The last few weeks were very difficult time for me. Once my dad called from Indonesia, “Your mom is going to have an operation. Please pray for her.” It’s very unlikely that my mom gets sick, as my mom is a very active woman, doing physical exercise almost on daily basis. In late few years I have never heard she fell into serious sickness, even for once.The news was not too good. It turned out to be tumor, cells which grow abnormally. It sounds not so serious, my mom just complained of pain in her abdominal. Operation was conducted.
It’s not a simple tumor. Doctor said it was malignant tumor, euphemism of saying ‘your mom got cancer’. My mom ovary was lifted. The next diagnosis saying that the cancer has spread to her intestine, and they claimed my mom got a Stage-3C cancer.
My days turn dark. I feel guilty, worry, fear, anxiety, … I make dozens of international calls a day to Indonesia to inquire about her.
“Mom, how are you?”
“Everything is alright. Just little bit weak. But I am alright.” Surprisingly, her voice sounds very strong, like she doesn’t feel any pain. She has determined spirit, not to be heard as she was in unbearable pain. She continues, “But I feel sad, when I went to operation, not even one of my beloved family members were next to me. Your dad had to stay in our shop. Your brother was doing final thesis. And you are far away there.”
My parents live by themselves in our house, in a small town in East Java. The medical facility there is not really good. Initially my dad said that the operation could be conducted in our town hospital, but the result might not be good. So my mom had to go to Surabaya, the provincial capital, about 5 hours of journey as the previously good highway was destroyed by mud. She went there alone, met a cousin in Surabaya, and just went to the hospital by her bravery.
“Do you need me to come home? I can accompany you,” I offered.
“No, dear. You have your dream. I know you still have so much of dreams. You want to go to university again, don’t you?”
No…. Nothing is important anymore for me but her health.
“You were crying, weren’t you?” My dad ridicules me, “It’s OK, dear. It’s cancer, everybody can get it, and we have no other way but to face it.” My dad laughs, but I don’t feel much of optimism in her words. The doctor mentions that this stage 3 thing means the cancer has spread, there’s always risk.
I browsed through internet, learning more about ovarian cancer. I read anything from medical journals until blogs of people taking care of parents getting cancer. Some were really grim and ended in tragedy. I never imagine that my mom will suffer all of this.
All sons say that their moms are the most beautiful in the world. I think the same. I am always proud of her. She is typical of a small-town or village woman, not highly educated, but has commitment to sacrifice the best for her children’s education and future. She doesn’t like to travel out of town. I remembered the time when she came to Beijing for my graduation, she was terrified in the plane. She liked visiting Beijing, making ‘pilgrimage’ to the Mao mausoleum in a total faith. I even haven’t been there, despite of my 6-year stay in China. Mom also loved the Great Wall, the palace, the Buddha grottoes in Datong. Every single small step was a new inspiring thing for her. But she did not really like the food. The thing I noticed most, my mom never felt totally free. Her mind was always about home, about shop, about my dad and family. She loved Beijing, but preferred to go home earlier if possible. Her heart was bound at our little home in a small town of Lumajang.
Despite of her unwillingness to travel far, I have made her mind to go to China again this time. I have asked around for recommended cancer hospitals. Some friends referred doctors in Singapore, but after considering the cost of bringing mom there, I am sure it won’t be a good choice. Cancer patient should not be stressed. The astronomical bills for sure will make my mom shocked, and it won’t be good for her.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I will pay for your treatment,” I offered.
“No, dear. Save your money for your travel and university. Reach your dreams,” she said again.
“No, Mom. Really, nothing is important anymore.”
I have to ask helps from many friends to talk to my mom, to make her mind. Initially, my mom was so reluctant. The Surabaya doctor said she needed to conduct a set of 6 sessions of chemotherapy. My mom has done the first one. But as far as I know, 6 sessions are the initial set of therapy. If the cancer is not finished, other sessions will have to follow. I have read some patients have to do therapy for 15 years and keep doing it. I am really afraid to imagine that it would happen to my mom. I feel devastated to know that most chemotherapy patients will lose their hair.
Will that happen to my mom? The mom whom I always boast as the most beautiful mom on earth… But for cancer patients, beauty is now placed at the bottom of priority. I just want to see my mom survive, and gets her health back.
“I learn how to give up,” says Mom, “Let it be, Dear.”
“No, Mom. You have to struggle,” I said emotionally, “I will sacrifice anything for you. I leave everything here just for you.”
My mom said she would consider.
“Your mom is so strong,” said a close friend in China who made international phone call to talk with my mom, “She is optimistic. Her voice sounds like a freedom fighter. And she is happy that you will accompany her to the hospital in China.”
Gotcha. My mom does miss me. The journey has taken me to all corners of Asia, to different countries, even to warzones and dangerous places. This journey has opened my eyes, seeing different life and cultures. But my mom, she is stuck in a small town there in Java, praying for me every minute, living in worries, suffering psychological stress, and now when she gets sick, she wants me to be next to her.
She never says that directly to me. She always says I have to pursue my dreams and future. But that’s the motherly character of all moms on earth, I bet.
Meanwhile, here in Afghanistan I have bunch of problems in front of my eyes. Starting from visa bureaucracy until some friends who didn’t pay me back the money they borrowed. I have piles of plans of going here and there, of going to study Arabic in Middle East, of doing photo essays and collecting material for my books, and so on. Suddenly, everything turned vain. Initially, it looked very hard to give up all of this. But actually it was not. After all, nothing is important anymore now.
I have begged so many people to help me about the visa. I have made friends to commit to pay back the money, as now my mom only relied on me completely. I have purchased my flight ticket, and I am flying for Hong Kong tomorrow. Life is a roller-coaster, everything may happen without we ever expected. But that’s the meaning of life journey, isn’t it? I am sure that this is the best choice I can take.
All memories of Afghanistan are really difficult to be suddenly erased. The capital is already like my home. The Pajhwok Afghan News office, where I have been staying for two years, is also like my home. The reporters, journalists, translators, and all other staff are like my family. It was very difficult to say ‘bye’ to all of them. This farewell might be forever.
It might be blessing in disguise. I believe that God has prepared everything. Like the Chinese says, men struggle and God decides. Even though my mood now is mostly sad, but there’s a slight of happiness to be able to see my mom again after almost 3 years.
I am returning back to China, to my zero point. Let this blog post ends this chapter of journey. I thank all of you who support my journey financially, physically, spiritually, mentally, whether you are in Afghanistan, Indonesia, China, Central Asia, Pakistan, India, Iran, UAE, all over the world. I know ‘Thank you’ is too bland and far from enough to express this feeling.
I pray for my mom recovery. I am confident with her spirit, she can overcome all of this. I just go with the wind, and let God dictate me where to step.