“Why don’t you take me to the park anymore?” I asked as I stormed into my mom’s room. She was resting from another round of chemotherapy, body gaunt like a starved and malnourished child. Her face was bloated, the rest of her body withering like a flower that hadn’t been watered in a week. My grandmother quickly pulled me out of the room and scolded me in Cantonese for disturbing my mom while she was napping. If my mom was going to get better, she needed her rest. It seemed like she was always resting, which was quite a departure from my mom’s always active and spirited personality. She always had the energy to take me to the park or to read a book with me. But not on this day. On this day, her body lay in disrepair from the poison they shot into her to kill the poison that was killing her.
I was only eight at the time. Not quite old enough to fully grasp the significance of the situation, but old enough to realize something was very wrong. I remember the moment perfectly: I was in my parents’ bedroom lying on their bed, waiting for my mom to take me to the park. The phone rang and my mom answered the phone with her usual cheerful hello. It’s one of the hellos that is always the same. She could have been furious at my dad or reading with me and she would have given the same cheerful hello. The kind of greeting you get from a receptionist when calling to make a doctor’s appointment. But this wasn’t just another phone call. My mom paused for a moment to let the caller identify herself and then asked what her test results were. Her back was to me, but I noticed her shoulders slump instantly. She hung up the phone and turned towards me, eyes starting to water, and gave me a hug. Getting a hug from my mom for no apparent reason was not so out of the ordinary. But this hug was different. It was as if she wanted to hold onto me forever, almost like this was the last hug she would ever give me. Finally, she let go and called my dad and tried to tell him, while choking back tears, that she had cancer.
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