Wednesday, April 21, 2010

killing me softly*

It was holy week when I found out about it.

Mom had an operation almost 2 weeks before that. There was a mass in her breast, and the doctor said it had to be removed and biopsied for cancer. The result would not be released until 3 days after, during my finals week. That Monday, I was so concerned on what the result would be, I couldn't really concentrate. I kept on waiting for my parents to tell me the results, but they weren't answering. On my way to school, they finally answered the phone. They said that they were just discussing at the doctor's clinic, so they couldn't answer. Honestly, I was dead afraid to call. But waiting for them to call was killing me. So I asked, what was it? They said, it was negative. I was relieved, but not totally. There were just too many questions on my head. But that was still good news, and it took a lot of weight out of my chest. At least I wasn't thinking of anything other than that damn exam.

Fast-forward to holy week, and I was just glad I could finally rest. The whole year was so taxing, and at times, I felt like I've lost all my will and energy. This was the week I've been waiting for: the first week without school, without work.

But the holy week hadn't ended yet when I learned of the bad news. With a gloomy face, Dad asked me to come to my room, and then closed the door. I knew it was going to be a serious talk. He sat on my bed, and I sat on the sofa; we were about 5 meters away from each other. I do not like serious, sad talks. I would run away from it if I could, especially when it comes to family.

I asked Dad what it was about. “Your Mom has cancer. We just didn't tell you before because you were having your finals.” I was silent. As my father was telling me the news, his voice was breaking, the kind of voice you hear when one doesn't want to cry but he just cannot help it. Then he cried. It was the first time I saw him cry, and it was heart-breaking, like a dagger in my heart. I never wanted to see him and my mom hurt, and there he was crying in front of me. I wanted to tell him everything's gonna be alright, but I remained frozen in my seat. My own heart was exploding inside, but my face remained expressionless. I wanted to hug him, but I just couldn't move.

When I spoke, all I was asking was treatment, treatment, treatment. I couldn't let myself dwell on the problem. I didn't really give myself time to be sad. Everything has to be planned right away. I have to be brave and strong. I needed to be the person they could draw strength from. They weren't really asking. I just wanted to be. I needed to be. They already were losing faith. I couldn't lose myself in sadness.

I never really asked my mother how she was doing. I do not like that kind of talks. I am poor in that. I just do not have words to say, nothing. I was just hoping she knew I am there for her. Instead, I just stayed in my room and continued reading a book. I was afraid to finish that book; I needed something to take my mind off the problem. But really, even as I was doing things, even as I was laughing, it never really left my thoughts. At night, before I sleep, I think about it. And I shiver. I was so damn afraid inside.

The following weeks after that, I went out with cousins and friends for several nights, almost every night. We seldom talked about Mom's sickness, and it would seem that life was just going on with me. But it was not. My life wasn't really like that. It would seem I was enjoying my vacation to the fullest, but I wasn't really happy. Not even a bit happy.

My father underwent kidney transplant 13 years ago. Before that, we were regular at the hospital. I even saw my Dad one Christmas morning unconscious, so we had to rush him to the hospital and spend Christmas there. After the transplant, I even saw him have a seizure while Mom was panicking, and I was so afraid he might already leave me then. I ran to my Tita's house (beside our house) to ask for help, but all I could really say was, “Si Daddy, si Daddy.” Several weeks after that, I couldn't sleep. I was so afraid of what would happen while I am asleep. In the middle of the night, I would walk into their room, just to see if he was breathing.

And now my mother was also sick…with cancer. I haven't even hugged her or held her hand. I am afraid to be sentimental, afraid to break down. And I haven't even told her that I am really sad for what happened to her, and that I will always be here to support her. All I tell her was that this person survived, that person was already cancer-free, this person has already finished her chemotherapy. That was my only way of telling her that, “hey, everything's gonna be all right. I'm here.”

My mother and I always clash. That makes it the more difficult to express my feelings. And I have this habit of shielding myself from pain—a fa├žade not to let others see I am bleeding inside. Even I do not want to acknowledge the loneliness, the anger, the depression. I have created this impenetrable mask that even I cannot take away…not yet. When they discuss cancer at home, you would just see me poker face, seeming uninterested. My Mom actually thought I do not care. But on some days, I feel like losing my sanity; I feel like running away. With her and Dad both sick, I'm so scared of what could happen. That I couldn't do anything for them. That I could not save them. That they'd leave me all alone. If only Mom knew, everything is killing me softly, slowly.

*Killing Me Softly was the only song both Mom and I liked.