All of us have lost someone, may it be to an accident, an illness, or many other different reasons.
My earliest memory of cancer was when I was seven years old. My godmother had been in the hospital for so long and one day, her husband just asked us to visit her. I went with my mom and dad, but because she was in intensive care, I was not allowed to go in her room. I stood a few feet away from the door of her room. The adults went in and the door shut after them. I remember staring at that light blue door; it slowly opened and I caught a glimpse of her. She looked different, but she wore that same bright smile as she waved at me.
She had cancer.
A few days after that hospital visit, I found myself walking up this staircase filled with flowers with ribbons. One was from FVR. Then we entered that bright white room.
That was my first encounter with cancer and also my first experience of having someone I know pass away.
She was very special. She was a news anchor at a television network. She was beautiful and she was kind. My favorite Christmas gifts were always from her. She had a beautiful smile when she played with me. She was kind to my mom and dad. Her soul was magnetic and we lost her.
20 years later, I am writing this article to make sense of it all. To make sense of how we feel when we lose someone to cancer.
My aunt died a few hours ago. She had stomach cancer. I remember the first time she went to the hospital and she was telling me how her felt some sharp pain in her stomach. She said it was just acid reflux. Fast forward a few months, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer – from simple pain to cancer.
Many people don’t want to call cancer by its name. It’s as if it’s a curse or maybe saying it out loud makes it feel all too real.
We went to visit my aunt in the hospital. She’s been trying chemo and even herbal medicine. She looked different; her usual sunny disposition had faded. The way she blinked was slower, her smile was a little straighter, and the way she looked around had a sadness. I was afraid – afraid that cancer was literally and figuratively sucking the life out of her.
A year after she was diagnosed, we visited her again at the hospital. It was Mother’s Day.
I was in shock; she was all skin and bones. Her breathing was deeper and she just wanted to sleep. Everytime she woke up, she asked for sleeping pills because she felt too much pain and just wanted to sleep it off. She had bed sores because she could no longer move around. She had an operation to try and remove the cancer, but she was too weak. She said she just wanted to go home.
I sat there heartbroken as I looked at how cancer had changed her. She was still her, but cancer had defined who she was. Her 8-year-old daughter entered the room and as soon as she did, she turned her back and hugged her dad as they walked out the door. She was afraid of her own mother; she was afraid of the enormity of what we were fighting for.
With a heavy heart, I left her to rest and be with her kids – hopeful that there would be some kind of miracle or maybe some answers on how we were supposed to feel.
A few days later, she passed away.
I lost another person to cancer.
By now, I thought I could finally make sense of this. I was 6 when my godmother passed, and now I’m 27 when I lost my aunt. But it doesn’t feel any different. I still feel lost and there are just so many questions in my head.
Fear – I know I’ve always been fearful of many things. But this is not the kind of fear that most people have. When you lose someone to cancer, you are afraid of life itself – that sometimes, it’ll turn its back on you. You are afraid to live because it feels like disrespect to the person who passed. All this fear because we lost someone to something intangible.
Cancer – it’s as scary as it sounds. But hope is always on the horizon. It’s a fight worth fighting.