This is a Story of How my Heart Broke

We face difficulties and challenges every day, heartbreaks too. But there are certain things we could do to lessen the hurt and worries. Something that could help to put our minds at ease. This is a story of how I learnt a valuable lesson, and I share this with the intent that you take the right step and decision before it’s too late.

On the 9th of October 2012, at precisely 3.10 am, my mother passed away. She was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Losing her this early was something I never thought would happen. Death could indeed happen at any time, and we can never be prepared for it. But there is, isn’t there? My mother was always an energetic and hardworking person, a hero – the kind that could lift a bus to save her children, but in the year before she passed, mama started getting weaker and fragile. She lost a lot of weight quickly, and with all these symptoms, we took to seek medical attention.

Mama had diabetes, but it was always under control, so the obvious answer given by the MA was that the cause was her diabetes and the cure was to increase the insulin dose. I know that I’m not a medical expert – far from it – however, one does question the decision when one sees an unusual circumstance. The ridiculously high glucose level couldn’t be just because of her diabetes. We got second, third and fourth opinions from different private clinics, but they all had the same answer. I was not satisfied. We KNEW something was wrong.

Finally, it was at Ampang Puteri Hospital that decided to do the CT scan. Then and there, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and the first question that asked was, “Does she have insurance?”

No, she doesn’t. And with that, we advised going to a general hospital (GH) since the cost was really high with just the check-up fees that can mount up to RM5K per session. With the report by Ampang Puteri, we headed to HUKL. Spoiler alert – only sad news from here. HUKL couldn’t do much since the cancer was already in stage 4 and had slowly spread to other parts of the body. All they could offer was pills to reduce the pain.

Day by day, she got weaker. It broke us. We didn’t care how much we spent on supplements and alternative medicines. We bought anything that was said to help cancer patients. Months went by, and it only got worse. She was in so much pain. We took her to another private hospital in Jalan Ipoh, and the doctor there prescribed her high dosages of morphine for the pain. And again, we were advised to stay for only a short while. No surprise, because it was expensive, and bills kept piling up.

Just short of 3 months after she diagnoses, mama went into a terrible state, and we rushed to the emergency unit at PPUKM Cheras. No more treatment could help, and after two weeks, she left us. Forever.

As a Muslim, I have faith that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes things that we could never understand happens – the qada` and qadar. Though I do wonder why it is that it took hospitals a long time to get a diagnosis. Why did all these private hospitals and clinics we went to didn’t initiate any sort of scan or checkup, or at least some advice when looking at the symptoms?

Cancer – when found at an early stage, has a higher chance of cure with the right treatment. It would perhaps be another story if we found cancer earlier. And it would probably be a WHOLE lot different if mama had insurance. The medical attention given would doubtlessly be more diverse. So the lesson learnt here is that we don’t know what will happen in the future. We could be as healthy as an ox but could die and lose everything tomorrow. Or worse, got sick or disabled and out of work. I am the sole breadwinner of my family after my dad has retired, and there are so many commitments to tend to. What would happen if I died tonight?

What about my family… Who would look after them? To the question that I asked earlier, the answer is yes. There is absolutely something we could do. We could change. We could help. Be prepared.

I am covered with medical and life insurance. So if something happens in the future, I will be able to be sufficiently still independent. I can avoid the same thing that happened to my mother. So, I hope you will open your eyes too. We don’t know the future. All we can do is try and hope for the best.

So, be prepared.

Roziah Hilal