Life is the art of drawing without an eraser ~ John W. Gardner

I Want To Remember

It was 5 years ago, when brother-in-law (2nd elder sister’s husband) diagnosed with brain tumour. It was February 2003, I was in the final month of college. Sister broke the news to us after they came back from the private hospital in KL. She looked so strong and optimistic, “it’s tumour, about 1cm in diameter, not sure if it’s bad, gotta go for operation only can determine.”

Both his brother and sister-in-law disagreed with the surgery. They wanted him to follow the traditional medication. It was then Chinese New Year, I was at home with him most of the time. Seeing my sister juggling between work, husband and daughter, but I couldn’t do anything to help her. We were all so optimistic about his condition, we were so sure that he would get better. Back then, everything seemed going better.

2 months later, I went back to college to retake 1 of the paper which I failed in the final year examination. It was then father insisted sister to bring bro-in-law for another scanning. Father saw him having difficulties in moving his left body, it got worse day by day. The scanning result, wasn’t good. The tumour went from 1cm in diameter to 2.5cm in diameter. All traditional medication was obviously failed to work. That was the moment sister shown her fear for the first time in front of me. To him, she could still talk cheerfully and encouraged him to think positively.

Doctor strongly advised him to have a surgery. Brother-in-law did not want it initially. He was hoping the medication would kick in later and all would be well then. He went home. Again, it was father who scolded him and insisted him to go for the surgery. During that one month, sister travelled between Johor and KL, leaving the little princess in Johor with the nanny. She was looking for all sort of supplements that she heard or read to prepare him to go under the knife. His body got stronger, and they decided to go for the surgery in May 2003.

I was waiting outside of the operating theatre with sister. That was the first time in my grown-up life that I felt the time was passing so damn slow. At one point of time, the clock on the wall didn’t seem like moving at all. The doctor said the surgery would take 3 hours. 3 hours passed, sister was getting impatient and started to think negatively. All we could do was just praying and praying. The surgery took a great 6 hours!!! The doctor met us at the waiting area, told us that the tumour spreaded faster than he expected. He couldn’t get a clean cut of them. If he were to do that, left side of bro-in-law’s body would be paralysed, permanently. A sad and shocking news to us.

Saw him lying on the bed in ICU. He was shivering tremendously. That’s the effect of under long hours of anaesthetic, coldness kicked in. He was conscious, saw us and asked “why are you crying? wat happened?” We had to fought our tears back and smiled to him, told him that “everything is fine now”.

He healed fast. He was out of the ICU the next morning, and discharged from the hospital the 3rd day after the brain surgery. It all thanked to the supplements that sister had been constantly feeding him. He would have to go back for another scan 1 month later. After the surgery, bro-in-law got better. But doctor had told us to be prepared as usually patient who undergone brain surgery, would suffer from epilepsy. We were so happy to see him got better, his hair was growing so fast, he walked better, ate better…… Things were definitely looking good.

1 and a half month later, scan result was out…… Doctor met us (without bro-in-law) in his office, he had this serious face. If it were good news, he would have congratulate us in the first place. Obviously, the tumour grew again after the surgery. The part of it that was removed and tested, it came out to be maglinant cancer. If it were to be benign, things would be easier. I was so sad. I had to be my sister’s support. She was basically dragging herself out of doctor’s office. We sat in the hall for I can’t remember how long. She was crying so hard, kept asking me what to do and she didn’t want to live her life without him. Most importantly, her baby girl’s life without a father. Life had just suddenly became unbearably painful and miserable. She had been so strong for so long and she never gave up.

2 months later, I got a job in KL, moved back to KL. Bro-in-law then started his radiotherapy in SJMC. He looked healthy. But the radiotherapy just wore him down day by day. 3 weeks after, he went bald. He attended my graduation, brought him to Petronas Twin Tower, KL Tower…… He was still fit, though a bit limping. I stayed with sister few days in a week whenever possible, accompanied her, gave her support, listened to her, talked to her……

The radiotherapy was for 15 weeks. Chinese New Year of 2004 came, he didn’t show improvement. His body was slanting to the left side, he could hardly move his left hand and leg. He had difficulty in chewing the food because he could hardly feel his left side of the face as well. He was getting thinner and thinner. How could a normal and fit man become like this within a year?!

After the new year, the radiotherapy ended. Went for another check-up. The tumour didn’t shrink, it grew bigger!!! It was almost 5cm in diameter! How could it grow after all the surgery, medication and radiotherapy?! Even the doctor couldn’t answer our question! We started to blame the doctor, blame the sister-in-law for refusing the surgery at an early stage, blame the god…… No brain surgery could be performed anymore, it had to wait for a year after the first one was done. The last resort was chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy started 1 month later. He was taking the traditional medication again. We still had hope, hoping things would work. Baby girl was 3 years old then. She would always help him to get things for him. She knows that her father was not well. Sister had gotten an Indonesian maid to take care of him during day time when no one was at home.

All the medication and chemotherapy failed. He went from limping to wheelchair, from eating on his own to being fed by my sister, from talking clearly to mumbling…… It was so sad to see him got worsen every time I went home. Middle of the year of 2004, he was bedridden. The last time I saw him, he couldn’t remember well. On his bed, he called my name, asked “how’s college? On semester break now?” All I could do was nodding and told him “I’m back to see you”. Stepped out of the room, I just cried.

Within 1 month, he went in and out of hospital a few times. The day that father called me to return home, bro-in-law was in critical condition in the hospital. Before I could get a bus ticket that evening, father called again in the afternoon to tell me that bro-in-law had passed away. It was July 2004, 1 week before my sister’s birthday. How sadder could it get? The daughter was only 3 and half year-old……

The only comfort we found was, he did not suffer from any pain and complications. He left in a peaceful state.

I still remember my niece told me on his funeral, “diddy is well now, aunt. He is no longer sick. Sshhh, don’t wake him up, he’s sleeping.” Whatever ritual we asked her to do, she would do it quietly without making much noise. She didn’t cry. It was when the coffin was pushed into the car and drove away, that she started to cry and screaming for daddy. No one could hold themselves for not crying when they saw it. That was when we know that deep down, she did understand that her father was leaving her forever.

Sister was so strong. So many things she had to settle after his death, she did it all by herself.

4 years after his death. I could still remember everything. And I remember when he was a healthy man, he was such a nice and gentle man. I could remember so well, bet my sister could remember even better. It’s just that we keep it in the darkest place of our mind, any of it that comes to the light could bring so much memories and pain.

2 years ago, it was grandma who passed away. The same month, 3 days before my sister’s birthday. Sister was saying, how she could be happy on her birthday as 2 persons passed away in the same month of her birthday.

Even now we still wonder, would things be different if we told the doctor to cut every damn tumour off, paralysed but at least he would survive? Whenever I see someone with half of his/her body limping, the memories would definitely rush back. Every time, without fail.

I miss both of them terribly……

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