Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Days of Endearment

The day I was informed of my mother’s diagnosis is like any normal day.
The sun rise in the morning and the time goes by at normal speed. I did not feel the impact in the beginning; the news came via text message from my brother’s hand phone to mine. Reading it line by line like any other text messages I received. I told myself very rationally that it will be either this disease or that would one day take away my mother’s life.
Everyone dies, someday. I reckoned my mother is lucky to live up to the 70s; many have died at a much younger age. I told myself I should be thankful of the time I have had with her.

I spent the whole day browsing information on lung cancer, its treatment, its prognosis etc. Then a sense of despair suddenly hit me. It was as if my mother was given a death sentence to be executed in three to nine months time. Every web page I read confirmed what the doctors conveyed to my brother. The doctors have dutifully replied as according to the statistics – “three months to nine months”. Though there would be no guarantee of how much time any patient of stage IV lung cancer would live after the diagnosis.
I have worked with cancer patients previously, and I was aware of how unpredictable the disease is and how suddenly a seemingly healthy person can deteriorates and passed away due to an infection. Sometimes it is frightening when you know more.

I have gone home on the fifth day after received the news. I stay for 4 weeks.
My mother was still capable of looking after herself in the beginning. However, her energy level deteriorated drastically and one day she has given up showering herself and asked me to help her.
Then one day, she needed to be warded at a hospital. Since my mother lost her ability to self-care, my life was evolved around her. She has become the centre of my attention. I woke up with her in the morning and went to bed with her at night. I ate with her, I showered her, I helped her to go to toilet, and I gave her the medicines around the clock. She has become the baby that I never had.
One night, my mother asked me if I felt like I was nursing a baby. I told her that nursing her was similar to nursing a baby, but she is very easy to care for. She would not throw a tantrum or cry non-stop to get my attention. Besides, she is appreciative and has a sense of humor. We often make small talks just before dozing off. I was glad to be able to hear my mother’s life story from when she was just a little girl of 9 or 10.

My mother was discharged from the hospital and in good spirit when I left for Tokyo on 11th May. However, her condition soon deteriorated, 3 days after I left she was hospitalized again. I was very worried about her condition and being so far away from her did not help.
I came back to KL again on 24th May. She was discharged from the hospital already. However, she was weaker and her general well-being has taken a toll from her recent lung infections as well as from the palliative radiotherapy side effects. The only good news was the tumour has shrunk somewhat.

My mother was home only for a few days before she had to be admitted again.
This time she has a really bad lung infection that could be life threatening according to the doctors. 29 May to 2 Jun was a period of anxiety, we were worried she would not respond to the antibiotic and her lung would just fail to function. My mother beat the odds and went from critical to stable in a few days time. It was a rough emotional roller coaster for me.
I remembered the time when the doctor asked me to discuss with my siblings about whether the medical staff should resuscitate vigorously if my mother could no longer breathe by herself due to the lung infection? That morning I felt like somebody just forced down a hard boiled egg down my throat and it has stay in my throat till afternoon. I was accompanying my mother in the ward every night. At midday when my sisters came to the hospital, I went home to rest and cried in the shower. The feeling of the stucked egg in the throat disappeared after a good cry.

Mother was discharged from the hospital and came home on 3rd Jun. We celebrated the 55th Wedding Anniversary of my parents that day. The Anniversary fell on the 4th Jun but we have celebrated a day earlier, as there was a bone scan scheduled on the 4th. Mother was really happy on the 3rd Jun, so did my father.
My father presented my mother 4 red roses signified ‘a life time of love’. We (the children and grandchildren) have a feast with my parents later that day. Mother was in such good spirit, she has eaten lots and insisted on watching her daily TV program in the evening. I would have like her to take some rest after dinner, but I did not want to spoil her good mood.
The second day mother was feeling very ill again. We had to reschedule the bone scan to 6th Jun. After the bone scan, mother felt really sick and out of breathe and her condition worsen over the weekends.

On Monday the 9th Jun, my mother was admitted to A&E at Pantai Hospital. That was my mother’s last admission to Pantai hospital. She had a very vicious lung infection, which has infected both sides of her lung. The chest specialist showed me the X-ray film and many white dots were visible on the lung. That was the third lung infections in a month.
Sometimes I wondered if she has contracted the infection from the hospital during the bone scan. However, I know that I would only drive myself crazy if I start to think of all the ‘What if?’

My mother passed away peacefully at home with her children and grandchildren surrounded her on the afternoon of 24th Jun 2008. She was 73 years old.

The rest is history.

I am writing this article to commemorate my mother. My mother told me that she was not afraid of dying and she believed that she was going to a world without suffering. Because of her belief, I was able to let go of her with calm and gratitude at her passing. My mother has given her whole life to her children and her husband. She deserved to rest in peace now.
However, her loving gestures would always in the memory of my father, my siblings and me. Throughout the end, she had been kind and thoughtful to her family. She has been brave in dealing with her illness and always appreciative of her carers, including all the family members, and the medical staffs of Pantai Medical Centre.

Cancer is an illness that is often disabling and affects the patient as well as the patient’s family. Its impact is not only physical and emotional, in some instances, spiritual. I am thankful that I was able to accompany my mother to walk her last passage. It was somewhat shorter than I hoped, nevertheless I am looking at those days with gratitude and my bond with my mother had grew much stronger during those last months of her life. I am still overwhelmed with emotion sometimes, but I know that time is a great healer.

I hope to share a sense of peace and acceptance with everyone who fears of cancer and other life threatening diseases we are facing now or might be facing in the future.

My sincere thanks and appreciations go to all friends and acquaintances that have supported my family and I through this difficult time. Thanks to friends who have contributed generously to the ‘Condolence Tokens’. In the hope of not omitting anyone, I have decided not to print the names of contributors. The collected sum would go to charitable and religious causes, which was the wish of my late mother.

~黄美筠/Ooi Bee Gin


middlelip said...

Hi BG...

Tears did well up in my eyes as I read yr write-up abt yr mother.

She is indeed very blessed to have such a fmly & esp a daughter like you. And she must have been a very strong lady to have gone thru all that which comes with the Big C b4 she was taken from her loving fmly.

No one would really know & feel the sorrow & pain of such a situation unless one has travelled the same path.

But, to be able to care, support, feel & share the ups & downs with yr loved one under such trying conditions, is a sign of great strength & true love from the heart.

And, yes, keep those great memories of yr mother because they would be a source of inspiration, help & guidance as you continue to take yr own journey thru yr own life.

And ppl around you would see & feel the same love your mother had for her fmly, in in the words of the song, "In My Daughter's Eyes" by Martina McBride...
Have a listen here :

My sincere condolences to you & fmly on yr loss but with best wishes for a great loving & happy future ahead...yr mother would wish the same, I am sure...

TL Tan

Anonymous said...

只能說, 朋友保重。


kh7883 said...



Anonymous said...


very hormat you and take care .


Anonymous said...

Dear BG,

Hoping time will erase your sorrow & be strong.

Take good care.

Yap YM