My Mother's Termination Notice
by Ruby Bayan - 05/07/99
Five months after Papa died, Mama discovered a lump in her breast. The dark cloud from the loss of our father had barely lifted when my brother and I found ourselves once again standing in the hospital corridor. Tears welled in our eyes as we stared at a piece of paper that read "CA Malignant." We were going to lose our mother, too.
Mama calmly submitted to the removal of her right breast, a procedure that sapped so much of whatever life she had left. She had always been a strong-willed woman, full of energy and optimism - even at age 78. But after Papa died, she seemed to have suddenly weakened, slowed down, and lost the intensity and passion she had for everything.
Now with cancer looming like a morbid invitation for our mother to join her partner in the afterlife, we were not surprised when Mama refused to be subjected to chemotherapy. My brother and I respected her wishes. We had to accept the inevitable. We took her home from the hospital with the doctor's words ringing in our ears, "... it's terminal.. six months."
Alone, without my father to care for, Mama spent most of her time reading and listening to the radio. She continued to attend to her usual housekeeping chores but she seemed to have lost her appetite for her favorite dishes. All she would eat were fish, fruits, and vegetables. She lost a lot of weight. My brother and I became extremely apprehensive. She had refused cancer treatment, now she's picky with her food. But we didn't interfere. We felt that with the little time she had left to live, we could at least allow her to do whatever she desired.
Today, my brother and I smile as we recall those emotional days at the hospital. Because, unbelievably, my mother's six-month "termination notice" is now approaching its seventh year. Last November, Mama celebrated her 84th birthday, in the peak of health. Every day that Mama survives is for the whole family a day of celebration and thanksgiving - for miracles we will never understand.
But maybe Mama understood all along. Because when I had asked her if there was ever a time she resigned herself to dying of cancer, she confided, "No, my dear, not for one single moment. I want to live. And you can see, I've been doing a pretty good job."
Mama suffered a fatal cardiac arrest and passed away in May 6, 2001. She was 86. We pray for the eternal repose of her soul.
Read also: My Mother, My Role Model - a Mother's Day Tribute