Tuesday, April 26, 2011
A Cancer that Killed My Eldest Sister...
I knew many were killed by cancer before. My beloved teachers, big stars on TV, friend of friends and those unknown in magazines. But I never thought of my eldest sister, Kak Ina would be one of them. It was hard to accept that I had to let her go 3 years ago, at the age of 42. She took her last breath in her house, Batu Pahat, Johor on 26 April, a day before my birthday in 2008.
Shocking news rewind...
One morning, I was awakened by a phone call from my eldest niece Jannah, a daughter of our late Kak Ina. I remember it was in December 2007. Jannah was 21 that time, in her Bachelor degree at University Malaysia Sabah. Before she returned to the campus, she told me that she was worried about her mum’s health and did not feel comfortable to go back to her campus. As usual, I would say, she would be ok..don’t worry.
Noticing that she was crying, I asked her what was going on? She would only tell if I promised not to tell anyone. And surely, yes was my answer. She said her mum might have cancer and was at that time waiting for other opinions. I could not believe what I heard and hoped that was just a dream. No it was not a dream. Not a nightmare either. I really hoped it was not true, the doctors were wrong about the diagnosis.
My whole body was trembling but I needed to appear strong to Jannah as she needed my courage. I told her to return to her campus and I would take care of the matter. And she returned a few days after. Tears started to burst and I cried on my bed helplessly, did not know what to do. I remembered the promise I had just made and I thought that it was not right to let late Kak Ina endured the burden alone.
The first call I made was to my other elder sister, Kak Ijea who lived in Klang and I told her everything I knew. As expected, she was shocked too. And we promised to help late Kak Ina as much as we could. Then, I gathered my strength to talk to late Kak Ina. She was surprised of how I found it out.
That was not important how I knew, but what matter most was doing the best to save her life. And I told her that the entire family had every right to know about what happened. And she promised she would tell after the other opinion's result came out.
Later, the second opinion agreed with the first, so did the third and the fourth. She was then referred to Selayang Hospital for the biopsies. It took more than a month to get it done and would take another few weeks for the results to come out. I did not know what took them so long. I myself called the hospital because I could not just wait. My brother in law paid them to send the tissue sample to private practice and able to get the results in only few days.
The results finally confirmed that late Kak Ina had cancer, stage 3. What type of cancer I asked? And the doctors said it was her bladder that affected. What?? Bladder cancer. Never heard of it. The cancer cell was already in lymph nodes and might have travelled to nearby organs. Ya Allah..how could that happened too fast. It was strange and unbelievable. And the causes to bladder cancer were so not related to my sister past. Absurd! I tried to absorb the fact..
My sister's life was at stake and I could not imagine how her life might become. I knew she was strong from her personality. But nobody knew what was inside. Kak Ina was a person that never complained about thing or life and she did not like to talk about her or other people. All she knew was to be good to people no matter how they treated her. She was low profile and different, might be one of a kind. People might see her just a housewife, a mother that only dedicated her life to her family.
In fact, she was excellent in her study, went to a boarding school, Sekolah Menengah Sains Kelantan, then to University of Texas to study Electrical Engineering. She never worked as she had decided to be a full time mum. Jannah was born in Texas. Apart from that, she was active in sports, made to state athlete with her own records, few times of female athlete figure and she was a head girl in the boarding school too. She behaved like no one in the family because she was too good to be compared with us in the family.
Few months before she was diagnosed, she did a splendid job. Probably, she had premonition of leaving us forever. When mum was very ill of thyroid, she insisted to bring mum to Batu Pahat. She volunteered to look after mum until mum was fully recovered. She controlled mum's diets and managed mum's appointments with doctor. It took months to recover. Splendid job, wasn't it?
I remember spending the Eid in Batu Pahat that year and it was not fun because I missed my kampung so much. I respected late Kak Ina so much because she offered help knowing that we the other siblings have responsibility at work and she was so patient and tender. I knew I could never do like she did to mum. May Allah reward her for those good deeds. Ameen.
I knew she suffered from cough few months. There was no other sign but the cough. Then I got the point why they did not come back to kampung for Eid-Adha, when she initially planned to do so. I remember they were all not well that time, that was the reason why they did not join the Eid. We were disappointed but we were ok, health what matter most. Late Kak Ina actually went for medical check-up and found out about the disease however, doctor was not too sure about that as well. That was why she went for 2nd, 3rd, 4th opinions.
My Sister's Keeper
My mum came again all the way from Kelantan, this time she nursed my late Kak Ina and took over my sister's job in the house. My mum saw rapid growth of the cancer since the biopsies. I remember the last time my sister came for her check-up, her belly was swollen a bit, almost normal in size but firm like stone. She looked thinner than ever before. Her skin became yellowish, eyes too, seemed like liver was affected.
The stage 3 of cancer shocked everyone in the families, relatives and friends. Stage 3 probably meant a bit too late and be prepared! Too fast to prepare actually. It could be cured for some cancers with some treatments. So, we kept hoping. Within a month, she often came for check-up with mum and her husband, dropped by at my house after that. We usually gathered there, and she always loved to meet Aisha, Kak Ijea's new daughter. Seeing her smile made a lot of different to my feeling.
Within a month, in fact the cancer cells had already travelled faster than we thought. To her lung, breast, liver, colon and many other parts. I do not remember. Metastasis, so called. Then, the examination stopped. It frightened us even more. However, that did not stop us from finding alternative medicine. We spent countless hours searching for information about the healing methods, call friends, talk to doctors. And we tried some such as 'garam bukit' and cut down sugar as I found in some articles.
The Killer Rapid Movement...
When I visited her 2 weeks later, her belly turned like 7 months pregnant. I felt like my world was faded because I could not believe how fast the killer cells grew. I wanted to scream because I was so helpless, unable to stop that from growing crazy and my late sister was the only one who felt the pain. We did feel too but nothing was comparable. I cried a lot asking why was my sister but I was not supposed to feel that way. I knew. I always prayed that Allah would send miracle to her. One miracle was enough. My mum, she looked stronger than me. May be because she is a mum and always be.
I came almost every weekends since then, and she was becoming more like the anorexia nervosa sufferer with 12 months pregnant like belly size. I hardly recognized her as she turned so skinny; so skinny until it changed the way she appeared. I combed her hair sometimes and stroke her belly. And talk to her about that. It was firm..very very firm and painful. She easily got exhausted and lost appetite too.
The cancer had spread more and more and shown their extensive territory to my sister's backbone, covered entirely until I could no longer feel her backbone. And the upper body too, up to chest. All firm and no more shape. What left were skin and bones. No muscle, not that I could see.
Nevertheless, she never complained. All she did was, keep praying (solat) like she used to be. From standing to sitting, then lying down. She never wanted to stop praying. I remember reading a motivation book to her, Qur'an and it's translation, as she loved listening to that.
She became more and more weary until at one stage, she was unable to walk on her own. And the kids were always helpful. One time, I helped her to obtain her wudhu', she washed her wrist many times after another, seeing that I could not help my tears from burst because she had forgotten the sequences. She started being confused and forgetful. All that happened in just less than two months. And I did not mentally prepare that quick. We went to see traditional practitioner as well and 2 weeks before she passed, we went to Darul Syifa'. But, it was hard to tell, they said.
Then, I took a week leave and helped my mum, I watched my late sister struggled to live, it was getting more and more painful she said. I prayed and prayed and prayed, hoping that she would be better. Pray that the killer cell stopped spreading, and the healthy cells were strong enough to beat those killer cells. But, her condition was getting the other way around. I realized that my sister had done the best that far, I could not bear my feeling every time I see her screaming in pain, and I thought that I should let her go if that was best for her. Redha. So I thought the rest did.
We, the siblings were all there, a day before she passed. She started feeling down, feeling that she did many sins and told us how sorry she was for things that she did. Sorry for her decision not to work which it was the story of 24 years ago, sorry for not able to take care of her kids anymore, sorry for not being a good sister for us, sorry for not spending time to her cousins like the way she used to be. Those were not a sin as she claimed she did many. If those were many to her, I can not imagine what are mine like? Astaghfirullah.. And I personally think that she did her best as the eldest sister for us, helped us in many ways. So many.
We told her not to give up because Allah chose a special person to face this kind of battle. My elder brother, Abang Ha was her closest sibling because they were both from 60's, they grew up together. Me and Kak Ijea are from 70's and my younger siblings, Ema and Emey are from 80's. Three different eras.
They both travelled to Singapore, and live in Sabah together. They had a long talk that night, the rest of us were there listened more. When they cried, we also cried. I knew Abang Ha did feel her pain more than we did. Abang Ha told her that her sin might only be as big as her belly, that Allah put her that way to cleanse those tiny sins. She felt better.
Seeing her getting better the next day, we left her, back to work. Mum promised if she turned worst again, she would call. That night, she told mum that she wanted to go for a long journey and have good deep sleep. My mum had the feeling that my sister's time was near. I knew my mum, she was mentally ready, that was why she appeared strong. Kids also were there beside their beloved mum except Jannah as she was having her final exam that time. My sister slept like a baby that night till the next day..peacefully. She passed away on her sleep. Indeed, in good, deep and peaceful sleep.
A Time To Say Goodbye
We went back to meet her for the last time. I remember driving my sister's MPV like 170 km/h to get there the soonest. When we reached there, everything was done except to permanently covered my sister’s face. Jannah was there too, reading Qur'an, just arrived from Sabah. And she was calm, so did the rest of my sister's kids. Masyallah..
When my mum open the cover that covered my sister's face, we saw a miracle. So, that was. It was a miracle to see my sister was back. Subhanallah! Allahuakbar! We cried in relief. I recognised her face that moment, her face before she fell sick, even better. Her beautiful and glowing face. Ya Allah.. I did not know how it happened but I knew Allah has His own way of making miracle. Kissing her goodbye was hard but it was time to let her body go after her soul. May Allah grant her a place with solihin..Ameen ya robbal alameen. Al-Fatihah...
We have always missed her, sometimes we still feel her around us. She left her 6 kids whom carry her spirits, Jannah will be doing her Master soon, Ahmad is in Japan on his Engineering undergraduate, Iwan in his Business Studies in UITM, Huda just had 6As in her SPM, Wani got 5As in UPSR last year and Khairina is still in her standard 2. They are all her treasure, our treasure. I am truly proud of them because they are strong enough to understand and accept what Allah has planned for their mother. I understand their lost, because I lost my dad when I was young too.
p.s: Dearest my beloved nieces and nephews, do not forget. I could never be like your mother but I will always be there for you. Talk to me anytime. Share with me anything. I love you guys always..