Amazing Stories of “Overcoming Life Disaster”
When little kids are afflicted with cancer, the trials and hardship they have to face cannot be overstated, especially the painful treatment process. To ask children at that tender age to accept reality and face whatever calamity that befalls them with equanimity would be unreasonable.
On the frontline of the battle against cancer, CCF’s Patient Care and Community Service Team has witnessed and felt the pain of these children and their families. We decided to try something new this year (2017): we hosted an event for them to share their experiences in overcoming life disaster at Tuen Mun Hospital. The event was to honour the afflicted children and their families who have completed treatment and to encourage those who are in the thick of the treatment process. On the day, the number of participants far exceeded our expectation, and we were honoured to have Dr Rever Li Chak Ho, Consultant, Dr Dennis Ku Tak Loi, Associate Consultant and their nurses from the Hospital’s Department of Paediatrics & Adolescent Medicine joining in the event. Dr David Lam Shu Yan, Deputy Chief of Service of the Department also took time out from his busy schedule to present the “Achiever of Overcoming Life Disaster” certificate to all the children who have completed treatment, to recognise the hardship they have endured during the process.
There were many touching moments during the event, especially when the seven sick children and their families shared their heartrending experiences. As they talked about the ups and downs that struck them, or shared their insights about facing and dealing with hardships, they were met with rounds after rounds of applause. Nobody could even think such wisdom and abilities were possible in kids that young in age.
Looking back on their journeys, the hardest part for the children was to endure the terrible side-effects of the drugs and therapies, and the discomfort of the illness. A sick child remembered how it was inside the intensive care unit: being tied to the bed, with many tubes attached to his body, with no TV or mobile phone, no freedom, no Mum or Dad or friends to keep him company All he could do was to stare at the ceiling, feeling miserable and bored stiff. Some said, for more than a month, they felt so weak that they could barely stand… all these made them grumpy and emotional; sometimes they said things without thinking. But none of these knocked them down; in fact, they had quite a few “secret tricks” up their sleeves to deal with these disasters.
“Friends told me to get better as soon as I can, then I can play again and eat again…focus on what I can do after recovery, such as what playtime I have and what yummy food I can eat. Don’t think about now.”
“Remembering how many people are supporting me makes the weak me feel stronger. I did think about giving up, but having experienced this, I hope I am much more resilient than before.”
“I believe through hardship I will understand more; with these experiences I will learn even more.”
“Sleep helps; it makes time go faster”
To be able to overcome life disaster, other than believing in your own methodology and having faith in yourself, the support and love of the family is critically important. At the event, the children were able to express their gratitudes fully to their families, with familial love radiating from every corner.
“I recall Mum spending the night with me at the hospital. I could, of course, be there alone, but she chose to keep me company. Family support is invaluable in helping me through these difficult times.”
“I wanted to thank my parents most of all; they never gave up on me. Thank you, Mum, thank you, Dad. Mum, I can see how you take care of me and always think of my best interest. Dad, even though you never said it out loud, I know you care about me, too.”
“I want to thank my mother. She came all the way from our home in Tseung Kwan O to Tuen Mun Hospital to care for me, and even spend the nights with me. This mother is hard to beat! I also must thank my Dad for working hard to pay for family expenses.”
Recalling the time when they found out their child was afflicted with cancer, some parents were close to tears, sharing moments such as “never experienced anything like it before, it’s such a shock, cannot accept it”, “it was so sudden, so awful”, “never come across it before, most worried about a relapse”, “it was incredibly hard at the time…” When a beloved child is sick, parents also have to overcome a life disaster and it’s no push-over.
Listening to the parents’ stories, one couldn’t help but see an image of utter determination, a picture of “grit your teeth and bear it”. “It was very tough, but as the adult in the room, we must confront it head on”. Some said, “I was like a robot from beginning to end, I just knew I had to keep walking, put one foot in front of the other, keep moving forward.” In overcoming the disaster, parents have gained wisdom in dealing with hardship. In particular one of the mothers’ words resonated with me deeply: “In the beginning I just knew how to cry, cry, cry; I never thought my son could get this sick. Before I was a very weak person, now I’m much stronger and more determined. My worldview has changed, and I believe I could make it. There is no certainty in life, now I understand I cannot know about tomorrow. I won’t find anything so important after all; I love my children more than ever and it’s a great blessing that I could look after them. I have learned to embrace the present and be strong in facing life’s many challenges. I will take my responsibilities seriously and do my job well.”
Another mother told the audience, “I was so shocked and hurt when I found out about his illness, but he turned around to comfort me, saying he still felt okay. He was encouraging me! His attitude made me so grateful. I really admire his positive stance.” In fact, children can also be supportive of parents.
Overcoming the life disaster, the entire family can come through to a bright future. Some children felt like “it’s finally daybreak, super!” Others said, “It’s like being released from prison, no longer being controlled. How fun!” In sharing this joy, this sense of relief, every participant at the event, including children, their families and the medical staff, expressed their delight in being inspired and encouraged. Every life is complicated, precious and worthwhile. We wish for them to continue to grow, and to develop their wisdom, strength, love and resilience.
CCF Newsletter Vol.52 (Jul 2017)