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Children's Cancer Foundation Over 30 years of caring service
Children's Palliative Care Foundation
Children's Palliative Care Foundation

Sunshine Kids

Sunshine Kids

Heartfelt Moments

Cancer treatment itself is a long and painful experience, especially when it strikes a child the whole family will be devastated and in shocked. The journey from coming to terms with the diagnosis, to receiving treatments, to the constant fear of relapse and in the event having to face the fact that it’s incurable – is like an emotional rollercoaster ride!

 

Chun Chun (pseudonym) was a sturdy young man when he was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. He received all kinds of treatment and endured them with extreme tenacity despite the pain. Even though he knew very well that the treatments were merely to go through the agony of physical pain in exchange for a slim chance of survival, yet he never thought of giving up.

 

Chun Chun’s cancer was in its final stage when we first met. He was suffering a great deal both physically and emotionally, it was understandable that he did not want to say much to a stranger like me. He would spend inexhaustible time on online games which could be a useful way to distract him from his immense pain. The treatment journey is not easy, his grandmother and his mother took minute care of him at all times. His mother would insist on making his favourite dishes at home every day no matter how tiring it was. But, when Chun Chun had problem swallowing, she would get very disappointed or even angry. His grandmother sympathised with Chun Chun would tell the mother to ease off. The three were therefore often caught in a ‘tug-of-food-war’. The mother’s anger reflected her sense of helplessness over her son’s illness, the more protective she was, the more controlling she became. The motive of love often brings misunderstandings. Chun Chun with his limited days could not afford such misunderstandings!

 

Chun Chun was the only child. His parents worked hard to support the family and his grandmother was the one to raise him so he was never too close to his parents. After Chun Chun got sick, his mother felt guilty for neglecting his son. She quit her job to put all her time and energy to take care of him, while her husband supported the family all on his own. The mother would stay in the hospital all day while the father would work day in and day out without taking any breaks.

 

The parents could hardly find time to communicate. Overloaded by the caring of Chun Chun and not being able to share with her husband, the mother deepest fears easily escalated into anger. What she needed was a breathing space, a space to be understood, a space to recognised the effort she put in, a space to guide her to express her fear of losing her son, a space to learn to accept the fact that ‘the end’ was inevitable and she must stay positive in order to carry on. Many parents of children with cancer will resonate with this feeling. I am grateful to have met them. To accompany them along their journey, my role is to care for them with respect, to allow them the space to express themselves and to empathise with them.

 

On an evening when only a few staff was on and the ward was quiet, Chun Chun told me, quite surprisingly, his relationship with his parents. He spoke little, but I could feel from his gentle voice a strong yearning to be closer to his parents. He kept saying, “We don’t communicate much. We’ve been like that for a long time,” and lowered his head in silence. It was not easy for a young boy to express his feelings, so I hinted, “Mother’s Day is coming up!” He asked me to help him get some flowers, a symbolic gift which carried his unconditional love for his mother. Chun Chun also disclosed that he regretted for not being able to spend much time with his father, so I hinted to his mother to have his father to visit him more often.

 

Shortly afterwards, Chun Chun passed away peacefully. With the help of child life specialists, flowers were sent to his mother and grandmother on Mother’s Day and his father was staying right by his bedside in his final days while he was still conscious. I explained to the parents that their presence in his final days not only mitigated his loneliness and fears, but also fulfilling his dream for years to have closer relationship with them. They shared the most difficult and yet the most valuable moments together.

 

The pain of parting often brings regrets, but regret teaches us to live in the moment and cherish those around us. May Chun Chun rest in peace and may loving memories bring comfort to his parents!

 

CCF Newsletter Vol.55 (Jan 2019)