What I’m sharing you is the full-length version of my article, “Remembering My Mom” (it was edited and trimmed down for the magazine)
By: Jackielyn Ched Telan
Published: May 2005, MEG Magazine
“You can only get one mom.” That’s what they said.
But what happens when the most important woman in your life is diagnosed with a fatal illness? How does it feel to see the-one-who-gave-you-birth passed away?
Around thirteen years ago, I gave my mom my very first hand-made Christmas card. It was our school project to make a card so during that time, I decided to give one for my mom, one for my dad, and one for each of my siblings—Ritchie and Queen.
Still figuring out how in the earth an eight-year old girl would do that, mom felt overwhelmed of what she had just received. After that, I started giving her hand-made cards and little trinkets just because I felt like it.
I was one of the so-called “mommy’s girl” when I was just a little girl. My relationship with my mom is really just an extraordinaire. And even though my mom was always there for us, she never absent in her work. She had never even used her ‘live’ ever. Not a single day she did. That’s how my mom values her work.
But as I grew older, we somehow grew apart. It started when I had my first suitor- Orlando. I haven’t had the chance to tell my mom that someone had said “I Love You” to her baby until she discovered herself all the letters Orlando has given me. My mom got hurt, and things have changed big time. After that, I felt like I was all alone, living and stuck in a box.
In the late 2000, I remember myself standing in our high school quadrangle, having fun with my friends, watching our favorite band perform. I had a blast with my friends and it was already half past eleven when I got home. I headed on bed and slept the moment I got dressed. When I woke up at 5 in the morning, nobody’s at home except me and my brother, King Ritchie.
“Where are they?” I asked him.
“Mom’s in St. Luke’s. We rushed her two o’clock in the morning.” My brother Ritchie says my mom’s stomach was aching so badly so they had to take her up at the hospital. We don’t know what happened. My mom doesn’t have any illness; well at least not that we know of.
While in the hospital, the doctor says that my mom has an acute fallopian tube. Because of that, she had to have an operation immediately. A few days later the doctor conducted the operation of my mom’s fallopian tube. But in the middle of her operation the doctor has done some mistake, my mom does not have an acute fallopian tube! She has a cancer; a cancer of the colon, which at Stage 3, was often incurable.
All of us including the doctors were all in shocked. The doctors said that my mom was going to need lots of blood because a lot of her blood has been lost because of that operation. My dad called home to ask for blood of type O. It’s hard to find a type O blood so my mom was left at the emergency room alone, with her body still open.
“Damn doctors!” I said to myself.
When I first heard about it, I just really can’t believe it. “She can never have a cancer. She’s my mom, and she’s just 45,” I said to myself. I went to the bathroom and cried. Don’t know why. I didn’t even know what Colon Cancer is. All I know was that I just wanted to cry. And I feel sorry for what had just happened.
The doctor, anyhow, explained what a Colon cancer is. Colon cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the colon. And research shows that Colorectal cancer is now the third most leading death in the world, especially among women.
After we’ve heard about it, mom has to visit her doctor every month to have chemotherapy. It’s hurting our mom but we don’t have any choice, she had to use her ‘live’ for her to be able to attend the treatment.
It was sometime in 2001 when my mom attended her first chemotherapy. We don’t know what did the doctors do to her, all we know was just it’s hurting her and the radiation always left her exhausted.
“It’s like all my energy’s been taken away after my chemo.” I remember my mom saying those words after her first chemotherapy. When we took her home after her chemotherapy, our mom was like a withered flower. She had to stay in bed for long hours.
Anyway, my mom doesn’t pee in her anus anymore. She had to pee in a colostomy bag and during the first time that she had it, it really smells awful. She cried so hard, but she had to accept it. Well we have to.
One night, while my mom was silently lying in bed, we heard her cried. She said that her father who passed out in 1994 came to her, telling her that it’s her time to go. She refuses anyway; she said she can’t go, not at that time. But she said that her father told her that he would come back to get her. She got scared; we all got scared. So after that, we never left her alone in her room.
Not only we took mom to her chemotherapy every month, we also started visiting different churches in different places. We’ve gone to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Divine Mercy in Bulacan, Antipolo church, Manaoag in Pangasinan, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tayabas, Quezon, and even we tried El Shaddai; all for the same reason- for our mom to get healed.
But after we’ve gone to Our Lady of Divine Mercy, the emotional stress became too much to bear for my then-15-year-old self, so I never go with them to the chemo sessions and the pilgrimages. I never told them why, only I know the reason. What happened was mom cried so badly while we were there, and I can’t help but cry too. I love her so much and I don’t want to see her cry. Don’t want to see her sacrifice; which is why I never go with them anymore so that I could not see her pain.
When mom realized that I was not going with them anymore, my mom got mad at me. Even if she did not tell me what she was feeling, I knew she was mad. Who was not going to be mad to what I did, anyway. But what can I do? I just couldn’t express my helplessness. How could I explain to my dying mother that I didn’t want to see her suffering? Her “baby” was just not mature enough then to accept what she was going through, even if I wanted to.
And so it was like that. My mom fighting with cancer, and me fighting with this fear- the fear that one day, I would woke up without my mom calling me that it’s time to go to school.
After two years of surviving cancer, my family somehow celebrated the New Year’s Day with all a glee. Everyone was so happy. My mom and I had a heart-to-heart talk that night and all our unresolved issues were finally dispelled. All our relatives from different places came to our house to celebrate the first day of 2003 with our mom. And you can see that our mom was really happy.
But we never knew that it would be the last holiday that we’re going to spend with our mom. Four days after New Year, mom’s body starts to get tired. We rushed her to National Kidney and Transplant Institute on January 15th because she cannot breathe anymore. Once again, I locked myself at the bathroom and cried. “Why now? Now that we’re already OK!” I thought.
The next day, grandma told me and my sister Queen to go to the hospital early; because we might not catch mom alive if we go there by noon. So we did. When we got there, mom’s body was already in white, yellow and purple. Once again my mom’s face was staring at the window, smiling, raising her hand like she was reaching for something. She said that her father came to her again. I held her hand and kissed her, she’s back, and for the last time, she tried to fight.
At ten o’clock in the morning, my dad told us that it’s time to call a priest. So we called home to get a priest so he can bless mom. At 2pm, I go downstairs and visit the hospital’s chapel alone. I prayed hard, telling that if it’s my mom’s time to go, so be it. I was amazed that there was no bitterness in me, only a feeling of serenity that at last, she would find rest. We love our mom so much; and even if it would be hard for us if we lost her, it’s ok… She can go, especially if it’s HIS will.
It was quarter to three when the priest came- our parish priest Rev. Jun Bartolome. When everyone was settled, the priest started to administer the last rites to mom. Everyone in the room burst into tears, me at mom’s side, holding her bruised hand, looking at her, crying, while wishing for her safe passage. At exactly 3pm, mom stopped breathing, and then suddenly… gone.
When they took mom to the morgue, my sister and I went downstairs to wait for my brother and my uncle who was in the counter paying for our bill. While waiting at the lobby, sitting, my sister and I suddenly felt something really cold, like someone has just hugged us very tight. We hugged each other, crying again, seeming like we know what just happened.
We buried mom in our grandma’s house that night. It was my mom’s will so we have to follow what she said. Everyone from our mom’s office mates to her former schoolmates went at her wake. During the funeral, a lot of people showed up. If I remembered it right, over a dozen vehicles were parked at the cemetery; not to mention those who do not have a car. Everyone was in white, and a lot shed tears.
It was only in my mom’s funeral when I realized how many friends our mom had. Never thought how many people have loved her that much.
“I’ll miss you, mom! I’m so sorry! I’m really sorry! Please forgive me!!” I remember myself blurting out those words while they pull my mom down. I feel like blaming myself for her death. Even if I know it was meant to be. I hugged and kissed her for one last time before they totally pull her down. It was the end. My mom was really gone.
I’ve had many sleepless nights after what happened. Every night I would wake up in the middle of the night crying, remembering my mom.
It’s been two years since mom left us. The wounds have not completely healed; so many questions remain unanswered: Why do I have to lose my mom when I needed her care and guidance the most? But I have grown. And despite the crisis we’ve been through, our family is closer than ever. Also, I am slowly coming to terms with my mom’s passing. Eventually, I’ll have peace of mind.