I wrote a while back about my uncle, whose is suffering through a second relapse in his long battle with cancer. He could barely afford the treatment, and it broke my heart that my childhood hero had to battle the financial demons along with his illness. I see how weak, how sickly, how gaunt he got. I see how his eyes take on that look, which suggested he no longer wanted to fight. I see my 75-year-old grandmother quietly weep as she sees her youngest son suffering, unable to eat, or talk, his speech and eating abilities both seriously compromised by chemotherapy.
But I also see how material possessions don’t matter – what makes him rich is not years invested into his business, but the relationships he’s forged with his family and friends. I see how love is the glue that holds us all together, even in the face of death. ‘For Uncle Andy,’ says my youngest sister, who saved what she could from her pocket money so she could contribute to Andy’s Fighting Fund, as I’ve come to call it. I see courage as he tries everyday to be normal – to whisper now that he can’t speak, to eat as much as he can stomach despite the blisters and the pain, to smile even though the tumour is pressing down on his nerves, making it a challenge to emote, to express.
We just got a call from his doctor today, and Andy’s tumour has shrunk by fifty percent. There is a good chance that if he continues the treatment, the tumour might eventually shrink to a point where medicine is able to contain the growth, and give Andy the time that he needs to do what he’s always wanted: to bring my grandmother on a trip to China, back to her hometown.
“Don’t stop smiling,” Andy told me one day. “I never wanted to, until the day I realised I couldn’t any more. Keep smiling, niece.”
And that’s exactly what I am going to do.