This is the PART 1 of My Cancer Journey Series.
In 1993, I lost my mom to cancer. Let me share with you my journey into the world of Natural Medicine beginning with this story from my childhood. As this is a "heavy" video that deals with death, you may wish to read the text instead. I dedicate this to all those who have lost their moms. There is nothing that can ever fill the gap of a mother's love.
Hello everyone, Today I would like to share with you a very personal and intimate story about losing my mom to cancer. The title of this story is “Mooncakes and the meaning of life.” In 1993, I lost my mom to cancer. She was 42 and I was 17. She was diagnosed with Breast cancer 6 years prior to that. I still remember the day I came home from school. I saw my mom crying uncontrollably and I felt very helpless.
Fighting back her tears, my mom told me that she was diagnosed with cancer and she needed to have an operation to remove her breast. At 11 years old, I didn’t really know what to make of that. Back then, there was a painting of a naked woman bought from one of my parents’ travels overseas hanging outside the Master bedroom toilet. I remember looking at that painting and wondered how my mom would look after the operation.
I was too young to comprehend the pain and the sadness my mom must have felt, facing death and going through what must have been a deeply trying time of her life. Back in the 80s, cancer was a terrifying illness. Few people survived when told they have this terminal illness. I
I remembered feeling afraid of losing my mom but what could I do?
Soon after her mastectomy, my mother had her beautiful long hair reduced to nothing as she underwent chemo and radiation. Hospital trips became the norm and I saw my mom become weaker and weaker. For a short period of time after her chemo and radiation, my mom’s condition stabilised but the thought of death must have been constant in her mind as I witnessed her struggle with her own mortality.
My mom was a kind and generous woman and very well liked by her friends, colleagues and the family. She was the glue who held everything together. She had a very close relationship with her own mother and I learnt Hakka over the years through their daily telephone calls as she conversed vividly and animatedly about her daily life with my grandmother.
My mom was also a pious and religious woman. She sought the comfort of her faith as she faced the darkest moments of her life in the form of daily rosaries and praying deep into the night. She must have been worried for us. After all, my brother and I were both barely 12 years old and I believe she must have wondered who would look after us if she were suddenly called home to be with the Lord. Despite her own struggles, my mom was never angry with God for giving her the cross which she had to bear. She still sang the loudest in church and never ever missed sending us to Cathechism classes, Sunday Masses and bringing me for choir practises and my music lessons and other school activities.
It is hard to remember those days without feeling a sense of regret, nostalgia, sadness and also joy. My time with my mom was very limited. I wish I had more time. I wish I could have opened up more to her. But being the teenager that I was, I kept many things to myself and sometimes felt that my mom was uncool. You see, mom was a simple woman and she never bothered much about dressing up or wearing make-up etc. As such, I sometimes felt ashamed when she showed up in school or brought me to classes. I wondered why she couldn’t dress up more like some of the other kids’ mother. They look so pretty and well put together. I wished my mom was like them. Yet, I have forgotten that Mom was an incredibly smart woman. She graduated top in her school and excelled in her languages. In fact, she personally tutored me when I was in primary school, which helped me get into RGS from a neighbourhood primary school. Yes, why would I need any other tuition teacher when I had mom?The year 1993 was the year I went to JC. It was an incredibly trying year for me. Mom’s health started failing drastically. She was told her cancer had spread. Through one of her routine checks, the doctor found a spot in the bones. I was very angry. How could this happen ? She had followed all the advice from the doctors so far, from surgery, to chemo and radiation and yet, she wasn’t getting better. My beloved mom was dying and I couldn’t do a single thing for her. Out of desperation, my family consulted a Chinese doctor from China and even flew him down to Singapore to attend to my mother, but nothing could be done. We were told to prepare for the worst.
And so the goodbyes began. People started visiting my mom at the hospital but by then my mom was in so much pain she needed to be on morphine. I remember the day we brought my mom back home to die. The Catholic Neighbourhood group organised a rosary session for my mom at our home. It was a Friday night. When everyone had gone home, I remember mom suddenly standing up and kneeling down to pray. She said, “Mother Mary is in the room.” I know now that perhaps Mother Mary had come to prepare for her final passage home the next day.
Have you ever watched someone die infront of you? Yes, they say you never really encounter death, until you experience the death of a loved one close to you. I remember that day vividly. It was Sat, Sept 18, 1993. At around 9 plus in the morning, my dad said to gather everyone at home and to call all her family members. My mom was dying. Her breathing became increasingly difficult as we watch her slip away. My dad in his agony called out to my mom “你走吧, 走吧。不要管我们 ” (Just let go, let go, don’t worry about us). It was the first time I saw a grown man cry. I saw tears roll down my mother’s closed eyes. I think she must have seen her whole life flash in front of her and after about an hour or so, my beloved mom returned home to the Lord.
The next few days were a daze for me as we prepared for the wake and and to say the final goodbyes to my mom. And then the mooncakes arrived. You see, before my mom passed away, she had ordered some mooncakes for my aunties, relatives and friends. My school choir was doing a fund-raiser that year selling mooncakes as we were preparing for an overseas trip to Europe. The mooncakes were the final gifts from my mom to everyone dear to her and we all cried eating those mooncakes and celebrating the life of my mother, Doris Choo Fai Lin, who in her own struggle with cancer near the end of her life still had the heart and the selflessness to think about those around her.
And so, every year, when I see mooncakes, I think of my mom and I am reminded of the life she so bravely lived and the legacy she has left behind.
1) To always trust in the Lord 2) To always have a heart for people 3) To face death bravely because life is not measured by the years we live, but by the deeds you do and the love that you give.
Thank you mom for giving me life and please watch over me wherever you are. Please help me to win this war for God and for the people. I leave you with a poem in celebration of my Mom’s life. by Helen Steiner Rice.