Courageous as a Blue Topaz, Warm as the Sun
Makcik* could not contain her excitement, as she invited us into her beautifully decorated house. She was chirpy, smiling radiantly and a wonderful host. She insisted we take a seat and hollered for drinks to be served. From the balcony area, Pakcik** walked in slowly with a slight limp, to greet us. One would not have guessed that it was Makcik, who suffers from Stage 4, lung cancer.
“I am so happy to see you all!” chimed Makcik. “Doctor, can you hear how much water I have in my lungs today?” she asked impatiently. Our doctor assured her that he would examine her in a while, after asking some questions relating to daily living like her appetite, diet, sleep pattern, motion. Makcik happily shared the information and went on to tell us a story about her neighbour. “My neighbour, she lives upstairs, met me in the lift. She told me I looked very healthy. I told her that I’m not healthy and that I had stage 4 cancer. She wouldn’t believe me. She said she had cancer and asked me to look at her fingernails. They were black and on the other side, her fingers were dry and scaly.” Some patients suffer these side effects from chemotherapy. “I showed her my beautiful hands,” Makcik chuckled and continued, “she insisted I wasn’t sick. I tell you, if you say you are sick, you will be sick. I always tell myself I am OK, so I am OK!”
Makcik told me she was very blessed to have a very caring husband, who would accompany her in the early morning hours to the market, so that she would not have to be in crowded places. When she felt uncomfortable lying flat on her bed due to water accumulation in her lungs, Pakcik bought her a hospital bed, so her upper body could be propped up. At the side, Pakcik was quite embarrassed and smiled shyly.
Our nurse then examined Makcik and informed her that quite a bit of water had accumulated in her lungs, so she had to go to the hospital to drain it. She gamely accepted the suggestion and took note for a hospital visit.
I was about to leave the house, when Makcik held my hand and said, “No, you cannot leave until you have had some food. You cannot ‘play cheat’ and run away. You must eat something. Afterall it is still Hari Raya!” Despite her illness, she had taken the trouble to cook some lunch for our team. I explained that I had another meeting to attend and she suggested to pack some food for me to take back. I was touched by her warmth and generosity, so I decided to stay for a quick bite. There were fried noodles, sambal quail eggs and grilled potatoes topped with grated coconut. Simple but delicious fare. I thanked her for lunch, but instead, she profusely thanked our nurse, our doctor for being there for her. She said that the lunch was nothing compared to the care we gave her.
Patients like Makcik are really gems. She reminds me of the blue topaz. A blue topaz symbolises strength and courage. In the face of such a difficult situation, she does not give up and strives to live yet another beautiful day. Makcik deserves our respect and love for her strength and courage. She exudes warmth, love, kindness and optimism in spite of her situation. “Jia you, Makcik! We love you!”
*Aunty in Malay
**Uncle in Malay