March 21, 2009
It was bound to happen. Mother and I had a long conversation on her last day here. She’s been here for over two months and I am so thankful that she has been able to be here, and am grateful for both my parents for their support. While my mother was with her daughters, my father was all alone in the homeland, and working hard to provide for the whole family, including their two grown children.
Mom’s having to come to the States for this chunk of time was not a easy thing for her at this point in her life. She was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in fall 2007, had surgery and then endured about a year-long course of chemotherapy. Mother finished up with the chemo less than six months ago.
There’s much to say about our long chat, which I’m sure I’ll figure out later how to put it coherently into sentences.
My mom’s projected five-year survival rate is not promising, and she did ask me to promise that while she’s alive, if I could start building the life that I could be proud of, and moreover, that I would not die by my own hands. I really hope that I can keep that promise, if not for her sake, then for mine.
Thank you, mom. Even though she was here under a hard set of circumstances (and we don’t always agree on everything), I am so glad I was able to spend this much time with her.
March 13, 2009
It’s Friday. It’s been three weeks since my last ‘little spark.’ Fifteen of them…sixteen, if you count that day when they had to shock me twice. There are few physical marks left that show from those treatments. The same right-arm area where they inserted the catheter those fifteen times has no visible scars. The only signs left are these itchy spots by the opposite sides of my hairline where the conducting gel must have been for five weeks. But those bumps are starting to recede.
So, two months have now passed since the very first treatment. I don’t know where the time went, mostly because I do have the ‘luxury’ here of not being able to recall every detail. The burden of having to be able to account for every single second of this time belongs to my mother. She’s the one who sat in that ECT waiting room for hours as other patients and their families came and went. Books and my doctor had told her the average number of treatments is eight. She got to sit through fifteen, or five weeks, and actually remember all those hours. And on top of that, she got to celebrate her 30th wedding anniversary and her 60th birthday during this time.
There’s a lot more to say about today, but I can’t seem to put the rest into written words. At least there are more days for me to be able to write because of ECT. Oh, there is one thing I need to write down: ECT did give me three more weeks (or the last two months, really) that I planned on never having.
January 29, 2009
I have not always been forthcoming about my illness. I kept it hidden like some dark secret from my parents. In an Asian household, you don’t want to tell your parents that you don’t want to be a doctor, just as much as you don’t want to tell them that you’re depressed. But, when my mother began asking some questions yesterday (not for the first time), I decided that I should answer them. I found my mother that night crying loudly about how sorry she was to have put me in this situation and how she wasn’t a good mother. As I tried futilely to comfort her, I thought, this is why I can never say anything in this family. As soon as someone reveals something real, that reality is turned onto themselves, as if God personally blamed that person for this occurrence. I’ve never been a part of an “American” family, but there is subtle secrecy in Asian families that I’ve observed nowhere else. What happens in life never happens because “It’s life.” It’s about some god holding you responsible for something.
Given a history of (undiagnosed) mental illness in the family, I hit the genetic jackpot when it came to coming across a mood disorder. To an extent, I have come to terms with this situation. But once again, I find myself feeling so responsible for putting my parents in this situation. Watching my mother writhe with such emotional pain almost made me wish I had never told them. If I had only kept quiet, then what would’ve happened, I wondered.
Then, as I write this, I know I did the right thing by asking them for their help, even if I can hardly bear watching them agonize. I am not going to continue this cultural malignancy that can only fester by the generation. That said, I need these treatments to work because I’m afraid they would never be able forgive themselves if this last-ditch effort fails.
Our family has come very far in the treatment process, far more than I could’ve ever communicated with them a year ago. I just want to this go okay, if not for me, then, for the family.