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It isn't always easy to know what to give as a gift to someone in need, especially when it is something beyond our skill and capability. When one has been diagnosed with a terminally ill condition, what can we give to them, to help them ease their pain and to help them feel a slight bit better?
Sometimes, there is really nothing much we could give that could help ease their pain. But one thing I knew from several resources was that diseases such as these feed and grow faster on negativity. The one thing we could give is a gift of positivity.
Someone close to me was diagnosed with a stage four cancer a few years ago. She was admitted into the hospital because of a growth that was obstructing her kidney functions. After she was operated on, the doctors found the growth cells but only managed to remove parts of the growth, which they sent for a biopsy. The doctors highlighted to the family that the growth was too spread out and could not be removed entirely.
It was then discovered that the growth was malignant and that it was an aggressive one. She was later told that she had just about a month or two to live, at max maybe three and her family was advised to prepare themselves for the worst.
It was devastating to the family, to her relatives, to her friends and to all who knew her. She was the most positive person we all knew, the most jovial and the fit one, or so we thought. Nobody could believe and accept that she had cancer, even until today.
She went to the gym almost every single day. She was friendly, caring and always giving. She made the most delicious dumplings and cookies, giving them away and sharing them, just as quickly as she made them. She would spend her weekends to make them and the foods that she made, were not easy to make and usually took hours to make. But it made her happy to cook for others and to care for others. That was the kind of person she was.
For one who was close to her, it was saddening to be in her shoes. All we could do was to give her words of encouragement and that it was not the end of the world, and that we will fight this with her, supporting her all the way. We asked around, we researched, and we tried to find other means of treatment. We were giving up, not yet.
After seeking a second opinion, she was given an option to try, an experimental treatment at a research hospital nearby. It was a different variation to chemotherapy and was said to be less damaging to the body. She went for it.
However, before she could begin her treatment, she had another problem to fix. The cancer cells were squeezing her urethra tracts and the doctors had to insert a separate stent and connected the tracts to a bag externally to enable her to dispose off her urine.
By the time she got that fixed, it was three months after she was diagnosed with cancer. The good thing was that she could start her experimental treatment and hey, she had lived through the three months max limit told by the first doctor.
Although she had to walk around with a bag by her side while she went for her treatment, she strive on. Most of the time, she was hospitalized due to numerous complications.
It was tough on her and for us who saw her suffering everyday; it was devastating. She could only go home a few days every few weeks. It took a toll on her physically and emotionally but she tried to be as positive as she could because it was her nature to be positive. Us being around her, seeing how positive she was trying to be, continued to be positive for her too, although we knew it wasn’t easy.
Whenever she was hospitalized, I visited her whenever I could, almost every alternate day. While I was there, we would laugh and joke about the past and present memories. We would talk about the latest dramas, movies and variety shows on television. She loved watching dramas and singing competitions, and would ask who managed to move forward to the next round, who sang better and who went to the finals.
I knew she was in pain but just for that few hours, I was happy to at least be able to keep her mind off the pain. I massaged her hands and legs while she lay in bed; I tried to give her words of comfort and tried to distract her mind with stories and updates about everyone. I combed her hair, tried to make her look good because she liked to look good. While I was there, she would ask me to read to her, to update her on things and I would gladly share with her.
She was always worried that her hair will drop as a result of the treatment but it didn’t. But it came to a point that she found it hard to maintain a long hair while lying down the whole time. She could see her hair dropping everyday and decided to cut it short one day when a volunteer barber dropped by the hospital.
After a year plus, she started feeling better and was able to go home for a few weeks. It was such a relief for everyone and we thought she was getting better and she would be able to fight the disease. We continued to support and encourage her. Her husband brought her to her favourite places to eat and relax.
But sadly, it relapsed and when it did, she was hit hard. It spread to her stomach making her bloated all the time and she was in too much pain that she decided to give up on treatment. At this point, there was nothing anyone else could do for her because she didn’t want to listen anymore. She passed away a few weeks after.
Although she has left us, I was glad that we managed to give her gifts of positivity and she stayed positive while it lasted. We got to spend a little more time with her, creating more memories.
Who knew our time with her was this short? We thought there was still tomorrow but there wasn’t. How precious and fragile life is. Every second, every minute counts and we should appreciate the time we have with each other for as long as we are able to, creating hopefully wonderful memories before it is too late.