It has been seven months since my last treatment and almost three years since my diagnosis. I remembered when the doctor first told me, my face didn’t give away anything. I’ve Googled the biopsy report beforehand, and I’m not naïve. I know what you are capable of.
After talking to the doctor, I went to the bathroom to cry. I felt like it was the only safe place for me to be miserable, and I don’t want my mom to see my pain. She has been through a lot and now there’s this- me. That’s what I felt then. I felt not only sick and tired all the time, but I felt like a weight to everyone around me. I hate seeing my mom worry, my brothers and my family and friends. I hate to see that I’m the cause of their pain. It breaks my heart when my chemo session is coming and we don’t have enough money so we’ll loan again or rely from the generosity of other people. I’m a very private person but I have no choice but to open up and publicized what I’m going through to help raise funds for my treatment.
Even before you came, cancer, I didn’t like to inconvenience people. That’s why every time I have problems, I solve them on my own as much as possible, because I know everyone has their problems and struggles to deal with. That’s why apart from the chemotherapy side effects and physical pain, I struggled with letting go of control and letting other people solve my problems for me. I thought back then that if only I’m financially stable, if only I can do this alone, I would gladly do. But that is quite impossible because being sick with cancer here in the Philippines has very little place for average income earners like me much more to those who only have enough money to get by. If not for my mom’s pension and my dad’s income and the generosity of our friends, it’s impossible for me to finish all the treatments that I went through.
Cancer, my first chemotherapy was brutal. I remembered halfway of my chemo, I really wanted to end it because I felt so exhausted and drained, but it was the memory of my aunt and my uncle who died of you that kept me going. They were found out late, and there’s nothing the doctors can do about it. I have witnessed their bodies being taken over by you. You were so brutal. You took away their eyesight, their voice, their limbs, and you were not even fazed by their helpless cries at night.
When finally, my doctor told me that I’m done with treatment- after two chemotherapies and radiation, I was genuinely happy. It was a relief because our finances are already depleted. We can’t afford anymore treatment. But being done with treatment doesn’t mean I am already free from you. You have greatly changed my life, cancer. I have lesser energy now. My physical body is easily triggered and my heart is like shut. I don’t have much energy anymore meeting new people or finding a partner. If they want to travel or drink the night away, I can’t do that anymore. If they want to go mountain climbing or cliff diving, I can’t do that either. Or if my partner wants a kid, I’m not sure if I can still produce a child.
But I am also aware that those are only material things. It stings but that doesn’t compare to the down times once in a while, the feeling of hopelessness and panic whenever something or someone reminds you of what you’ve been through, or the lack of something to look forward to and the fear of hoping because you might get hurt again or disappointed. It’s hard to shake off those feelings; ignoring them makes it even worse. So, what I usually do is to not resist them and wait for it to pass away.
The truth is, life after you, cancer, feels like starting from scratch again, except now my body is covered with scars, cloudy brain, feeling of pins and needles in my fingers, a picky stomach and easily exhausted lungs. But despite these struggles that I’m still facing, it’s the raw truth that I could have died but I am still here that keeps me going. There must be something the universe has in store for me, something I can still do, something I can still contribute, something I can still feel. So, cancer remember this: lurk all you want but I’ll hold on and hang around and experience everything as much as I can, as long as I can.
-Abi, 26, Refractory Hodgkin’s Lymphoma