The journey started with a bad report at the oncologist’s. “I’m sorry. You have stage four renal cancer.” Those words hit my family like a bolt of lightning. It was a shocker none of us expected when my mother-in-law became a victim of the dreaded disease. We were unprepared for the impact of that reality when it struck. Life suddenly stood still and turned a gloomy shade of grey. It marked our entrance into the world of medical treatment and surgical procedures.
When life deals you a challenge that presents new care needs, a drastic shift in priorities inadvertently follows. Life, as we knew it then, became hinged on balancing the various caregiving needs that were required. Naturally, there was the adjustment of schedules so that we could accompany mum-in-law for her check-ups and treatments. As a mother to my school-going children, I had to cater to their needs as well. Meal planning required a lot more careful consideration as I endeavoured to balance delicious with nutritious.
In the face of our human mortality, we place focus back onto what truly is important – quality relationships. Beyond the physical needs, the mental, emotional and spiritual needs often become equally, if not more, important. In the midst of the ordeal, mum-in-law showed her love to us in a most tangible way. She faced all the medical and non-medical procedures with much courage and even mustered up the strength to get her life in order. On our end, we tried to make the last lap of her life’s journey as comfortable and peaceful for her as possible.
Despite being a stay-home mum and having a full-time domestic helper, it felt like we could have done with more help. Yet, we were not comfortable with having another live-in helper. When mum-in-law became frailer, even her routine daily functions posed a challenge. Caregiving took on a whole new level of difficulty. For a sheer lack of knowledge, I missed out on other possible care options available. On hindsight, I would have appreciated more help at hand, on my own terms.
What a bittersweet journey caregiving turned out to be. I had the privilege of caring for my mum-in-law in her last days. It fostered a deeper closeness between us and I gained insight into the depth of her love for family. Indeed, it was painful to witness her physical body wasting away. Yet this was not a goodbye, but a window to a new chapter.