My mother has cancer.
I know that probably doesn’t mean much to you. Cancer is a topic that gets thrown around frequently, but it doesn’t really make an impact until you meet with it face to face on a certain level. Or maybe you already have, or you know someone who has. Either way, it casts a heavy air and can strike at varying degrees, but as I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, I felt I needed to release some of my plaguing thoughts.
I am someone with a heart so big that I have an overwhelming tendency of internalizing other people’s feelings and experiences, so as a protective barrier, I’ve developed long ago this skill of compartmentalizing my feelings. And when I found out about my mum’s cancer, I simply filed those feelings away in a cabinet buried deep within my brain. I thought that if I didn’t dwell on them, and if I kept my distance, I wouldn’t feel as impacted by the ordeal. After all, we’re on opposite ends of the country, so distance alone dulled the trauma. For me, at least.
Selfish, isn’t it? Pain is something I’m very familiar with – pain is something my family is very familiar with. I re-read Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, I dived deep into raw poetry and prose, both penning my own and reading writers’ works, breaking down in tears to attempt to release the heaviness in my heart but then closing up and shutting the feelings away again in that little cabinet inside my head. This became my outlet, my way of dealing with my own emotions without letting my mum know about it. “I don’t want to give her even more stress,” I reasoned with myself. I visited a handful of times, and then she went overseas for additional treatment half a year ago, and I haven’t seen her since, except through the our video call screens, where I would put on a lighthearted mask so that we can talk normally and she wouldn’t have to worry.
A few months ago, I had a late-night call with my mum. After we hung up, I was hit with a state of insomnia and while enveloping myself within pillows and blankets, a few words came to me that I quickly strung together on a whim. I don’t think I ever ended up sharing this with my mum, but somehow, I know she knows already.
It hurts, I can tell
You feel resigned, I can see
But the blood that runs in my veins
courses through yours too
so let me light your way home
when you feel lost in the dark
let me steady your ship sails
when you feel tossed at sea
There is nothing pretty
about pain and unsteady nights
but what’s beautiful
is your strength, your resilience
It may be wreckage now
but you’ll find the fortitude you need
carved deep within your bones
So come with me
we’ll pick up the broken pieces
and weave them into renewed wholes
because whatever tremor the world casts your way
you have the strength to withstand
And should you forget that
let me stand right here to remind you.
(as published on Thought Catalog)
She’s still going through chemotherapy treatment – it’s actually her second round already in the span of a little over three years. It’s still uncertain what’s in store for the near future, but she’s a warrior, and I have endless respect and admiration for her. This is just a miniscule part of her story, but she’s amazing and selfless and truly inspirational. We’re an ocean apart but we still manage to walk through fires and storms together and come out on the other side with reasons to smile. From New York City, I’m sending lots of love not only to her on this Mother’s Day, but also to every mother that has been equally inspirational to her family. Collectively, you all make this world a better place. Mother’s Day, everyday.