The year was 2015, and I had just started a new job with a huge International Recruitment Firm which I was happy and proud of. I felt that my career was on an upward trajectory. Finally a career that my parents esp. my Mom would be proud of. My Mom had been coughing on and off for about a month and I told her to see a doctor to get checked. Btw, my Mom hates seeing doctors as she always felt, some good rest, plenty of water would make everything better. It’s a typical Chinese thing.
She finally gave in and we went to our family clinic which was just 3kms away from home. The doctor then suggested that she take a blood test as she hasn’t done one in awhile at that point. She even suggested paying slightly more to get a Cancer Marker (CEA) Test done on top of the normal blood test. So we waited a few days and the blood test results came back, my parents collected it when I was at work. They didn’t share the results with me and they left for Ipoh. My parents travel around quite abit for Dad’s work as a Technical Director and he runs his own company.
My Mom texts me on a daily basis esp. when I am home alone in KL to make sure that I was okay and we’d get into a phone call at least once every 2-3 days to keep each other updated. But, this time it was different, she hardly texted me. She was very quiet. I was at work and I felt something wasn’t right, so I rang her up. When I asked, “Is everything alright?…” Her response was, “We’ll talk when I get back to KL next week…” At that moment, I told her, “No, you have to tell me what’s going on? If you don’t, I won’t be able to focus on work and my mind will go wild…” She then answered my this while her voice changed as she started crying, “I have cancer…” When I heard those word, It broke my heart and I said this to her, “Mee, it’s going to be okay. Dad and I, we love you and you’re not alone. We will fight this battle together…” So, she was diagnosed with 3rd Stage Lungs Cancer in November 2015. It’s been exactly 5 years now. I got a Cancer Ribbon inked right next to my Hope tattoo in my left inner wrist as I needed to believe that there is hope more than ever. I had to be strong for my Mom. I continued to push through with work to keep my mind off Mom’s cancer and also I wanted to show her that I was moving forward with life for her.
My Mom is a strong person. Why do I call her strong? She’s very stubborn as a person. I blame it on being born in the year of the Ox of the Chinese Zodiac Calendar. Btw, I’m also an Ox. But, she’s not strong because she’s super stubborn but, it’s because she’s been through alot not only these past few years but, also she didn’t have an easy childhood. Her family was doing alright until her father passed away when she was only 12 yrs old. She was the youngest child out of 5 children that consisted of 1 elder sister and 3 older brothers. When that happened, the family lost the canteen that they ran at the army camp and my grandmother had to work odd jobs to make ends meet and my Mom grew up surviving on a loaf of bread each day. She would then tutor to earn some money and later on she worked as a seamstress too after school hours. She would travel around by bicycle.
She got treated in Hospital Fatimah in Ipoh the first 4yrs + under the Oncologist there. A month after we found out that she had cancer, she was to go back to see the Oncologist, while I was in KL. They didn’t tell me which Oncologist they were seeing but had informed me that the appointment was at 9.30am. I did some research by myself and I made the decision to drive 2.5hrs up to Ipoh to surprise her at the hospital. She cried when she looked up and saw me in the clinic. I know that it meant alot that I made that trip to see her there and spend some time in my Mom’s Hometown for the weekend.
She had to be on Oral Chemo and also they had to make an incision from her back to her lungs to drain out the fluids that had started to build up. This was her very first hospital stay. In the middle of 2016, she had her first round of Radiotherapy done to the back of her neck area as the cancer had spread upwards from her lungs. She then proceeded with chemo treatments which caused her to sometimes lose her balance especially after doing the 2nd or third round of chemo. She then started losing and dropping hair from the chemo treatment. As long as I knew my Mom, she was always very particular about her hair. I know that broke her heart and the decision to shave her head was one of the very first of many decisions that she had to make in 2017. Honestly, I wanted to shave my head too. I wanted to show her that she had my dad’s support and also mine and that it was only hair. I didn’t though but we ended up buying her a wig that looked like her original hair. Warm stream of tears are running down my cheeks as I’m writing this blog.
A few months later, in February 2018, I decided to chop my hair short and I donated my hair to Locks of Hope. A charity organization that made and donated wigs to cancer patients. I remember that my Mom wasn’t too happy about the chop back then as she said I looked so tomboyish. I even drove all the way to Kajang to drop off my hair there personally.
There were times when my Mom felt really sick and she had to be rushed to the hospital. Seeing her lying in the hospital bed will never get easier because it always made Dad and I feel so helpless as we couldn’t do anything to make her feel better. I know this feeling resonates with many out there who have witnessed a loved one battle with cancer. It hurts so much but imagine what the person with cancer is feeling and dealing with on a daily basis? At this point, in 2018 she had undergone many rounds of Radiotherapy and also Chemo. On top of the countless monthly CEA blood test. Her results goes up and down every few months. The highest that it was, was around 800++ That worried us so much as there were times when it was only like 60+.
To be honest, if we didn’t tell anyone of her cancer, no one would be able to tell that she was battling it. She was still walking, eating, cracking jokes every now and then. She still did some house chores when it permitted but she had to depend on my dad alot when she started to have blisters on her fingers and it hurt her alot when she was washing or cutting ingredients to cook.
When the cancer spread to her brain in 2018, she had to be put in steroid to control the swelling. She went for more Radiotherapy and Chemo as well that year. Her hair that has grown back started to fall out again but, this round she decided to wear a scarf and not shave her hair. Her vision has deteriorated as well from the treatments.
2020 arrived and this has to be the most difficult year out of the past 4 years, in March she suddenly would stare into space and she was speechless and lost and she counted on Dad and I to complete her sentences more than ever now. This was the effect that the tumor in her brain had on her. Mid of June, her Oncologist have her Immunology Treatment and just within 3 days later, she couldn’t stand or walk and she had pain in her head and back too. She then went back to see him and was admitted for a few days. A week later, she went back to see him for a follow up and he then told her that he doesn’t want to treat her anymore. We were shocked with his words. We feel that he’s being very unreasonable and that it’s very irresponsible of him after being her doctor for the past 4+ years.
A few weeks later after many calls from me and convincing my parents to get a second opinion, they finally listened and they made their way back to KL and we started to see a new Oncologist here. So far, they’ve been happy and also my Mom’s CEA readings have improved as well. It’s now in the 200++ range compared to when she just started her new Vaccine Treatment, it was 800**.
Mom has been doing more frequent PET CT Scan and also MRI and X-rays and last month, she had to be admitted into the hospital for 4 nights as her stomach was backed up with waste and she had a very bad Urinary Track Infection that Tablet Antibiotics wasn’t doing anything. They had to put her on strong dose of Antibiotic through IV. She hates staying in the hospital and she would cry and scream that they had to sedate her. It definitely was another pain thing to watch. Her scans showed that the tumor in her brain had shrunk in size but the swelling was still there and this cause her to hallucinate from time to time and also talk nonsense. It also showed that the cancer has spread to her lower abdomen and back bone and legs.
11th of November 2020, she had to be admitted into the hospital yet again as she was in pain and she’s been having diarrhea for 3 weeks plus now. It was the after effect of the Chemo that she had on the 14th of October to control the cancer. This round, she stayed for a week and finally got discharged from the hospital on the 18th of November 2020. She’s definitely happy to be home.
All this while, we’re praying hard while she continues with the treatments she needs. Her doctor have said that she will never be cancer free but they’re trying to keep it under control and to make her feel as comfortable as possible. I think everyone in the world is still having hope that a cancer cure will be available someday soon.
To those who are battling cancer or have lost loved ones to the battle. You are not alone. It is tough as hell, it’s painful to watch a loved one go through it but, we were never promised an easy life. This is part of life and life goes on. We must continue to fight until the very end. Spending as much time as possible with our loved ones especially when they need our strength to keep on pushing forward through this difficult recovery journey. They know that we get exhausted too but, they are all they have and we have to support each other through this. *BIG Hugs and give yourself a pat on the back for staying strong, the best that you can.