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The big C that changed our lives - Cancer. [Part 2]


After a day or two after admission. The docs gave some head ups to the situation. Fluid in the lungs could be tuberculosis (tb), an infection, or cancer. Cancer seem a little farfetched at that time. Kor even joked that dad is still cancer-less despite his nonchalant lifestyle. A heavy smoker since his teens, and heavy drinker. And eats all the unhealthy fatty food. My dad frequents the nightclub often. At one point, he even owned a pub. Time to time kor who was in the hospital, would drop us updates from the doctors. 10 Jan 2017 - kor texted. "Doc say likely cancer." I now realized how cruel it was for him to tell it to us personally. My world spinned; a vertigo. "Calm down... he said 'likely'. Means it's not confirmed." I thought.

I opened the browser on my pc, and typed "lung cancer symptoms". The symptoms did seem to match with Kor's. "Cheryl. I need to reach out to Cheryl." Another notification appeared in my thoughts. I quickly texted her. She was crying in her office toilet cubicle by then. I tried to calm her down. Be logical, I said. Don't freak out yet. But I was shaking inside. I was too in my office's toilet cubicle by then... with tears flowing uncontrollablely. My memory of the rest of the day was blurred. Somehow, somewhen, someone confirmed it was cancer.


STAGE 4 CANCER I didn't know what that meant. But it sounded really serious. For a spit second, I kinda hoped that stage 4 was mildest. Google never lies. It says that Stage 0 is when the cancer cells or contained at the site. And Stage 4 meant that the cancer cells had spread to many parts of the body. Another vertigo happened right in front of my pc. I had that to leave office immediately. Which I did. I was rushing. I needed to be with my family. Tears followed me from the office, in the cab over, all the way to TTSH.



Ward 7D, bed 124. My mom and Cheryl was standing outside the room when I arrived. I was furious, upset, confused. The first line that came out of my mouth was, "Where got people got stage 4 cancer don't even know one!?!?!??" Their eyes were red. They looked at my blankly. No one had an answer. They told me to go into the ward. It was a double bed ward, with him as the only patient there as they suspected him of tuberculosis previously. Which was highly contagious via air (I think). Or bodily fluids. Whatever. I didn't know how to face Kor. He sat on the bed, in what I think is his favorite red tee we got from Disneyland Hong Kong. It had a dragon, roving in the shape of Mickey's iconic head. What do u say to a person who just found out he has cancer? Stage 4 cancer in fact. I didn't know. I never would know. There were no words. I looked at him. I gave a faint smile. Jie Jenny was there too. She is a family friend/ Goddaughter of my aunt. Making her our (kinda forced) Godcousin. She is an experienced high-ranking nurse in TTSH. We turned to her every time. This time was no exception. She tried to explain the procedure. I didn't remember anything. Next thing I knew, I was crying again. Kor said it's okay. He said to cry it out. At least I'm processing and releasing emotions. Mom and Cheryl were not, or they were plain heartless. This try-to-pretend-nothing-is-happening approach which they both were taking. I cannot. My mind was moving at full speed. Already imagining the worst that could happen. And that started the waterworks immediately. After Jenny left, four of us sat solumely in the room. The lights were dim. I sat at the foot of the bed. Cheryl on the other side. And Mommy on the chair beside the bed. I forgot who said what. Or just my mind doing its thing. I started crying again. Full fledged crying. The tears were rebellious. Kor noticed me sobbing in the corner. "She's taking it very hard." He said as his hand reached out to me. He did the brotherly thing again. The thing he always does. He assured that it's okay. "Hush hush. It's okay." It's not, Kor. But I didn't have the energy to voice out the words.

He pulled me in for a hug. My face burrowed into his boney chest. His arms engulfed me into his comfort. He consoled me again. But that made me cry even more.

It's really not okay, Kor.

Later that night, we brought him down for a puff. The first stick after 4 days.

Mom waited at the taxi stand of the Ward Block. While Cheryl & I wheeled him to the unofficial smoking area. He started talking again. In what seem to be his last words. And I started crying again.

He turned to Cheryl who was beside the wheelchair.

"You need to understand. When Chelsea was born, I was already a teen (13 year old). As she grew up, she see me as an adult, a parent. When a parent passes away, it is more painful."

I, who was behind him, failed at controlling my tears. He must have thought this through.


Subsequent days in the hospital were painful. They did one test after another. They needed to find the source of the cancer.

And the urgent matter, to remove the fluid from the lungs so that he could breathe better. A chest tube was inserted. For the next week or so, he moved around with caution as he had a tube connecting his lung to a box. The left lung, then the right a few days later.

At that stage, he was looking fine. He could talk. Walking made him breathless, so he took the wheelchair most of the times. He didn't like the stay in bed. For his skinny butt would hurt from a whole day of sitting/ lying in bed.

He looked forward to the nights, when Cheryl and I would go over after work.

Mom, who's retired now, and thankfully just recovered from her broken ankle, would spend the afternoons with kor. She was expectedly broken. Kor was her sweetheart... spoilt-rotten-by-her kind of sweetheart.

In the corner of the six bedded ward, the 4 of us would sit and talk till almost midnight. Mindful to keep our volumes down as the rest of the bed would be asleep.

The rest of the occupants in the room were old men. Heartbreakingly alone.

We chatted about random stuff, about what happened that day. Into the night. In the dark... we didn't care. What mattered was that we were there with him.

It was painful to leave him alone. We knew he wouldn't be able to sleep. The beeping sounds in the ward, the crazy snoring, the occasional screaming from the nearby beds.

Kor was a light sleeper. With zero light, and zero sound.

It was a struggle for him every night.


❤ ❤ ❤

The longest two-month fight the family gone through.



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