Cancer – 1 word, 6 letters. but it could easily break someone’s heart. You don’t even fucking need to read any John Green novel to prove that.
Six months ago, my mom woke up in the middle of the night feeling intense pain in her hip. I accompanied her to the hospital for a check up and the initial finding after an X-ray was some sort of acute osteoarthritis (I might be wrong, I do not have any medical background at all), and she was prescribed with vitamins, pain relievers and scheduled for physical therapy.
Nine sessions of physical therapy later, the pain was still there and it has not gotten a bit better. Another series of tests was done (MRI and CT scan) and we found out that mom had bone marrow edema. Since the bone will eventually heal itself, the doctor instructed for mom to use crutches in order to not put any more pressure on it – and have it healed nicely in about six more months.
We thought it was the end of it until two weeks ago when, again, mom woke up in the wee hours of the morning crying with the pain. This pain was so intense, her sobbing woke up my brother who was sleeping in the adjacent room. My brother roused me and in 15 minutes, I had mom and both my siblings dressed, mom’s medical records in hand and one of our neighbors/my godmother waiting outside to drive us to the hospital.
Due to the 3 AM trip to the emergency room, mom got confined for more than a week for pain management and the doctors ran all kinds of tests on her. In doing so, they found a lump as big as a tennis ball residing in her lungs. Due to its’ location, a CT scan guided biopsy was performed, along with an ultrasound, a CT scan and a bone scan.
Four days after mom was discharged from the hospital (yet again with a new set of pain relievers), I was facing my mom when the doctor broke the news that she had lung cancer. Unfortunately, the cancer cells have spread (explaining all the weird bone disease) which meant that it was already in its’ advanced stage. Never, in my entire life, did I imagine that my mother would be diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. I actually asked the doctor to repeat himself because I just couldn’t believe my ears. Of all people, why does my mom has cancer? Sure, my grandmother did die of lung complications and I have had minor lung complications as a kid as well, but I never thought it was inevitable.
Mom’s first question was about her life expectancy. The doctor gave a vague answer since he’ll be basing this on how her body will react to chemotherapy. And my mom’s next question was whether it was possible for her children to acquire the same disease and if she ought to have all of us checked. At that point, it took all of me not to start crying. My mom just found out she had cancer, and her primary concern was if one of us might be sick with it too.
Last night was one of the most heartbreaking family dinners I have ever had. The four of us (of course, excluding dad) was quietly eating at the table when my mom started telling us what we shouldn’t forget to do the moment she’s gone. Everyone started crying and I had to assure my mom she’s not going anywhere anytime soon. My new mantra was running through my head the entire time.. “Be strong, be strong. Hindi ka iiyak.”
I had to remind my mom all the milestones in our lives she has to fight cancer for. Both my siblings graduating from college, all of us pursuing our respective careers, my upcoming move to a foreign country (which is something I am working on for 2015), all of us getting married, meeting all her grandchildren.. and I honestly believe in my heart that my mom will witness all of this alive. My mom is the strongest woman I know, and she has always been a fighter. This is something our family will get through in time.
On another note, reading something I wrote about my mom just made me shed tears (while I was out of anyone’s sight). I don’t even care what that says about me but it did.