Friday, October 05, 2007


I stopped at the door and watched as the nurses continued on, wheeling my mother's gurney through the double doors and into the hallway leading to the operating rooms. Today, I was a visitor, and this was as far as I was allowed to go. I watched them turn the corner and disappear, and then turned around and slowly made my way back towards the waiting area. Halfway down that hallway, it just hit me like a ton of bricks, and my eyes started to water.

For months, I had prayed daily, kept hope, and stayed strong. Despite my mother's overwhelmingly poor odds, I knew deep inside that she would be part of that 3% of patients that would beat her cancer and survive.

Months before, when the oncologist had the courage to tell us the truth, that he didn't think my mother would be a survivor, I acknowledged him, but internally I refused to believe him. "What do you know," I thought. How can this man fail to understand that my mother would be able to beat her cancer?

My mother was a good person, a devout Christian, had made many sacrifices for others, and lived a good life. Karma was on her side. God was on her side. She always responded well to medicines. She was only 49. She would beat this cancer. The oncologist had no idea what he was talking about.

And with every small victory my mom achieved with her cancer, we rejoiced and praised God. And with every set back, we prayed harder. And we all believed that with enough prayer and hope, she would survive.

But she started to regress. Slowly at first, but then piece by piece her body started to give up. But we kept praying and kept believing. And still, I refused to believe that my mother... my mom, would be a prey to cancer.

But that morning, as I was walking back to the waiting room, it hit me. And for the first time, I finally acknowledged the truth, and accepted my mother's fate. But it felt like a hole was being torn out of my heart and I was betraying my mother and giving up just by the mere act of accepting the truth. And there was no relief, and no asylum gained by doing so. It only seemed to hurt even more.

And I stood there, leaning against the wall for support, overcome with grief and crying my eyes out as months of repressed hurt, fear, denial, and mourning came pouring out of me.

I cried for her. I cried for my dad. I cried for my younger brother. I cried out of frustration, grief, and anger. I cried out of the unfairness of life and it's unforgiving nature. And I as I stood there crying, I felt completely alone.

For months, I had acted as the rock that my family could lean on. But at that moment, in that hallway, I wanted someone to lean on. I needed someone to lean on. Someone to hold me as I came to terms with my mother's illness.

But nobody came.

People passed me along that hallway, but nobody bothered to reach out to me. I stood in that hallway in that sea of sorrow, wanting someone to stop and offer just a small word of encouragement, or to tell me that everything would be OK, even if it weren't true. But nobody ever did. And I felt very alone.

And I've never forgotten that heart wrenching feeling of loneliness and sadness.

So when I saw this little elderly woman crying alone in the hallway as I was walking out to eat my lunch, I remembered. And I went up to her.

Me: [cautiously reaching out for her elbow] Ma'am, are you OK?

She slowly turned around and in between sobs, she told me her cancer had been successfully treated, and that today, her doctors couldn't find any traces of it.

Her: [sobbing] It's OK. I'm OK. I'm just so happy, I can't stop crying.

Me: Well, give me a hug. Congratu-

But before I could finish, she latched onto me and gave me the biggest hug of my life. And I hugged her back as she released those tears of joy and relief, my heart being warmed with joy as well.

And we stood there in that hallway, two strangers united in an impromtu embrace as others passed us by, one stranger simply celebrating the triumph of another as the other wept with happiness.