Wednesday, June 21

my aunt's story

I had quite a sentimental moment last Sunday.

Finally, I was able to visit my favorite aunt who’s been here in Manila for more than a month already. I suddenly felt bad that I still had to let my mom step on my conscience before I could put myself together and go to my aunt’s. I didn’t have any preoccupation that would matter more than just an hour that I would have to spend with her; I think I was just a scared.

Kind of disappointing. More than anybody else, I didn’t have any right to be scared.

Anyway I went last Sunday.

Looking at her, I remember how she used to come to us when we were small, and she was single. She’d come and pick us up and treat us out and shop for us, and we’d go home with the look of delight on our faces.

Years passed and now, it was my turn to visit her. Shop for her. Treat her out. She had breast cancer.

She was in the final phase of her 2-month cobalt treatment, after enduring months of chemotherapy.

Now maybe you’d understand why I chicken out when my mom tells me to pay her a visit. I was scared of looking at her.

Not at her bald head (though I’m seeing some growth now). Not at her bloated face. Not at the burnt marks at her chest (caused by cobalt). Not because she had only the right breast left. Not because of the stitches that still speak of pain, and loss.

I was scared of what my eyes will say when I look at her.

I wanted it to be something that carries encouragement, and strength and hope. It was what she needed the most. But I was afraid all my eyes could give was sympathy.

I love my aunt so much that looking at her really causes an ache somewhere in me. I just couldn’t believe how cancer can take away so much from someone. It was like a thief that came without warning. More than the left breast that it robbed from her, more than her figure, more than her esteem, are her hopes.

She never had a child.

She married in her 30’s and had two miscarriages. Then she finds out she had breast cancer.

What struck me big time was the idea that she didn’t have to face this ordeal by herself. She had a partner. The man who vowed to be with her in sickness and in health was right beside her. He was beside her from day 1. I couldn’t help but brush a tear.

On our way to dinner, I saw them hold hands. I think apart from the cobalt, it was his husband’s love that sustains her, continually.

Before I left, my aunt showed me the stitches, and burns. It was pretty heartbreaking, but I decided to look past the scars. I told her it was okay. I told her she was gonna get well soon.

I think we all needed to be strong for her and pray for her and sympathy was the last thing she needed.

She thanked me. But when she smiled, I thought to myself I should be the one thanking her.

I kissed her and hugged her and I wasn’t scared anymore.

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