How do you compose yourself to break the news to your child that you have Cancer?
Well today, that’s what I did. Three words – “I have Cancer” but it will be the most difficult three words I had to utter so far in my existence. I have been diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer today. We do not know which stage it is yet as docs would need to do cancer staging plus perform the op to remove my uterus, my fallopian tubes, my ovaries and my lymph nodes and send them for further pathology tests before determining the severity and spread. But one thing for sure: my life has been irrevocably changed from this day on.
5pm, 7 Feb 2018
I wanted my 10 year old to be among the first to know as she has been praying for me. I downplayed the severity a few notches, took advantage of a quiet moment during dinner and presented it matter-of-factly, with my voice cracking towards the end, “Dana, Mommy has Cancer…” I went on to assure her that Mommy will undergo surgery and cancer treatments, and Mommy will be soon well (But truthfully, will I? Can I?).
12.30pm, 7 Feb 2018
The husb grasped my hand, as if he could sense my unease as we waited for our turn at the gynae’s clinic. I had received a call from the clinic yesterday saying the doctor wishes to see me urgently as my pathology results from D&C were out. Prognosis is not good.
We stepped into the room with Dr. Ong looking v solemn. ‘Angie, the results were not good at all. You have Cancer.”
I steeled myself. I had rehearsed this in my mind a thousand times, telling myself I mustn’t break down because the good doc had already pre-warned me that the tissue samples looked ‘abnormal’. But when Cancer is your diagnosis, the harsh reality hits like a ton of brick, bringing me back to reality from my wishful thinking that perhaps it was just a false alarm or a bad dream.
As the doctor rattled off the complicated string of surgeries, treatments and risks ahead for me, I let the news slowly sink in. I.HAVE.CANCER. ME, at 42, CANCER. And then, the dam broke. I wept. I felt sorry for my kids, I felt afraid of the savage side effects of Cancer radio-therapies and chemo-therapies. No one in my family had cancer, not my aunts, not my Mum nor my MIL… I felt ashamed. Why am I always the (unlucky) one with medical issues? I felt concerned if our insurances would be sufficient to cover the treatment expenses (the op itself will cost a whopping SGD40K!) but more so, I wept because I felt I’ve let my dear husband, the best husband I can ask for, down (yet again).
As the doc detailed how I would have to be away from work due to the radiation therapies, I felt even more defeated. I had come to love the work I do and embrace the team I had newly assembled. To be away from them during this peak period pained me. What would my new Director and co-workers think of me? Plans to bring the kids back to celebrate CNY with their maternal Penang Grandma will have to be abandoned, as with our June travel plans. Bummer. Cancer you stinky thief!
2.40pm, 7 Feb 2018
After the medical financial counselling was done, we adjourned to a nearby restaurant to grab a late lunch. I had no appetite and ordered a plain soba. I sent out several whatsapp messages to selected friends, family and colleagues about my Cancer diagnosis. All shocked but yet so empathetic…’We are so sorry to hear of this, Angie….’, ‘How can we help?’…’Don’t worry about work ok? Take care of yourself…’. Wikipedia explains Empathy as the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. You have no idea how empathy in the face of adversity (such as Cancer diagnosis) works like a miracle healing balm even before all the treatments commence.
5.30pm, 7 Feb 2018
A group of close co-workers texted to let me know that they’ve arranged a lunch to cheer me on before I go for my op next Tuesday. An ex-neighbour, who hasn’t been told of my diagnosis decided to swing by unannounced with a thermos full of home-brewed ginseng drink for me. Small gestures of goodwill that did heaps to fill my love tank. God knows my love language.
6.45pm, 7 Feb 2018
Picked the son (cheerful as ever) from childcare and the husb brought us out for a walk at Chinatown to keep my mind from brooding. It felt good to have some semblance of normalcy, like the calm before a storm, doing normal things families without Cancer do – eating, window-shopping, soaking in the festivities. I gripped the hands of my 2 littles tighter, grieving the possibility that I might never have the chance to see them grow up, get married, have children of their own…
11.00pm, 7 Feb 2018
Broke my news to a group of Christian Moms on FB and they have collectively offered to set the alarm for 13 Feb 4.30pm so they can pray for me as I undergo my surgery. Surgical table code 6A. Surgical name: Total Laparoscopic Hysterectomy + Bilateral Salpingo-Oophorectomy + Pelvic Lymphadenectomy. Sounds complex? Because it is. The surgery will last 3 hrs, probably the longest I have ever been under General Anaesthesia. I hate GA. I attribute my worsening memory to it…
11.17pm, 7 Feb 2018
Whatsapp messages, FB messenger messages continue to stream in. The husb walked to me and gave me a tight hug….it’s been a long day emotionally for us both. I pray God will send my husband, the caregiver of a Cancer-stricken wife, ample support too.
Before we left, the doc reminds me that the journey ahead will be long and the ‘mountain’ we have to conquer will not be easy. The silver lining is that God is with me, and my friends, family and loved ones are rooting for me. God has blessed me and He is Good. May this new trial of my life bring glory to His name and may His will be done.