Saturday, September 23, 2006

A consequence of adulthood

It seems that the cancer in my uncle's liver might be re-emerging and suspected to have spread to his stomach this time. He is the husband of my aforementioned aunt. Having come back from the brink of death already twice in the last four or five years, I am having a hard time believing such luck could be dealt to one family. And my poor cousin: 24-years-old with no other source of sustenance beyond his parents; he's quit his internship to take care of them, consequently compromising his graduation even further. It's like Dave Eggers's Staggering Genius for the me-love-you-(wr)ong-time working class crowd.

Sometimes, there is no appropriate reaction but rage.


My father, his older brother, and my grandma are hopping on a plane to Beijing this coming Thursday to see my aunt, who has fallen seriously ill. A long-time university history professor with a penchant for whining, she's always been known as a bit of a hypochrondriac. Chronically tardy except with speed-dial, her morning ritual would consist of calling up my grandma to gripe about her not-so-well-being as the old woman sat patiently listening to her forever cry wolf about one phantom pain or another.

It was their thing, mother and daughter, bonding over the sympathy they produced in each other. It was charming, often funny, especially when their tolerance faltered in the midst of conversation, provoking one (or both) to raise her voice in a furious crescendo.

But those episodes would soon pass; they always do in time for food.

With a face like a peach and glasses that obscure her cheeks, my aunt has a curiosity that surpasses her age -- a number that at once derides her intelligence while giving it the weight of repute gained in time. Her eccentric dress, her habit of adopting stray cats, she's just a wonderfully quirky, loving woman.

And now, she has no more than three months to live.

Secondary bone cancer, my mother told me this morning. The doctors have inserted metal rods in her hip because the malignant cells have almost completely eaten through, which -- if untreated -- would indubitably leave her paralysed (due to its position by the spine). There's also cancer in her ribs, which originally came from her lungs.

I am heartbroken. She had been visiting Eastern practices for the past year. Is this what they'd actually been doing: Preventing early detection with all its voodoo wizardry? Her misplaced faith ultimately landed her in a Western-styled hospital, but not before being sent away by the herbal specialists who greedily collected her money. Holistic, my ass! All a bunch of conjurers and con men! Exploiting the poor the way they do, it's enough to make me throw myself against the wall and cry. All summer long, my aunt was determined to see me nearly everyday before I left for work. It was a daily routine that required great effort (due to the hour-long commute and her frail health), but nonethless, an act of love: noble and indulgent, maternal and kind. So much love, so undeserved.

And now, she's dying. She's dying. She's dying ...

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