slowly but steadily re­gain­ing her strength. She is get­ting a taste of in­de­pen­dence, and en­joys life’s small­est joys.

I am thank­ful for the sup­port of ev­ery­one who has played a key role in her re­cov­ery, I know she is much blessed to have sur­vived cancer, and my heart beats with hope as I look down the long road ahead.

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