My friend Y started experiencing abdominal pains during her honeymoon at the end of 2016. She saw three different doctors and was prescribed a myriad antibiotics but to no avail. Finally, she was advised to go for a scan which very unfortunately revealed an aggressive form of Womb Cancer that had metastasized.
She was very positive at first, she's so young after all! I remember her asking if I could conduct an Urban Farming workshop for her and her team mates when she got well. By then, she'd already taken a leave of absence from work and was raring to get treated and return to work when she recovers.
The doctors put her on a course of chemotherapy but that did nothing to stop or slow down the disease; it continued to spread more aggressively. Finally, after trying another course of chemotherapy that too, had no effect on the cancer, her doctors told her to be prepared for the worst.
She passed away in April 2017.
Y only had four months to live.
I could not come to terms with her death; seeing Y sleeping peacefully in a box is still a vivid memory in my head. I cry every time I think about the kids she wanted but never had, of the new husband she left behind with whom she was supposed to grow old with, of all the dreams she never ever realised.
Almost a year on, her passing still feels surreal to me. A million questions have since swirled in my head, and I keep asking this question:
What would I do if I found out I only have four months to live?
To you and me, "four months" is just an arbitrary number, it is meaningless because we are well and healthy. We assume we will have an endless supply of "four months" to live, and that we will always have time to finally do the things we've always wanted to do when we retire.
But, will we ever?
I want to share with you my own takeaway from Y's story:
- Y refused to let us meet her. Maybe because time was too precious by then and she only had time and energy for the people who truly mattered - her family and closest friends. And, these should be the same for all of us. Don't waste time pursuing relationships and friendships that don't matter, are toxic and only superficial. Spend precious time with your parents and invest your time by spending more of it with your spouse and children.
- If you only had four months to live, would you still focus all your energy on being angry at someone or an event that didn't go your way? Would you still be so easily rifled by others' comments or opinions? Because, seriously, does it matter anymore? Perhaps it's time to retire that ego and focus on positively changing a situation instead of ranting about how bad it is.
- When she was home-bound during treatment, Y hand made things for her loved ones and wrote them letters. She must've poured her heart out to tell them how much she loves them. I don't think we need to wait until the end to do that, we can tell our loved ones how much we love them now, and show that we do. Let's be more generous with our gestures of love and kindness.
- Y was dressed in her favourite dress and scarf for her final journey. Apart from that, she brought nothing else. This thought really hit me hard, Do we need so many material possessions?. The answer is a resounding No. When we start to covet things like clothes and bags and things, and fall into the trap of wanting more, we should question if we truly need them. Instead, why not spend the money on building experiences and knowledge that can enrich our souls and help others.
I truly believe our existence on this earth is a lesson to learn. We came as a clean slate, but then grew up being conditioned by the trappings of society. Unfortunately, it is very hard for us to shake off these conditionings and most people don't wish to face them anyway, which in turn creates unhappy people.
We have to start facing our fears, terrors, angers, disappointments, and consciously be on a journey of being happy. And the time is now, when we're still alive and breathing.
This post is dedicated to my friend Y.
Thank you for your courage and wisdom till the end.
Remembering Y (1979 - 2017)