Ting Chan

Ting Chan

Coping With a Loved One With Terminal Cancer

We knew something wasn’t right when we found my uncle and aunt seated on the living room couch. Mom had an announcement to make. Something important. The cursed cancer had metastasized. We wept for the cruel twist of fate. We wept for the impermanence of life. We wept for mom. 

The day mom was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer was, undeniably, one of the worst days of my life. Over 8 years have passed since but I can still recall the suffocating heaviness and retching heartache from that day. The cancer had metastasized to her right pelvis, rib cage, and scalp and the pain was beginning to affect her mobility. But as the saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining” – the fact that the cancer had only metastasized to her bone was our silver lining.

For how bad this news is, it could have been a whole lot worse.

Coming to this conclusion was my way of coping with the terrible news. But, how was it that this seemingly insubstantial thought allowed me passage through such heartache? At its core, the thought is a fundamental expression of gratitude (although admittedly subtle). Gratitude was my saving grace. Gratitude is my answer on how to cope with mom’s imminent mortality.

From “The Book of Joy” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

Gratitude means embracing reality. It means moving from counting your burdens to counting your blessings

How do I count my blessings when the burden is so overwhelming?

Before mom’s passing, the following thoughts got me through the toughest days:

Mom is still with us today.

I can still take care of her. I can still make her proud. I can still tell her how much I love her.

And I did exactly that to the absolute best of my ability.

I was so thankful to give back to the woman who gave me everything. So thankful to fulfill her dream of watching Kei and I graduate from University. So thankful to show her how much I loved her.

And now, I’m so thankful for all of the memories of which I can use to reach friends walking along a similar path.

Love deeply. Live deliberately.


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