Disclaimer: I wrote this article about a decade ago and thought I should share.
Hi. My name is Alwin, and I am an only child. They said my mother went to a place called Heaven when I was a baby, but my Aunt Cynthia bluntly presents to me the realities of life and tells me the exact truth that my mother didn’t just go to Heaven but actually died when she birthed me. I prefer it that way though. Because if I’ll have to think my mother just went some place else, I’d wait for her to come back and maybe even hate her for leaving me for such place. So now I’m living in Oaksfield with my father who raised me by himself.
Years ago, Daddy was in the Navy. When Mom died, he quit his dream job and worked as a fireman so that he could be with me and guide me through every step of the way. Daddy is not just a good father to me. He is more than that – he is my mother, too. He cooks my favorite meal, tucks me to bed, plays with me with even the lousiest childish game on earth, and listens to my tangential, superfluous bedtime story when it’s my turn to share. Daddy is simply the greatest!
One day when I was 6 years old, I asked Daddy for a puppy but he refused to assent. Our neighbor, Jiffy, had a bearded collie and I was envious watching them play at their yard. My other friend, Felicity, had a Maltese and she named her Snowball. I wanted to have a pet, too! And I wanted to name it Bolt! But Daddy is so disapproving. He said he has “allergies” and I might have too. For Christ’s sake, what’s an allergy?! I hate Daddy! I hate him! Why would I be deprived of something I want just because he has this… uh… allergy?! That was so unfair. From then on, I became distant to my father and our relationship changed. I became a bully at class, too, and Daddy had to go to the Principal’s office at least once a week. During mealtime when Daddy cooks my favorite dish, I don’t eat it. Or at least not in front of him.
I was really mean to my father, and it was a bit on purpose.
On my 7th birthday, Daddy prepared a birthday bash for me. He baked the cake himself, and had Aunt Cynthia help him with the decorations and other party plans. When I came home from school, I found a bunch of friends, classmates and relatives greet me with an ecstatic, festive holler: HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALWIN! I smiled in surprise and thanked them. Then my father appeared from the crowd with my birthday cake. He knelt down and kissed me on the forehead. “Blow the candle and make a wish, Al,” he said. I looked at him, blew the candle and publicly enounced, “I want a dog not a cake.” Then I went straight upstairs. Part of me felt guilty, but then another part of me felt like I’m starting to get his permission for a dog.
Aunt Cynthia emerged into my room, holding a puppy with a blue ribbon on its neck. “Yorkshire terrier from your dad. Happy birthday, Al.” I was in shock, and I got tongue-tied. “There are a few guests left downstairs but they will be leaving soon. Come down and eat. It’s your birthday,” Aunt Cynthia said. Still, I gave no answer. All of a sudden I felt a surge of guilt emotions running down my spine. I rushed downstairs to see and thank Daddy but I didn’t find him there. I checked the porch, the yard, the kitchen. No sign of him. I went back upstairs and headed to his room. There he is. But then suddenly I had no courage to approach and thank him, so I just watched him. I was about to turn around and head back to my room when I heard a soft weeping sniff. Is Daddy crying? I felt worse. But then again, I didn’t approach him nor did I do something.
Months passed and our parent-child relationship hasn’t yet come back to normal. Daddy continued to care for me and love me, and I didn’t have much care for the world. All I did was play, eat, sleep, go to school, and play some more. My time was almost entirely spent with Bolt too, and so Daddy had to go to baseball games and watch ESPN or Disney Channel by himself.
One Saturday night while I was playing with Bolt and Daddy was washing the dishes, I heard a loud thud in the kitchen followed by a crash. I went there to check and found Daddy lying on the floor. I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t understand what happened but somehow I managed to call Aunt Cynthia. She came in no time, and we rushed Daddy to the hospital. Daddy remained unconscious for several days. The doctor said he had a tumor in his brain for about 3 years now, but it remained asymptomatic that’s why it was not detected. I didn’t know what a tumor is, but I knew Daddy was sick.
One afternoon, I found Aunt Cynthia in tears while talking with the doctor. I approached them and listened to their discussion, and I can remember hearing the doctor say that Daddy has cancer. When the doctor left, I asked Aunt Cynthia what a cancer is. She said that “cancer is a malignant neoplastic disease caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division. It may spread to other parts of the body, thus making the person weaker and ill.” As I listened to her, everything was rocket science to me. I was 9 years old! How can I begin to fathom all those stuff? From what I see, all I know is that cancer is painful. I saw what Daddy had been through ever since he had that cancer thing. And every time I see him decrepit and miserable, I feel a blunt knife stabbing my chest and a strong fist crushing my heart. Cancer was killing my father slowly but he always tried to manage a smile when I’m around. He would even play with me despite his holistic impuissance.
The day came when my father finally closed his eyes. It was the day I never wanted to come. He lightly fondled my hand and looked at me intently. “Be a good boy, okay, Al?” he said with a weak smile. I nodded. Then he closed his eyes forcefully as if he was trying to bear with the pain. I embraced him tightly, and forced to stop my tears. And then I think I heard him whisper, “I love you, son.” Then the cardiac monitor made a loud beeping sound, and doctors and nurses suddenly came rushing inside the room. Aunt Cynthia cried, Uncle Luis cried, even some of those people in white uniform cried. But I did not. Not until the doctor said, “I’m sorry, but he didn’t make it.” By the sound of his voice I knew Daddy was gone. I wanted to shout, shake Daddy until he opens his eyes, find who or what that cancer is, or bang my head to the wall to know if this is a nightmare. Aunt Cynthia wrapped her arms around me, and we cried together. And by then I came to remorse.
How could I not tell Daddy that I love him? How could I not say sorry to him when he was still alive?
Few years passed and I finally got to my feet. Until one day, I met Yasmine. She was the loveliest person I’ve ever seen. She was the perfect resemblance of my mother. But that’s not all. She’s more than special in many ways – the way she smiles at complete strangers, befriends little children and elderlies on the street, and almost everything about her mesmerizes me. And then we started hanging out together. For the first time in my life, I fell in love. I did and gave everything to her – my life, my time, my all. I swallowed my pride and practically showed her my love the best way my heart knows how. I gave her my heart, and I thought she promised to take care of it. But no, she unexpectedly left it broken. And the sad part was, she didn’t want to give it back. She wanted to keep it. Keep it as hers, and keep it that way – broken, shattered, and excruciatingly hurt. For quite some time I did let her keep it though, even if she was taking me for granted and making me her safety net. But then, in the end, I was left alone, and she went away with my heart. With a bruised ego, and the pain and everything I’ve undergone, I thought I had cancer. Emotional cancer. I saw my father suffer, I saw him in pain; and the way it crushed my heart when he was like that, was exactly the way I felt when Yasmine took and broke my heart.
To me, love is SOMEWHAT like cancer – it’s not entirely a choice.
And being in pain because of love is what I refer to as emotional cancer. As cancer kills a person slowly, love, too, can be a silent killer.
Ever since I was 9, I deemed of cancer as painful, and somehow unfair. I don’t regard its medical definition or its scientific explanations. All I know is that it’s painful as hell and it makes someone suffer and give up so many things. Cancer changes lives – and it changed mine. Only after my father died of cancer did I realize his worth. And Yasmine? She came back to me when she realized she needed me. Too late? Maybe.
Do we really have to lose someone before we realize their worth?
Now, I am 21 years old, and I’m planning to go into the Navy and live by my father’s dream. In life I have endured, in love I have failed, but with God I shall deliver and survive.
Once again, my name is Alwin. And I am a “cancer survivor.”
Sometimes it’s easy to fail to appreciate those who truly matter. It’s either we get blinded by many different things or we’ve just grown too comfortable.
The adage, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone”? I call semi-BS. Because real talk: People know what they have. They just don’t know how good they have it until it’s gone. Or, they never thought they’d lose it.
So yes, love is mirthful, wonderful and magical. But it can also be complex because people, in a way, can be selfish. Whether you’re dealing with a parent, a friend, a lover, “cancer” is a risk. But you know what? No matter how painful or how unfair things may get, there is one thing we should always do: SURVIVE.
My name is Aileen, and I, too, am a “cancer survivor”.11