I think of the needles sometimes. The men, the opium pipes, stealthy fingers passing white packets by the front door. Syringes in the backyard. Dropping a can of beer. Tomatoes vines by the fences. A den. A doctor’s house visit. Stitches. A dog barking. The mumble jumble of drugs and playground tag, a block of brick against the head. Yelling.

Things you see in life changes you, inevitably, irrevocably. They shape your thoughts and your perceptions of life, how you look the world and its inhabitants. And if my thoughts were to take a single shape, it might just be of the tip of a needle breaking through brown skin.

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Relatable Netflix dramas

Mel recommended Crazy Ex-girlfriend on Netflix to me and I’ve been addicted to it because

A) it’s so stupid

B) it’s highly relatable.

Somehow, those two variables are closely interlinked in my life.

It’s about this lady who met her ex-boyfriend from 10 years ago on the streets of New York and became so obsessed with him that she left her high-flying career and moved to California just to be closer to him. But of course, he doesn’t know that; he thinks she’s done it because she wanted to have a change of job. And so she goes around stalking him on social media (63 times a day, to be exactly. No really, she does that.) and then pretends to ‘bump’ into him at wherever he seems to be. She’s completely psy.cho.tic. Like, an actual ward-able nutjob. And it’s hilarious because she gets into all kinds of trouble and meets really funny weirdos and they all break into songs at random moments. Totally relatable, because that seems to be where I’m headed.

See, there’s this guy that I kiiiiiiind of think is cute and cool but he has zero interest in me. We’d talk once in a while and like each other’s post on social media but that’s about it. I’ve dropped some hints about getting dinner but he’s clearly not interested in me like that so I’ve resorted just stalking him on social media and refreshing his Facebook page 84 times a day. (Just kidding, we’re millennials, we don’t use Facebook much. Also, that number is an estimate.) But that’s about it. I’m not going to move across the country just to be near him because a) he lives in a really expensive estate and my ass is broke and b) this country is so small that even if I moved, I’ll just be like…three minutes closer to him.

I kindasortareallywanna just get this feeling out of my system because I hate the feeling of having a crush. I mean, come on. Does anyone on this planet actually like having their emotional stability depend on whether a guy has viewed their Instagram stories or not? I’ve tried all kinds of things – reading, painting, writing. I’ve even tried Tinder and but it just makes me want to stab my eyes out. I even considered becoming asexual, like a blackworm or a single-cell organism. Right now, my latest method is to go cold turkey on social media. Like The Purge but instead of killing people, you just deactivate your social media accounts. Does anyone have good remedies for getting over crushes? Please send them my way, your help is much appreciated, thank you.

 

Sometimes I look at the knife on the table, the scissors in the drawer, the cars on the street, the ledge of a high rise building, and a dangerous thought will cross my mind.

When people ask me how I’m doing, I’ll always tell them, I’m holding on.

“How are you living each day?”

“By holding on.”

The good day

Yesterday morning, I overheard my parents arguing about a Facebook and felt like crying. It was nothing new. In dealing with cancer, I am learning that my life is a 24-hr theme park with Being-On-Edge-of-Tears as the most popular ride. The causes for that emotional state differs. Sometimes it was because your mother was dying. Sometimes it was because we are all dying but we are more aware of some deaths than others. Sometimes it was because your mother has asked you to start packing up her things to be given away when she dies, that she was so resilient and brave in the face of eternal annihilation while you’re a soggy mess, crying over cups of teas and diced carrots. Most of the time though, in general, it was because you hate everything and life suck.

Yesterday’s episode was because I was happy. And sad. And upset. Simultaneously. Since beginning her medication, my mother barely had the strength to eat. She’d get violent coughs every time she speaks. Most of her days were spent on the couch in our living room, dozing off the effects of two different chemo drugs waging wars in her body.

But yesterday was different.

Yesterday, she had a Good Day. She woke up and ate almost half a bowl of rice without throwing up. She picked up her phone and looked through Facebook posts. She commented on things. And she had the strength to banter with my father. It has been so long since I’ve heard her speak that loudly that I panicked. Was she sick? Was this a new episode? But no, it was just a good day. We were having a rare good day, and all I wanted to do was to cry, because I was happy that she was well, because I was sad that it would end in a few hours, because I was beginning to realise the importance of a moment, a minute, an hour, because everything was moving too fast in the wrong direction, like a rollercoaster going unhinged, but that morning we were somehow given a moment of reprieve from the shadows that have been clouding our lives.

That morning reminded me of the pre-cancer days. Every single of one of those days must have been a good day, because we had strength in our arms and legs and lungs, because we could walk to the kitchen without getting tired, but we hadn’t appreciated it then.

In which my mouth is stupid

Okay, so everyone who knows me well knows that my mouth is stupid. I have a habit of panicking whenever people focus their attention on me, which results in my brain malfunctioning, and instead of coming up answers that a person of moderate intelligence might give, my mouth ends up uttering the most useless horseshit in the entire history of the universe. And today, I added to the (super long) list of embarrassing things I’ve said.

And today, I added to the (super long) list of embarrassing things I’ve said. This is how the short – but no less disastrous – conversation went down:

Peter: My wife and I are having a baby!

Me: Yay! Congratulations! What breed is it?

Lunch table: *awkward silence*

Derek, in a whisper: Gender. It’s called gender.

*screams internally*

Oh, if only there was a rubbish chute nearby, I would have torn my mouth out and throw it in the trash.

Terminal cancer

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“The cancer is in the brains.” The doctor paused, and then she said it again, “We found some tumours there.”

I’ve always imagined that the moment would be more climactic, perhaps with a thespian filter and a stage setup. I imagined there’d be headaches and dramatic nosebleeds. Doctors rushing everywhere, perhaps even in surgical robes, with solemn expressions. There’d be a lot of crying and phone calls and somebody, perhaps a distant, weepy aunt, would faint on cue. I imagined something that was worthy of Grey’s Anatomy or House or even a scene from a B-class movie.

But life wasn’t a cable network writer looking to amp up ratings, and there was none of the electrifying tension, none of the sensational camera zoom-ins and facial close-ups.

We were seated on plastic chairs in a nice, cool room, the doctor in a practical shirt and skirt. The night before, we had fish for dinner and watched dramas on cable TV. This morning, we took the train, jampacked with office workers, and walked ten minutes up to the center. It was just a normal day, we were just normal people. Except that it wasn’t normal, that my mother was suffering from terminal cancer (people always use that term, but is there a cancer that wasn’t terminal?), and that it had spread to her brains.

The cells that she made, that she fed and watered and oxygenated, had turned on each other. The cells she created and gave life to were slowly killing her. She would continue feeding and watering and giving them life, and they would continue multiplying and spreading, demanding her absolute energy in their slow destruction of her body. It was a cruel, cruel existence, an involuntary act of self-annihilation, and it happened in plastic chairs.

We didn’t cry. No doctors rushed in with blood on their gloves. No aunt fainted. There wasn’t even an immediate action plan. The doctor said, “We’ll come up with a plan. See you next week.” We paid out our consultation fees in cash and then went home to eat lunch. It was the least dramatic climax ever. We didn’t even give good reactions. If it was a drama series, all the media executives would be up in arms, shaking their meaty, Rolex clad fists and demanding a re-write of the entire episode. Throw in the blood, they’d say. Where are the tears? Where are the anguished cries?

But it was not a drama. It felt like a drama, but it was not. It was our lives, it was my life, and I was living it.

 

2017 Life Update

Seeing how I’ve been blogging intermittently, I feel obliged to return here to say that I’ve officially graduated! I’m now a master’s degree holder, wooohooooo! It was very tough and very tiring and I put on at least 5 to 10kg, but at least I made it.

Also, my mother’s cancer came back. The doctor says it’s Stage 4 now, and she can’t really do radiotherapy or chemotherapy anymore, so all that’s left is to take tablets. For the rest of her life or until the tablets don’t work anymore. And they’re really expensive – about $3-4k SGD per month. The day we got back the results, just before we go bed, she looked at me and said, “I don’t think I should do the treatment.” I asked why and she replied, “It’s too expensive. How will we afford that much money every month?”

I got really upset and told her that of course she must do the treatment, we will manage it somehow. We both went to bed after and I waited until she was sleeping before breakdown and crying. I was angry at everything, at myself for not making enough money, at her for saying such things, and at life for giving her such a hard life. It was a horrible feeling, being asked to let your own mother die because you could not afford the money to save her. We had another round of check up to get a confirmation that the cancer was really growing (it was), but the doctor said it was not so critical and perhaps we can re-do the tests in two to three months time before starting treatment, so that we can have more time to gather funds. She also offered to help us find clinical trials so that we won’t have to spend so much money. Hopefully we can get it when we go back for checkups in September.

I’ve started writing again now that school is over. It’s not good, just a crappy YA romance on Wattpad full of cheesy lines and cliches, nothing that I will ever show anyone I respect, but it’s better than nothing at least! I’m also trying to participate in NaNoWriMo but I’m not sure if I can finish a story under that kind of setting.

Oh and I’ve started learning Korean! HAAHA we went to Korea last winter and I was so surprised that I can understand what they were saying, lol. So I came back and started learning in Jan and I’m almost done with my second semester. I can ask where the toilet is now. lolololol Hopefully, I’ll be more fluent by Dec.

Lots of love,

E