We are Resilient!
I didn’t know the limit of my endurance until now. When I was a young woman in China, I went through three major challenges: the entrance exam to get into the best high school in Beijing, the entrance exam to get into the best university in China, and then the entrance exam to get into Chinese Academy of Sciences, again one of the best research institutes in China. In China, it is well known that these are cutthroat competitions. People called me lucky to go through each hurdle and still came out in one piece. For me, it was not a big deal. I just shrugged it off and said nothing.
A test of resilience and endurance
The first true challenge in my life was when I came to Canada 30 years ago to start my graduate studies. Financially I was totally dependent upon my supervisor, who paid me $800 CAN a month, that barely covered my tuition fees and living expenses. I cleared my parents’ bank account when they bought me a flight ticket. My family couldn’t support me. Moreover, I had to constantly work hard to be the best; otherwise, my supervisor was going to stop supporting me and I would have to go back to China, though I did plan to go back home after I got my PhD. The pressure was unbearable that I was to the point of being physically sick. It lasted about 1.5 years until I got my M.Sc. degree. I finally pulled myself up. That was the moment when I really realized who I was and what I really wanted to be.
That was it. I thought I paid my dues in suffering and I was resilient. I used to tell others, including my children, I knew what suffering was about.
And then I was diagnosed with lung cancer
I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer with metastasis to my brain in 2015. On top of it, the tumor compresses the motor control and language centers in my brain. In the emergency room, the doctor told the residents in a somewhat not so subtle way that I was a serious case. The reality kicked in after 2 months that I was sick. I couldn’t walk because I was a quadriplegic and I couldn’t talk because I couldn’t communicate what I wanted to say -- bad brain fog.
I didn’t feel normal for 3 years, as if people were talking around me but far away from me. I didn’t feel pain or short breaths. I only remembered that my husband talked to doctors as if it had nothing to do with me. My mother told me to eat Chinese medicine, though I thought it was useless but had to obey. The only time my mind was clear was when my children were choosing universities and programs of studies, such as medicine, engineering, or science, but I had to struggle through due to the fact that I couldn’t focus my mind. Even today I still have not figured out what was wrong with me during those 3 years.
Now I'm awake
Since June 2018, I’ve been awakened. I didn’t know what had clicked in me, but I wanted to LIVE even if it were a short time. I reached out to the Canadian Cancer Society to become a volunteer, got active on FB, WeChat, and Twitter to talk to patients, caregivers, and doctors. I was fundraising for my lung cancer groups. I also involved in organizing patient support groups and the patient summit. I attended international conferences for lung cancer, and I traveled internationally while struggling with my motor control and speech. Suddenly I feel like I’m full of energy and free of any kind of restriction.
We are resilient!
I never thought seriously about suffering before I was diagnosed. Looking back, it’s laughable to say I knew what suffering was about. I was so naive. Have I suffered enough? Is there still more suffering in front of me? I don’t know. But I know for sure, I am resilient.
Do you participate in awareness month activities?