Last Sunday afternoon, we went to this bake shop because my mom craved again for some croissants. Kwasonts, kwason, croshant, I don’t give a care whatever you wish to call this bread. This is the second time we went to this fancy shop.

When we arrived at the shop, there were a few people around my age in the corner. One couple caught my attention. The guy was tall and handsome. His face was pimple free. He was wearing this blue polo which is really perfect for him. He was smoking an electronic cigarrete with his grilfriend who is also equally pretty with her beige dress and small black body bag. From afar, I already smelled their perfumes even though I was wearing my mask. And there I was, on my shorts, backpack and my favorite black shirt full of cat fur.  For some reason I felt insecure. I wanted to be like that guy. I wanted to be cool like them. And I took it really hard because this is still an ongoing issue for me and as much as I wanted to not linger on these thoughts, I cannot. I can let go, but I feel really bad that there are still issues like this. I thought I already graduated from this. 

I messaged my friends and told them about the triggers. I usually message these friends whenever I feel these insecurities and I try to be specific as possible. This is a mental health issue and I need to have people around me who will not judge me on how petty or huge my problems are. 

“You are cool in ways you will never know”, one of them said. I know. Like I swear, I have an almost delusional belief that I am a cool motherfucker. But at the back of my dark, insecure mind, I wanted to embody the coolness of the guy in the bakeshop. Not the coolness I have.  

And the most intriguing part of this was that I am not concerned with the insecurities, but I am concerned with the fact that I still think about these things. Then I realized 3 things.

Number 1, IT IS OK to feel these things. Who says we cant? And whenver these triggers hit me, I just smile back at them and accept the fact that I am flawed and insecure at the same time. Denying myself these feelings are worse. Insecure feelings are part of being human and part of being in a capitalist society where we are given this idea of what OK and not OK means. 

Number 2, I just need to use these triggers as reminders to be humble, and generally just to be human. THERE WILL ALWYS BE PEOPLE BETTER THAN US. 

Number 3, maybe I just need to highlight what I am good at and what makes me special, and how I make others feel. 

Next 6 Months

I was talking to my friend last night and I told him what happened to my recent visit at the palliative care center. Palliative care is actually our next step because like what I’ve said, mom will no longer take chemo. According to our doctor, palliative care would mean that we will no longer prolong mom’s life but we will not shorten it. Palliative care will prioritize quality life while she is alive.

Mom’s new doctor is very lighthearted and jolly. I love his energy. He would also talk about death the way I talk about death and how my mother talks about it. He also reminded me that we will all experience it one way or another. He gave us higher doses of pain relievers in case mom’s pain will reach 10/10. I then asked one of the most difficult questions a son will ask: How long are we still going to be with my mom. He said since the cancer is aggressive, it will only take 4-6 months, but the initial signs will start once she refuses to eat. So far, mom’s appetite is still good. She recently asked me to buy her Black Tea with Grapefruit and Strawberry syrup in Starbucks. 

My friend felt sad with the prognosis and asked me if I’m going to be fine. I told him that I am going to be fine. I added that while waiting for my turn at the palliative care clinic, I already drafted a resolution on what to do in the next 6 months. He started laughing because he said that even in times like this, I am a planner.  For this stopover episode, I would like to read my plans in the next 6 months. 

The next 6 months is probably going to be the most crucial months of my life. My mother is dying and I am not sure if she will be here after 6 months. God willing, she will still be here for Christmas because I was not able to spend Christmas with them last year because of the pandemic. But the “next 6 months” project is for me, to save myself from further pain and suffering the next few months will bring. This is also a personal time to reflect and to work on a very tight and disciplined routine during this season. Preparing for my mother’s imminent death is never easy, that is why I need this plan in order for me to atleast minimize the physical, emotional and mental damages of this season. 

  1. 5x a week workout. I will start the Built By Science program  by Jeremy Ethier, a fitness coach, on Saturday, March 20, 2021. March 16 to March 19 will be a “workout bootcamp” I will work my heart out studying the concepts and theories behind this new program. This is a proper nutrition and proper exercise program. Note that exercise is very vital during this difficult season. (context: I am currently using the beginner’s workout program by jeff nippard. this new program is for the intermediate lifters)
  2. Meditation– A 30minute meditation (regardless of the style) should be added on this daily routine. I can be creative with this. Allot a regular time for this, but not strict. The next 5 days will be spent in cleaning the meditation area and trying out progression in meditation (10mins, 15mins, 20mins, and so on and so forth). Use Headspace app as a tool. You can also chant a mantra. Again, be creative. 
  3. Creative documentation– allot a special time in journalling and podcasting and creating things throughout this season. One stopover episode and one regular episode could be published weekly. 
  4. Reading. Allot a special time for reading. read anything, not necessarily spiritual books. 
  5. Take it all in. Embrace the pain and all the emotions that may arise during this season. Learn to accept future dramas inside the family, historically, this is inevitable. Learn to manage your energy. Slowly detach yourself more to the dying loved one. Learn from all this. Learn to always let go everyday. There are no “must do” or “must haves” during this season. This is your battle. No one can take this away from you. FIGHT IT GRACEFULLY. 

Not a Perfect World

Last Tuesday, my dad and I went to the Oncologist. This time without mama. We had to show the doctor mom’s lab results and  tell him my mom’s decision not to undergo chemo. My dad and I expected bad news, but before going there, I prayed (which I don’t usually do anymore) and asked for a little good news.Just a tiny one.

I honestly did not pray for healing anymore, but I asked for strength to take it all in and to take it gracefully. That’s also mom’s wish. Mom knows what is happening, too. She’s strong enough to go with us, but she decided not to. And the environment of the Oncologist department won’t help. The doctor told us that chemo is risky at this point. And then he told us to give what mama wants and tick the boxes off her bucket list. My dad cried. The doctor was also speechless. Mom is one of his success stories. He would tell us that mom is jolly and bubbly and to see her like that is also hearbreaking for him. I know doctors should be strong and firm, but I cant blame this one. He then recommended us for palliative care. It’s like a scene from a movie. 

On the other hand, I felt relieved. Now, we can finally get the chance to face the reality and to trust the process. You see, hope is sometimes crippling. Hope allows us to to hold on to people even though we should let them go. Hope allows us to make stories in our mind which will soon frustrates us. 

In the evening, I went out with my friends, you know to breath and to move. I believe that idleness wont do me any good. I have to move. I have to walk. I have to laugh with them. I wanted to eat Thai food so they took me to a Thai restaurant. We then had coffee at Mcdonalds. While this is happening, my cousin told me that my mom’s siblings are in the house, having a meeting. I told him that I am not comfortable to attend it and I asked to be excused because I just need to breath. He said that I should not worry and people understand why I am outside. My Dad told them that I am strong like my mother. I’m surprised that they see me as a strong person. That means a lot. 

Anyway, I am not comfortable with the stigma of death and dying. I just want to think of it as something normal like travelling or eating or giving birth. 

The following day, I finally had the chance to talk to my mom. We were on her room and we were just talking what to do next. And then I started crying because this is so surreal, talking about her final days, plans, and shit. She told me not to cry because she hates drama and she wanted everyone to just accept this. I told her that I am strong like her, that I am going to be fine and that I am smart enough to know what is going to happen to her, but I told her that it sucks to lose a mom. How can you actually live in this motherfucking crazy world without a mother? She would tell us that all of us will have to face death at some point, and she knows that this time, it’s her turn.  

The next day, I have been receiving calls and messages from cousins around the world. I only answered one call. It was from my cousin from Singapore, who lost both her brother and father in 2019. I wanted to talk to her because she knows the feeling of losing a parent. She told me that I have to accept things as they are and how lucky I am that I can prepare for this. She told me that mom did not quit the battle but this is her way of winning the battle. We were both crying. It’s weird to do this in front of the camera. 

Yesterday, I went home and all the furniture were piled up at one corner. My uncle told me that they are making a room for mom downstairs because she doesnt have the energy to go upstairs anymore. She would feel dizzy going up and down. Again, it felt weird. It got worst when they brought in this hospital bed frame and this green mattress. This is going to be her deathbed. I had to go in my room to cry, because this is quickly sinking in. Mom then told me that I can sleep in their room now while they’ll be sleeping downstairs. My mom, being a very OC mom wont even allow me to use their bed because for the longest time, I am a dirtball in her eyes. It sucks to hear her say that I can sleep in their bed. 

My aunts and I had this heart to heart talk last night. I told them that when mom was diagnosed in 2018, I started to detach myself. Not that I stopped loving her, but I slowly trained myself and prepared myself for this day and the days to come. The preparation was hard. In those 2 years when mom has no evidence of the disease, I still wake up in the middle of the night, with sweaty palms, with nightmares and with panic attacks. i still space out even if I’m with friends. 

Recently, my mantra is “we dont live in a perfect world”. It’s been on repeat since our visit to the Oncologist last Tuesday. We dont live in a perfect world where parents and the people you love are immortal. We dont live in a perfect world where we can walk in the streets without face shields and masks.  We dont live in a perfect world where we get to live all our dreams. This is a broken world and its brokenness is really the reason why it is good to be alive. 

On Mom’s Cancer

This journal entry was originally written last March 7, 2021.

She lost a lot of weight since we went to the oncologist 4 days ago. Her cheekbones were already visible. Her eyes were so deep. She’s so dark and her hair was oily because she does not have enough strength to take a bath. It sucks to see mom like that, especially for a person who takes a bath for more than an hour. 

I told her to be stronger because she will take her chemo in a couple of days. Then she dropped it. She does not want to take medications anymore. She told us that she’s not stopping the fight but for her to undergo chemo again given that Liver Cancer is hard to treat is no longer practical. 

I did not expect that. I was hopeful for the chemo treatment and the shrinking of her tumors for a potential liver resection. But that’s her body. That’s her journey. That’s her fight, not ours. This is the decision which is difficult to fathom and digest. And it’s not even anyone’s decision to make. It’s hers. 

After that, my dad and I had this heart to heart talk. He cried. It feels like 2018 again, when mom was first diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer, which she survived for 2 years. My dad accepted mom’s fate except the suffering that goes along with this fucking disease. He is the caregiver. He can see mom’s pain all the time, while I just have nightmares about it. Dad is super strong. 

That’s what I don’t want to see. Her suffering. In 2018, I prayed that if God will take my mom, let it be quick. Like a heart attack. Or death while sleeping. I know fucking cancer. It’s hideous. It’s horrible. It will literally eat you from the inside out til your are just bones, sores and skin. It will take your jolly good life away. But again, there’s no easy way to die. But the body knows how to. 

People would say “spend time with her”. I have a different relationship with my mom. I am generally an awkward person and opening up to her, being sweet is just unnatural. I usually have deep convos with my dad. Mom and I would often shout at each other on the phone, but that’s a normal thing to do. That’s how we talk. Mom knows I don’t want to see her like that. I don’t even need to tell her. Or anyone. My cousin told me that the last time she had a convo with mom, she told him that Darby doesnt want to see me like this. I never even told her that. But that’s maternal instinct. 

Earlier, before I left the house, I said goodbye to my grandma. She was 80 something. I stopped counting because she’s a badass and she’s ageless. She was a survivor too. Stage 3B Cervical Cancer. She survived the 5-year mark. She’s strong as fuck! She told me that she’s praying for my mom, that I don’t have to worry about her and that everything is going to be ok. It was a comforting situation, but in all honesty, it’s not going to be alright. And it’s fine. It’s fine that way.  Who says things should always be alright? Nothing is alright in this world right now but it’s ok. And that is comforting. That all of us are suffering right now. And ironically, that’s beautiful. Suffering and pain allows us to grow. It allows us to be alive and experience this beautiful human experience. I am more alive now more than ever. Life is ironic. 

Whatever you are feeling right now, wherever you are, whatever problems you are facing, you are not alone.