To me some phrases have always been a cliche. Strong winds make the best sailor, challenges bring out the best in us and so forth. Never for a moment did I ponder what they really meant, or empathize what those who said them were going through. Not until cancer knocked on our door, embraced and destroyed my mum. It is somewhat unreal when we hear from our friends or watch the news or read somewhere of someone struggling with cancer. Never for a second did I ever in my wildest fears imagine that someday it would pitch its tent in our household. But it did and the bottom broke loose, shaking my family to the core.
It was at dinner when she delivered the news to us. Dad was seated at his regal chair with mom on the opposite end. We all took our usual spots around the dining table. I noticed mum had somewhat faded from her usual cheerful, charismatic persona that we were used to. For almost two weeks, she seemed withdrawn with dark clouds of sadness hanging over her eyes. She gave smiles that never really left her face, they seemed fake and forced, far from her happy heartwarming smiles. She spoke less. She seemed aloof. For once in my life I was scared. Mum had always been the pillar in our house, and to see her withdrawn and distant spelled looming doom. I am sick guys. I have lung cancer. It was like every syllable of every word was amplified. Our heavy hearts sank at that table. The food became stale. Sadness engulfed our home. Reality at times is an ugly thing, as I came to bitterly learn. We all had to slowly come to terms with mums condition and give her the support and love we could for the remaining short duration she still had with us. I learned some vital lessons in the painful ordeal though.
Mums cancer taught me never to take any moment for granted. I realized how short and unpredictable life is, and how more often than not we squander precious time we have with our loved ones. We quarrel and squabble over silly things, never imagining that that might be the last time we will ever share with them. I learned to create memories and enjoy every passing second I spend with my loved ones because life is indeed short.
Mums cancer taught me never to complain. It is tormenting and heartbreaking to see a strong figure in your life brought down to tears by agonizing pain. No matter how strong a face mum projected to us, there were times I would visit her and find her sobbing in the quiet lonely moments. I realized how at times I complain of insubstantial wrongs committed against me, how I often complain when I do not have things my way but when I was in mums presence and witnessed and imagined what she was going through, I felt sorry that I ever complained. It was nothing compared to what she endured, yet she did not complain.
Mums positivity even in the midst of suffering was something I truly admired. She never gave up, never had a pity party for herself. She always put on a strong face, telling us how she would pull through in no time. She always smiled, was always cheerful whenever the pain pangs allowed. Mum never complained; like a soldier she bravely fought her battle. Her positivity even under chemo in a strange way closely held our family together like glue. Just as she was the pillar of our home, we learned to support each other when the painful drugs were slowly swimming and flooding her veins.
I learned to be brave and courageous. With every passing day I was never assured when I would see my moms face again. I became nervous, anxious and sad. But I also had to be brave for mum; I never wanted her to see me in any state but happy, because she too in the midst of pain put on a happy face. I knew it was just a matter of when; when death would cruelly whisk mum away from us, so I had to be strong and courageous even for that day and time. I bravely read her eulogy to the friends and family who had come to pay their last respects.
Cancer teaches both the victim and the loved ones to fight back. It slowly eats every cell of your body, but it can never eat on your courage, your will and your hope. With these weapons you show cancer how powerless it is in some spheres, though it might eventually win. But at least you put on a gallant fight; it never had a flawless win. That was how mum fought with lung cancer. Though it weakened her physical body, though it made her frail and thin, it never could touch her resolve to live, her undying hope. It was one vital lesson I learned from her long battle with cancer- to always be a fighter.
Cancer plunged us into an unfamiliar sea of pain and anguish but with time we learned how to flow with the tide and in the process draw some very vital lessons to sustain us throughout our lifetime. It was a painful ordeal but it was within that painful period that I learned what life truly is.