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It was the love for my family and last words from my mum that kept me strong

I was 18 when I lost the closest kin of mine to cancer. It was a nine-year-long battle with cancer. She is the strongest and most positive woman I have ever known. The woman I respected most in life, my dearest mum. Breast cancer struck her in 1999. She managed to recover from it but suffered a relapse five years later. The cancer attacked her spine and eventually spread to her liver and kidneys. By then it was end stage cancer.

During that period, my dad, two elder brothers and I became the pillars of support for my mum; we were also each other’s support. Needless to say it was an extremely trying for the family. While she had us by her side, it was her who had to endure the pain and sufferings from the chemotherapy sessions. She also bravely took up all kinds of medications in hopes to win this battle regardless of how slim the chances and baring the torment.

Her body was rejecting all kinds of treatments one month before she passed on. Her last two weeks were most heart wrenching for us as she suffered from chronic pain and her body deteriorate rapidly. She was so frail and was bed-ridden, however she insisted on being discharged.

She came home in a wheelchair, with an oxygen concentrator to aid her in breathing as her lungs were filled with liquid and the virus affected the function of the organ. We took turns taking care of her round the clock. We had to constantly ensure she had a cold towel placed around her stomach area, which was the least we could do to offer her some comfort. Her body condition only allowed her to be home for 3 days and she was admitted back to the hospital again. We were thankful for all the advice from the palliative care professionals, who enabled us to provide better care for mum.

During her final days, she was given morphine, which helped ease her pain. She slipped into an unconscious state and finally succumbed on the 15 October 2008. After her passing, it was an awfully difficult time and I was so depressed and devastated. It was the love for my family, and my mum’s last words that kept me strong. She told me to take care of the family for her. I also remembered her telling me that the best present to her for Mothers’ Days and her Birthdays was me excelling in my studies. I worked very hard and managed to earn a scholarship to pursue a degree in a university in the United Kingdoms. I certainly did not understand the importance of studies when I was younger, but I hoped to present her the best gift she wanted. I wished she could live to see my achievement.

Nevertheless, my mum’s battle with cancer helped me realise the importance of family unity. Having an ill-stricken family member affects each and every one in the family. The support and encouragement from one another in the family plays a vital role in overcoming the hardship. Today, the rest of our family has become more closely knitted than before. She is never gone for she lives in all our hearts. We experienced the frailty of life. We learned to treasure our lives and everyone around us, especially our love ones and most definitely do not take them for granted. We became stronger in the face of adversity and understood the need to soldier on despite the odds.

I saw the importance of adopting a healthier lifestyle. I exercise regularly 2-3 times a week, either hitting the gym or running. So join me in the Run For Hope 2012 so that we all can contribute to cancer research in hope that one day humanity can discover the cure for cancer.

Be part of this change. Run for the countless love ones cancer took away from us!

Shannon Peh, 22

June 2012

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