Though at the time I didn’t cry and ended up instead hyperventilating while staring at the wall, trying hard not to let my emotions show, I tear up every time the visual of what I saw that day pops into my head.
And it does often.
Covered in only a white cotton robe that matched the sheet of the hospital bed, with needles taped from all angles on her frail, ghostly arms already tarnished with bruises, marking the territory of her expired veins from her daily chemotherapy sessions, she looked tiny, withering, empty.
IVs draped all around her, desperately trying to feed her malnourished body. She had been in the emergency room for 2 nights already, while the doctors waited for her critically low indexes to rise. It seemed unlikely, at this point- she needed to be monitored much longer than expected. Doctors said no one had reacted this poorly before. Perhaps the chemo was just too strong.
But she needed it. Even though her mouth was falling apart, covered in blood blisters and she could no longer swallow, even though she threw up the little water she could get down, they needed her to continue because the cancer was already at stage 3. Her skin had turned a charcoal grey. Her once shiny and thick hair had started thinning. She couldn’t move nor speak. But she stared at me when I walked in with so much love in her eyes. The way an infant looks at her mother.
My insides were crumbling but I couldn’t let it show. “Stay strong for your mother. Don’t let her see how scared you are. But don’t look so cold like you don’t care,” I kept repeating to myself in my head, drowning in my confusion and paralysis. My legs were giving away. I wanted to disappear into the wall. I both wanted to run away and remain glued where I was so I could make sure my mom was ok. She was dying in front of my eyes and there was nothing I could do.
Each time I’m back at home now since then, she recovers more and more. Her strength and vibrancy are returning, a true testament to her mental, physical and emotional resilience. I believe in miracles, seeing her now. I think that moment was when I realized I had nothing left to be scared of, and my way of seeing the world shifted permanently to one of gratitude.A year later, I’m still processing it. Only now can I really feel what I was numb to then.