A mother shares her daughter’s brave battle with colon cancer.

I WAS looking forward to enjoying my retirement years with my family when something happened which changed my life forever.

In February 2012, my only child had constipation for a week. We went to see a doctor who prescribed some medication, but it did not help my daughter’s situation. She was referred to a hospital for further tests.

Following a series of scans, it was discovered that my daughter had stage four colon cancer. The news broke my heart. We do not have a family history of colon cancer. How could this happen to her? My daughter is still single, in her early thirties and has a bright future ahead of her, armed with an MBA degree.

At that time, my daughter was not informed of the diagnosis. The doctor decided to break the news to my hubby and I, first.

We decided to withhold the news from her for a few days as she was in pain at that point. Her stomach was bloated, and she was unable to eat for a few days.

Our main concern then was to relieve her of her pain first. I knew I had to be strong for her sake. She underwent an emergency operation the next day. The surgeon removed about 80% of her big colon, and one of her ovaries. The cancer had spread to her ovaries and liver. The doctor suggested chemotherapy as the next course of action.

The weeks that followed left me in a daze. The Big C had always been a taboo topic in the family. We tried to steer clear of that subject. This cruel twist of fate was something we were ill-prepared for.

I am lucky that my daughter is a very strong girl. She took charge of her medical problem and treatment. She did her own research, read extensively on the subject and decided on the type of treatment she wanted to pursue.

I know she is sometimes in pain but she does not want us to worry too much about her. She tries to live life as normally as possible. Knowing our financial situation and how expensive it can be to have her cancer treated in a private hospital, she went to a government hospital for chemotherapy.

As a mother, I just want her to feel as comfortable as possible during her treatment.

My daughter is an amazing woman. She tells us that she is not willing to fight with the the Big C; she prefers to “negotiate” with the cancer cells.

“Let us have a win-win situation. I will let you live in my body but you need to let me live as well,” she would tell the cancer cells.

I really admired her when she shared this with me. After the first operation, she underwent 14 cycles of chemotherapy. In between, she had another operation to remove 50% of her liver. She rested at home for three months after finishing her last round of chemotherapy.

She was determined to go back to work. Her company even supported her decision and helped to arrange for a more suitable job for her for the first six months. After working a few months, she started to get severe headaches and suffered blurring of vision.

We took her to the specialist to have her eyes checked and were relieved to find that there was nothing wrong with her eyes. But the headaches persisted. This necessitated a visit to the neurologist. More bad news followed. The cancer cells had spread to her brain; three tumours were detected. The scan showed up multiple spots on both her lungs, and two new spots on her liver.

My heart dropped and my spirit was crushed. After going in and out of hospital for a year, we had thought her condition was under control.

She underwent radiotherapy and another 12 rounds of chemotherapy. I am thankful that her doctor has been very kind and understanding. He is full of encouraging words for the family.

My daughter always tells us not to worry. As long as she can have a pain-free day, enjoy reading her favourite books and comics, and sit down for a good meal with the family, she is happy.

I have learnt to take one day at a time and to make the most of each new day. I am thankful for the love and support shown by relatives and friends.

To all the caregivers out there, I can only say this: try to make your loved ones as happy as possible. Let them enjoy their favourite food and activities.

Make them feel as normal as possible. When they are happy, they will feel better and eat well. They will recover faster, too, if they are surrounded by love and given every encouragement they need.

Beyond Barriers

Beyond Barriers is a platform for sharing and raising awareness on disability issues. We welcome contributions from readers who have a disability or any special needs , caregivers, advocates of disability groups, or anyone living with any chronic medical condition. E-mail your stories to star2@thestar.com.my. Contributions which are published will be paid, so please include your full name, IC number, address and contact number .