“Bad news I'm afraid. Stage 4”
When that sentence popped up on my Facebook screen, I lost it. My hands trembled and the only words that came out repeatedly from my mouth were “oh my God, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry. I had hoped that you wouldn’t have to go through this, I had wished so hard.”
I scrounged my brain trying to find something to say to this dear friend whose mom was diagnosed with cancer, but all I could do was watch the tremors on my fingers.
I lost my mom to cancer. Hers was stage 3B.
Over several weeks that followed, I would find numerous strands of hope, like how great the strides medical advances have taken on cancer since 1996, when my mom passed away; how the statistics show that this is not the death sentence that I perceived it to be; and that he already had other survivors of the same type of cancer in his family.
But that morning, waking up with a heavy heart after hearing the news of his mom’s condition the previous night, I struggled to find hope. And I needed to find it, because otherwise what good would I be? When I was in his shoes, I needed people to be there and keep hope alive when I couldn’t find it in my heart. To have faith, that thing that irrationally persists where hope perishes.
I played all the events in my head, a swirl of people around my mom and the smell of hospitals. I talked to my sisters. I talked to myself. And then it finally hit me: you will see incredible kindness and beauty in cancer. From your loved ones, sick as they may be, yet strong, ready to fight. From the village, your band of brothers that expands and expands around you to carry you through this difficult time. From perfect strangers who know partly what you’re going through, paying forward what others have given them. From the time you spend with your loved ones, how you choose to experience life with them now – not in three months when your projects are done and work calms down. (God knows I’m guilty of this last one.)
So this is what I believe to be the hope of cancer: you will have the most heartwarming experiences that will carry you through life, long after your loved ones are gone, either from the cancer or decades after they’ve survived it.
Mine was the opportunity to run to my mother at the hospital, cried in her lap, and felt her hand stroking my hair just like I’d imagine she would have done when I was a child. In those five minutes, she sheltered me again, kissed the pain, and made me feel it’s going to be all right. She made me believe we’re going to be all right.
I also got that small note that she wrote for me in her bed in Singapore, where she had her chemotherapy. It said simply, “Dearest Lonny, Mama loves and misses Lonny every day, now and always!”.
Beauty for me was the endless streams of visitors in the hospitals, the family in the Netherlands flying in an aunt to help us care for her, my best friend coming in after a grueling initiation day at university to see me through my 18th birthday, which turned out to be the last evening my mom was with us, and finally the row of cars following us to the graveyard, so long that I couldn’t see the tail. They showed us how she had loved, and how she and we were loved.
This doesn’t mean that I would wish cancer on anyone. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than to watch the person you love suffer that way, wishing for them to hold on and fight, yet knowing it hurts more than we could imagine.
The good thing was my friend never seemed to have lost hope the way I did. I’m really glad for this, and I know that it’s not an empty hope either, having read the researches and seeing the circle of love rallying around him and his mom.
I’m so looking forward to seeing his mom kick cancer’s ass, but whatever the result may be, I know that there is more than just pain in cancer. There is hope.
About Leony Aurora
Leony works in communications, particularly those related to Mother Nature and how we live and grow. A former journalist, she thrives on personal stories and questions, in the hope that her quest will eventually lead to some answers. Writing keeps her sane although, paradoxically, it also induces bouts of insanity.