Keep Shining, Mummy

I have been on radio silence for more than a month and a number of you have already been checking in to see if I’m okay.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you’d know how much I love the beginning of the year and I’d always be sharing about my thoughts for the past year and my hopes for the new year.

This year, all these had to be put on hold because we were dealing with another loss in the family. The loss of another person who has been extremely dear and close to me all my life – my mum.

It hasn’t been easy dealing with so many losses so dear to me in almost half a year – my grandmother in June, Ellie in October and my mum in Jan. But each experience has made me grown a little more and built me up a little stronger. And through all these, I’m thankful to have God’s grace and my loving family and friends surrounding me.

I didn’t share much about my mum’s condition except with my close friends and those who happened to ask because things happened way too fast and I wanted to focus all my time and attention on caring for her while she was in the hospital.

Now that I’ve finally settled down, physically and emotionally, I’m ready to rumble through the story of loss and share with you more about this amazing woman in my life.

My mum started complaining about aches around her body several months back but none of the 10 over doctors she saw gave her any conclusive diagnosis. Then she started experiencing breathlessness and on 30 Nov, we got her into the A&E.

Her initial diagnosis was pneumonia, then the doctors noticed enlarged lymph nodes along her neck, chest area and GI. Upon biopsy, they confirmed that there are cancerous cells and the because the cancer had spread through the lymph nodes and even affected her spine, they diagnosed her as end stage cancer.

The diagnosis was so difficult for the whole family to accept initially because my mum was still going about her daily activities the day she got admitted to hospital.

Within a week of her stay, she became increasingly out of breath and upon scanning, the doctors noticed that the she had pericardial effusion (fluid accumulation around her heart), and subsequently also pleural effusion (fluid around her lungs). The doctors had to drain the fluid to manage the symptoms and make her less breathless.

Because of her breathlessness, she was unable to go for invasive checks and interventions such as scope to gather more conclusive information on the origin of her cancer, but through staining, the doctors highly suspect the cancer to be of GI origin.

Although the doctors did prepare us that my mum’s timeline isn’t very long (short months) since the cancer has spread to numerous parts of her body and affected vital organs, we were still hoping that she can be with us for at least another half a year.

She was subsequently tested to be unsuitable or immunotherapy and her current body condition is too weak to start chemo.

She was still eating and communicating with us as usual when we left for our Taiwan trip, but in the first week of Jan, we noticed that she started to deteriorate in her condition.

On 5 Jan, I was spending my day with my mum in the hospital as usual but I noticed that she has been sleeping a lot more and only waking up to talk to me for less than half an hour each time. That night, I was the last to leave the hospital among my family members. As I gave her a kiss on the forehead and told her I’m leaving for the day, she held my hand tight and told me not to worry about her and to take care of myself and Laurent. Then she went back to watching the TV as I took my leave.

The next morning, I received a call from the hospital at 8am, informing me that my mum hasn’t been responsive since 6am. Her stats were ok, but she just wasn’t opening her eyes or talking. When I arrived at the hospital, she looked like she was in a deep sleep. An MRI brain scan revealed that there were bleeding between her brain and skull, and the accumulation of blood was asserting so much pressure on her brain that it might have affected the nerves in her brain.

The whole family stayed with her till 10+ that night and daddy insisted that he want to stay over at the hospital with her.

At 3am on 7 Jan, I received a call from daddy and knew the inevitable had happened. Mummy had breathed her last breath while in her sleep, and left her diseased earthly body for a better place.

When we arrived at her ward, she looked like she was still sleeping so peacefully. It was so hard to believe that she has left us for good, that she will never open her eyes and talk to us ever again.

Then I remembered the conversation we had with the palliative doctor. She told us although she has only known my mum for less than a month, she could tell that she is a very 潇洒 person. She remembered mummy telling her that if she can still be treated and recover to her previous state of health, she wants to start treatment fast, but if she can’t be treated, then let her go as quickly and painlessly as possible. And she made is very clear that she doesn’t wish to be resuscitated, for the quality of life is much more important to her than the length of it. If staying alive meant that she can’t carry out all her basic bodily functions by herself, it would mean that she is not “living” at all.

And she has told me numerous time when we talk about the topic of death in the past – that when she dies, she hope that she can pass away peacefully in her sleep.

Seems like you got it your way, mummy. Quickly, painlessly and in your sleep. And may I add, so characteristically 潇洒 as well. 说走就走, just like what you always did when you decide to go travelling :`)

I have always been very close with my mum. We talk to each other like I would with my girlfriends. In fact, when my girlfriends used to gather at my parent’s home for chats, my mum would often sit around and join our conversation.

She has taught me so many things in life, but I truly learn to appreciate all of her teachings and the values that she has imparted to me as I think about her these few weeks.

My mum has been a beautician in her little salon, for more than 30 years. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been watching my mum doing her make up in the morning, dressing up beautifully and going off to work in her high heels and luxury bag, greeting every single neighbour as she passes their units in her loud, cheery voice. Some days she will work really late, and some days she continue to have customers coming to our home for facials till 10+pm at night.

On weekends, we will go shopping and have high-tea together and my mum would have endless topics to talk about because she was always interacting with different people, listening to different stories from all walks of life.

When I was older, we started to travel together until I became too busy with school and work. She had no lack of travel companions and would often travel with groups of friends at least twice a year.

All of these felt normal to me then and I didn’t think much about my mum’s life philosophy and even the impact she had on me until I started to listen to what her friends, customers, neighbours and even my own friends said about her during the wake.

Her customers spoke about how much they enjoyed their facial sessions with her. Not simply because she gives good facial, but because they truly enjoyed the conversations they had. Many of them will continue to stay around at her salon just to continue chatting with her after their facial.

Those who are of the same age group as her talked about how she helped to broaden their minds and shared useful tips and knowledge with them about anything and everything. Those who are younger loved to talk to her about topics that they usually won’t dare to bring up in front of their own parents because my mum is a lot more open-minded.

Many of them shared that her facial sessions are more like therapy sessions for them after a long day or week at work, and they feel much better when they step out of her salon to face the world again (yup, pun intended).

Her friends spoke about how they are going to miss the clerking sound of her signature high heels, her loud and jovial voice and interesting perspectives that she brings to their conversations. They have known her to be genuine, positive and ever so generous – with her money, time, attention and concern for people.

My friends spoke about how she was always teaching them about life lessons from her own experiences, giving them advices and in an era where most of my friends’ mothers are SAHMs, she showed them what it looks like to be a working mum.

Everyone had so much fond and wonderful memories of her and we were laughing and joking when they talked about their interactions with her, but so many of them came and left with tears in their eyes because everyone missed her so much.

That was when I started to gather and put all these different experiences together and see it as a full picture.  I have been experiencing all these, little by little, for 30 years of my life and only now, was I able to see how much impact my mum had on my life.

She had shown me that as women, we can be independent, self-sufficient, always look put together, that there is always a way out of any situation, to work hard and play hard, to always save for a rainy day but to never deprive oneself from the joys of life, to always be learning and open to knowing more things, to care about others, to encourage others, to always make new friends and maintain old friendships, to have the courage to take action, to be genuine to others and true to yourself.

Most importantly, she has taught me to always show up as the best version of yourself.

As she became weaker during her hospital stay, even when she was confined to the bed at the High Dependency ward due to the pericardial tube, she insisted on feeding herself, brushing her teeth, keeping her hair neat and washing her face everyday, using the commode instead of a urinal bag, and striking up a conversation with anyone who visited her.

She was independent and showed the best version of herself till her very last days.

I still wake up everyday wondering if it’s all a dream. That my mum is actually still here with us, that I can call her and hear her voice, that I will hear the clerking of her heels and see her sashaying down the corridor when I go back to my parent’s home.

Even though I miss her so very much and I wish she could still be with us, I know that it is a relieve for her to be able to let go of the deteriorating body that is restricting her from living the carefree and independent life that she enjoyed.

During her stay in the hospital, I remembered her telling me that if she does pass away soon, she is still comforted, knowing that she has led a fulfilled life – she has ate, shopped, travelled to her hearts’ content, had the privilege to make so many friends in her life, her children are all grown up, married and leading their own happy lives. That we could always ask for more, but we can also choose to be contented with all that we already have.

Thank you mummy.

Thank you for loving me selflessly and unconditionally.

Thank you for being a great support.

Thank you for being such an inspiration.

Thank you for showing me what a strong and independent woman looks like.

Thank you for all the beautiful memories that we share.

Thank you for being such an amazing mother.

Keep shining with all your positivity, mummy.

You’ll be ever so fondly remembered and dearly missed.

1 Comment

  1. Angie

    February 8, 2018 at 12:22 am

    Dear Dawn, I am so very sorry for your loss 🙁 No words can fill that void left behind by your Mum…You share such a deep, strong bond with her and I can see you carrying on her legacy. God speed comfort and peace to you…Take all the time you need to heal.

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