I believe many of us have lost our loved ones due to cancer. As for me, I’ve lost my beloved mother in May 2009 after losing her battle with colon cancer.. I’ve been avoiding this topic ever since because I felt that it’s too painful to remember. And up until today, I don’t have the courage to look at Mak’s pictures because it would definitely bring tears.. There were times when I just broke down and cry like a little kid.. I love you so much Mak.. 29 years is just not enough.. Al Fatihah..
We could see the difference in her after my parents returned from the States in 2008. My dad had a heart attack in Boston and had to undergo Angioplasty Surgery. Mak took care of him day and night.. They came back to Malaysia in September 2008 and everybody noticed that Mak had lost a lot of weight.. But she said it was nothing.. And the focus then was Abah because he was still weak from the surgery.. She was still energetic and active.. For the next couple of months, everybody kept telling Mak to take a great care of Abah.. Watch his diet; don’t let him do strenuous works.. Etc.. And I still remember one time Mak said “Asyik jaga orang sakit jantung, tapi yang menjaga ni ada sakit ke tak ada sape nak tanya” – If only we knew..
After Abah got better, both of them were working on a project to repair an old room at my grandma’s house.. “It would be a home away from home” She said.. They spent most of their times there and only came home at night.. Every time me and my husband went back to Pekan, we would go straight to their ‘2nd home’. And every time we came back, we could see Mak was getting thinner. But Mak was really happy there.. The room became our new favorite place to hang out..
February 2009 came. It was my Grandma’s birthday. I came back from KL because my family was planning to have ‘makan-makan’.. And as usual, the people in charge of food would be Mak and her 2 best cooking buddies – Makcik Minah and Mak Lan. (This was the last time they cooked together). I noticed Mak was no longer energetic and active. She had to sit down a lot. And at one point, she needed to lie down for a few minutes. My aunties and uncles kept pushing her to go to the hospital for a check-up.
Abah took her for a check-up at Hospital Pekan. The news was good.. Doctor said her sugar level was good, her BP was good and she only needed to take vitamins for her stamina.. Foolish were we to believe it!! After 2 weeks, Mak went for another check-up and this time the Doctor said Mak has Anemia. It was still bearable and both my sister and I kept searching online for food that would help to increase her red blood cell.
March came. Mak agreed to be hospitalized in Hospital Pekan. She said she needed some rest. I took a week off from work to keep her company. She complained that her stomach was getting big and she felt pain in her tummy. They took her for x-rays.. When the result came back, Doctor said they could see a white mass near her heart but they didn’t know what it was.. I told the news to my sister and she was quite upset with the Doctor.. How could a Doctor did not know what’s wrong with Mak?????? After consulting with our Aunty and Uncles, we agreed to send Mak’s blood sample to a private lab for a thorough examination.
Then they transferred Mak to HTAA Kuantan. But still the Doctors did not do anything! The nurses only came to check her BP and nothing else. After a week (I think), Mak had to go for a scan (I don’t remember the scientific term) where they took a sample tissue by inserting a tube through her anal.
It was April when the result came. I remembered Mak went to the Hospital with Abah, one of my aunt, Mak Lan and Makcik Minah. I was in KL. I was so nervous that I didn’t even go to work that day. My husband stayed with me at home. It was almost noon when Abah called. He sounded so cool when he told me. “Abah nak bagitau ni tapi abah mintak awak kuat la. Mak ada cancer, dah stage 4”.. I was speechless, and I passed the phone to my husband. I cried till I couldn’t even talk. But my husband passed the phone back to me and said “Mak nak cakap dengan awak”.. I only managed to say “Hello” and started sobbing. But Mak was strong. She even scolded me.. “Kenapa awak nangis? Mak ok je. Skarang ni awak semua kena la kuat kalau tak macam mana Mak nak lawan sakit ni?” Ya Allah.. You were always the strong one in the family Mak. – Later on I learned that when the Doctor was giving her the result, she did not even shed a tear.
She decided to not continue with chemotherapy because she knew that she would be weak if she went for it. She only wanted to try traditional treatment. And we respected her decision.
Both I and my sister agreed to take a month off from work to take care of Mak. My sister would be coming back from the States with her 2 kids. It was end of April. Mak was getting thinner each day. She had lost her appetite. She could only eat 2-3 spoonful of food every meal.
She spent most of her time in bed. Me and my sister would cook whatever she wanted to eat but she always complained that the food was not good.. (Mak was a great cook). She would get cranky. And the effort of walking from the bedroom to the kitchen would make her really tired. But every time people came to visit, she would smile and talk as if nothing is wrong with her.
May 11th 2009. It was my sister’s birthday. I bought a cake and we sang like there was no problem. Mak sat on the couch. She didn’t eat the cake because she said it was too sweet. (At this point, even if we cook with no salt, she would say the food was too salty and when we make drinks with no sugar, she would say it was too sweet.) I took a video of this event. Little did I know it would be the most treasured memory in our life.
A few days after my sister’s birthday, Mak decided to be hospitalized again and she agreed to undergo the surgery to remove the infected area in her colon. I remembered she was wearing her purple blouse when she left the house. I remember she looked back at the house and said “Mak pergi dulu ye. Tak taulah bila pulak balik rumah ni”. I had to stay home to babysit my nephew and niece. At this point, she was still able to walk..
A few days before her surgery, she wanted to eat ‘Bubur Lambuk and Som Som’. My uncle and Grandma cooked and brought the food to the hospital. She only ate a small portion. She even made jokes with Mak Lan. “X sedap lah Lan bubur lambuk Ku Lukman masak. Teruk sangat kawan ni yek.. Dah nak mati baru nak makan macam-macam.Pastu orang dah masak tu komplen pulok!” Mak Lan laughed and said “Tu lah Ku Ton, cubalah makan diam2 x yoh komplen makanan tu”. I was there and I listened to the best friends talked.
She was too weak for surgery. But after consulting many times with the Surgeon, we came to agreement for the date and time of the surgery. The time came. It was a tearful event but as usual, Mak did not even shed a tear. (Mak was so strong). The surgery lasted for 3 hours and they removed 11 inches of her infected colon. I thought Mak would get better because there is no cancer in her body now. I told my thoughts to my sister. She informed me that 70% of Mak’s liver has been infected and there’s nothing that the Doctor could do about it.. Ya Allah… the surgery was only meant to pro long her life, and not to cure.
This was a week before May 30th. All this while when she was hospitalized, she did not want me or my sister to stay with her at night. She only wanted Abah. Mak did not want to eat. She didn’t even want to lift her head, her head and the rest of her body. She was supposed to exercise her lung and her leg but she refused to do so. She got even crankier. She did not want any visitor. She did not even want her only 2 grandkids to be by her bed.
Every time we wanted to change her diaper, I had to roll her body and hold her since she did not want to move at all. And if we want to speak with each other, we had to whisper very softly because Mak said it’s too noisy!
There was one time when my Grandma came to visit (as usual Grandma would sit on her right side of the bed), Grandma was reciting ‘doa’ when Mak interrupted her “Mak, kalau Mak nak doa ke Ton, tolong mintak sambung nyawa je dengan Allah”..
And there were also times when she suddenly woke up from her sleep and asked us to pack her clothes because she said she would be going home soon. And she said the same thing to the Doctor when he came in to check.
One time, early in the morning, Abah woke up and saw that Mak was wide awake and all the tube was taken out from her arms. When asked, Mak said a nurse came in and took everything out. But when we asked the nurse, they said nobody came in and did it.
May 29th 2009. I remember Mak said she was hungry and wanted to eat something. (We thought it was a very big improvement because she refused to eat anything for days). Mak said she wanted to eat mushroom soup from Pizza Hut. So I went and bought it for her. She wanted me to feed her. And she ate 4 spoonfuls.
Then Abah, my sister and I tried to make her sit. And she did! She even tried to touch her toes on the floor. (I was holding her back, Abah was holding her left arm and my sister was holding her right). She sat up for a few minutes and asked us to let her lie down because she felt tired. We were very happy with her improvement. And when our Aunties and Uncles called, we told them the good news. In the evening, a lot of people came to visit. And she didn’t mind the noise.
It was around 7 pm when my cousins, my sister and I agreed to go for a dinner together. Usually before I left, I would go to Mak’s side and kissed her forehead. But this time I didn’t do it. I just stand by her bed and said we were leaving and that we would see her tomorrow. I still remember she just looked at me until I left the room. But she didn’t say anything. That night my sister, brother in-law, nephew and niece and I were staying at a hotel in Kuantan. Around 9 pm Abah called and asked us to buy him dinner because Mak wouldn’t let him to leave her side. I stayed in the car when my sister sent the food upstairs. (What was I thinking??). Then we went back to the hotel. Around 11 pm Abah called again and said Mak was getting really sick. “Kalau awak berdua nak datang, datang lah pasal abah sorang ni”. We rushed over. Since visiting hour was over, the main doors for the hospital were closed. But I kept banging the door and scolded the guard. When we got there, Abah was outside the room and we saw the Surgeon, and nurses were rushing in and out of the room. Mak was unconscious. Abah asked us to call our family and relatives especially my grandma and my eldest uncle because Mak kept calling their names before she passed out. I did. Within an hour, the waiting area was filled with relatives. My husband was not there because he was on his way back to Kuantan from KL.
Out came the CCU Doctor. She called Abah, my sister and I for consultation. My cousin (a doctor) was also there. She told us that Mak’s condition was very critical. She asked us to decide whether to let her be or to tube her. She said that if we let it be, the Doctors won’t do anything to save her life, but if we agreed to ‘tube’ her, it would pro long her life but her breathing would depend on machine only. Abah told the Doctor to do anything to save her life. And so they did. During the process, Abah was nowhere to be found. We were so worried because he had a history of heart attack. My cousins went to look for him all over the hospital. They found him crying by the road curb. They brought him upstairs and everybody cried. I don’t know where I got the courage that night when I consoled Abah.. “Abah, Abah jangan macam ni. Kita kena kuat.. Kita kena redha.. Mak kan kuat.. Kalau kita macam ni, macam mana Mak nak lawan sakit tu”..
At around 3 AM, they took Mak to CCU. They only allowed 2 visitors at a time but we didn’t care. When I came in, Mak’s face was different. Her face was swollen. When I asked my Cousin Doctor, he said it was because of the morphine in her body. My knees were weak. But I couldn’t cry anymore.. Everybody stayed by our side the whole time.
At 6 AM, Doctor came and talked to us again. She said Mak’s condition was very critical and there’s nothing that they could do to help. Everybody cried. Decisions need to be made whether to bring her home or to Grandma’s house. And to bring her home while she’s still alive or………. Then Mak Lan spoke “Mak pesan, kalau boleh biarlah dia habis hayat di rumah dia sendiri”. “Mak ada cakap dia redha apa yang jadi kat dia asalkan dia sempat jumpa Kak Elin dengan cucu2 dia”.. I couldn’t stop my tears.
Preparations were made. Some of my aunties and uncles went back to our house to prepare for the worse. At 11 AM, we brought Mak back in an ambulance. Abah, my sister, my cousin doctor and I rode with her. Mak was not moving at all. All the tube was taken out except for the oxygen.
We reached home around 11.45 AM. There were already a lot of people there. Mak was always friendly with people. When they were carrying her out of the ambulance, I spoke to Mak “Mak, bangunlah.. kita dah sampai kat rumah” – Later on Mak Lan told me that she heard me saying that and she saw Mak opened her eyes.
Everybody gathered around her bed. My Cousin Doctor took out the oxygen. Mak took 2 last breaths and passed away at 11.59 AM, May 30th 2009. I couldn’t bring myself together and I cried in my husband’s arms saying “Saya nak Mak, saya nak Mak”.. Abah was calm. And so was my sister.
Mak has left us forever.. We buried her after Asar on the same day. She was 60 years and 4 days old. I love you so much Mak. Mak was loved by everybody.. Al fatihah..