Saturday, 17 November 2012

Dealing with Terminal Illness and Death

I was taking a video of the congregation of Catholic devotees praying while facing the Mother Mary image that appeared since last Friday, Nov 9, 2012 at Sime Darby Medical Centre, Subang Jaya, Malaysia, when another lady, Blonde haired, blue-eyed, a rare view of Caucasian in this predominantly Asian society, came up beside me and snapped a photo as well.

Her name is Tina, I introduced myself first as Sue and shook her hand and she gave me her name. Apparently this middle-age pretty lady is a teacher at an international school and she was visiting her colleague, a Canadian lady who is battling breast cancer which has spread to the bones.

Tina was actually heading to the opposite direction to wait for her husband to pick her up, unbeknownst to me, yet our short five-minute-conversation drew her towards my direction, heading to the parking lot.

Our conversation went like this (mind you we are complete strangers and I still don't know her last name):

Tina: I am a Christian and I believe in God but to grasp on to such an image, I just cannot believe it.

Sue: Yeah, when the world gets too tough, people tend to look for hopes in all the places, something to cling on to with the hope their prayers will be answered.

Tina: Exactly! They ask me, "Don't you believe in God? I said, "Yes, I believe in God but not like this."

At this point I kept my camera phone and I walked towards the opposite direction Tina was heading. That was when I extended my hand in friendship and said "I'm Sue" and she was taken aback before taking my hand and muttered "Tina", I had to ask for her name again so I can hear it clearer (early deafness in my ears *shudder*).

Tina: So you are here to visit a patient?

Sue: My mother-in-law is sick. She has cancer, terminal stage. (I didn't answer if I was there visiting or just getting meds or any other reason as that is immaterial).

Tina: I am here to visit my friend too. She has breast cancer, had both her breasts removed and now it has spread to her bones and she is refusing all treatment from the doctor. We went out for a movie last week and she was still fine and now she is back to the hospital as she has been vomiting.

Sue: Why is she refusing treatment?

Tina: She says she believes in the alternative healing and she goes for acupuncture and herbs which she believes really help her. She says she refuses to believe she will die of cancer. She quoted her own mother who removed one breast many years ago and now at 80, she is still alive, so she will be like her own mother, she said she will not die of cancer.

I shook my head while I think back of many personal experiences of people dealing with death and went into serious denial as that is their coping mechanism.

Sue: That is serious denial.

Tina: Yes, she is in denial. She is beyond counseling and we all know she is stubborn. She says she is planning to go back to Canada because that is where she is from, but not now because she cannot get all the alternative treatment there. She will only go back to die. And she believes she is NOT dying.

Sue: Of course we hope she will recover, there are cases where willpower creates miracles but if her condition deteriorates which they usually will, since her cancer has already spread, she will no longer be fit for a long plane ride back to Canada soon! Didn't anyone tell her that?

Tina: She is stubborn. If you tell her to fly back to Canada now that is like telling her you will die for sure. And she cannot get her treatment there (alternative healing) which she believes is helping her get better.

Sue: That is a difficult situation. Does her family know. Didn't they talk to her?

Tina: Yeah, they know. But she is stubborn. She hasn't even named the beneficiary of her EPF (Employees Providence Fund).

Sue: Is she married to a local then? How old is she?

Tina: No, she is single. She's 52. There's quite a lot in her EPF which she plans to give to her mother.

Sue: 52, So young. But someone's gotta go to her and 'shake her' to let her see the reality of the situation?

Tina: Yeah. I am going to talk to my colleagues at the international school.

I was about to pay for my parking fees when I motioned Tina to pay hers but then she realized she is way off her route.

She asked me how to get out from there to the entrance and I pointed her out.

In a spontaneous gesture, just like how I first extended my hand in friendship, Tina muttered "Thank you for the chat, you are so strong to care for another person" and she extended both her arms, wide open, and we hugged. I said "This can happen to anyone regardless of race. Cancer is very common nowadays. Good luck (with your friend)."

We smiled genuinely at each other, and I can never forget Tina's clear sky-blue-eyes.

Then we parted ways. Two strangers who crossed path just because we love taking photos with our phones. Nov 16, 2012, Friday.

You may be interested in:

No comments: