Exploring the 6

you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone

My life has always been a series of movements from one place to another, and I’ve always hated it. Over the years, I’ve moved homes, made friends, packed and unpacked, forgotten friends and reset multiple times. The worst part is, I don’t pack light. I travel with my clothes, makeup, and skincare (obviously), but I also have a couple hundred books that I’ve bought with the intention of reading, which happen to turn into decoration pieces on my bedside table. But that’s beside the point, the point is, I’ve grown up knowing that I will never subject myself nor my kids to that lifestyle when the time comes, I’m going to pick a city and live in it forever. 

Sounds like a pretty straightforward plan, no? In theory, yes, it sounds good, but in reality, things never go according to plan, and I’ve come to learn that notion the hard way, and surprisingly, I’ve welcomed it, I’ve learned to be adaptable to chaos, and believe it or not, I’ve realized that Canada might only be a chapter, not the end all be all. 

Truthfully, the different countries, cities, and cultures I’ve been a part of have shaped me to the person that I am today, and yet I go out of my way to travel and explore cities, places, and cultures outside of the very one I am a part of. So in the spirit of 2019 and resolutions, I’ve decided to do a monthly intentions list, where I make a list of the things I intend to focus on for the month, after all, it only takes 21 days to break a habit or start a new one.

Here’s a sneak peek of January’s intention list:

  1. Practice more self-care: body + mind + soul
  2. Be more positive
  3. Do my bed every morning (I’ve gotten lazy, don’t judge me)
  4. Invest in experiences, not things
  5. Be present
  6. Be patient 
  7. Explore my own city: Toronto / GTA
  8. Be vulnerable
  9. Read more
  10. Write more

Number 7 is what this post is about; exploring my own city, this is something that I’ve always neglected, or put aside because I always thought at the back of my head, I’m here, the city is not going anywhere so why rush? But like I said, I don’t know if Canada or Toronto is my future, and now there is an urgency in immersing myself in all things Toronto and so that if the time comes and I have to leave, I can leave knowing that I took as much as I can from the city. 

Also, I wanted to start small, baby steps, Toronto is my backyard, and I want to explore it. First Toronto/ the GTA, and then I can venture off into exploring different cities in different provinces, I’m giving myself until the end of August 2019, but until then, no matter how tired I am after work, I’m going to make the trip downtown and explore the 102 places I’ve saved on google, disclaimer alert, I have done a lot of these already but I want to do them again from this new perspective, and here’s a little peek of my list:

https://www.google.com/maps/@43.6246864,-79.5690948,10z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!11m1!2s59uggzp5HPek2y7NAtUWNO5YLaZJ9Q

I have a rough idea of how many people read this blog, and to be honest, there’s not a lot of you, but if you’re reading this, I have a proposition for you, join me join me if you can because why not? Even if we’re strangers (sorry mom), let’s change that and be friends, after all, we are only strangers of circumstance, we might be destined to be friends, you might even think by the end of it, “I wish I were friends with you sooner Mardin”. Just food for thought. 😉

First Stop – Toronto/ The GTA
Next Stop-?

Mardin
7/1/2019

2019

a rebirth

You’ve felt a year’s worth of a cool shrug of a million blurry faces passing by as you lay lying down, standing stagnant. You’ve felt trapped in the eclipse of time between day and night until the midnight sun and the afternoon moon meet to conquer. You’ve been an extra in the movie of your life and someone pressed pause on you and play on everything else. You watched, paralyzed, as the gardenia seed you planted in the spring starts to fight the rubbles of her earth. Slowly, she peaks through the ground as if to glance around to test out the dangers of life, not quite understanding why she’s here and what she’s doing here. She says hello, but is shy and doesn’t completely come out. As the cool air turns into a warm blanket, her stalk starts to blossom, no longer shy, she tries to stand, slowly but surely. During the summer night, a hundred fleeting moments pass you and you watch as her stalk stands straight, unintentionally marking her place, her home, her birth, she starts to grow. You surround yourself in a sea of misery and then ask yourself why you feel diminished, and right then a thought occurs to you as her sepal starts to become more prominent, the sun comes and goes as the clouds hover over her nesting place, a scary thought occurs to you, what if, what if you disappeared right there and then. You’re already stuck, you’ve forgotten to move and as the rain falls down, drip, drip, drip, splash, creating a puddle in the crevice of the earth, you are masquerading your pain in a book of lies, life is happening as her stalk grows tall, gaining confidence, taking on life as her leaves start to erupt like a slow volcano. You hear school bells and children skipping, birds are chirping in the brisk autumn breeze and you see a squirrel digging a hole for his nuts, daylight turns into darkness, it is too good to be true, too good to be true to be under a blanket of stars. The sun comes out to play before you get a chance to make a wish and her petals fight their way into the light, and there she is. An honest beauty, but rays turn into rain, and rain turns into snow, you can’t let yourself be swept away in the beauty of her existence, and her pale yellow petals are now covered in a layer of snow, her stalk withered to nothing but a shell of a corpse. And there you are, as still as you once were, you let yourself be swept away and now you are broken, paralyzed, forever standing still as life happens. You reflect on the life that has passed and yet nothing has changed even though everything has changed. This is where you are, did you want this? Did you ask for this? Do you deserve this? What is left of you loosens, you start to walk towards your fairytale story of castles and prince charming, you take the long cut because you haven’t breathed fresh air in forever, you slowly start to pace yourself and then you run, you run faster than you’ve ever run, you’re running away and running towards something, an object, its vague and yet its clear, nothing but a mirror, nothing but a reflection, nothing but the truth, you are me, and I am you. And as the sun creeps in, I see the green sepal fight the same battle once again, as it rises from its corpse, this is her rebirth, her second chance. It’s our rebirth, my rebirth, my second chance. 

~

As 2018 comes to an end, I reflect on not only the past year, but the past few years of my life that I’ve meshed together and claimed as the worst two years of my life. And although I don’t feel changed in the physical definition of the word, there is a fire rekindled within, and that is a change I can’t describe even if I tried. This is what 2018 taught me, a year in review: 

  1. Fall in love with yourself before you fall in love with anyone else
  2. Mistakes can be a good thing, learn from them and then move on
  3. Everything is a phase, everything will pass, even the hard moments 
  4. Time will heal most wounds, but not all
  5. Things don’t always go according to plan, so learn to be adaptable
  6. Be spontaneous
  7. Family first, always
  8. Sometimes the walls you put up to keep out scary monsters also keep out good people 
  9. Be in tune with your body, your femininity, if you feel there is something wrong, listen to it
  10. A healthy body is a healthy soul, start taking care of yourself now 
  11. Idea’s come at night and in the showers, and execution comes in the morning
  12. Life is better with a playlist playing in the background (invest in AirPods)
  13. Bike more, it makes you happy 
  14. Friends come in all ages, from different backgrounds 
  15. There is so much to learn, but focus on one thing at a time, you can’t do it all, even if you think you can
  16. Not every day is going to be a great day, some days are just average
  17. Social media is not real life
  18. Budgeting is important 
  19. It only takes 21 days to change a habit
  20. Too much time alone can be a dangerous thing 
  21. Smile more, and laughter is the best remedy for anything 
  22. Don’t rush, enjoy the moment 
  23. It’s okay to let go of the people who keep you down
  24. Be yourself, be unapologetically yourself, even if that’s changing every day
  25. Starting something different is scary but worth it
  26. Clutter can be a bad thing, get organized
  27. Don’t give up, even if they laugh at you
  28. Friendships can grow apart, but they can grow back together
  29. Forgive yourself
  30. Be patient with yourself and with others, not everyone moves at the same pace as you do
  31. Follow your dreams, no matter how absurd, but remember that dreams require sacrifice 
  32. Women supporting women can be a wonderful thing
  33. It’s okay to ask for help
  34. It’s okay to put yourself first 
  35. Get out of your comfort zone
  36. Slow down and pay attention to the details, use that to write 
  37. Connect with your emotions 
  38. Don’t wait for an apology to forgive someone 
  39. Procrastination is your enemy
  40. You can create the life you want
  41. Just because you’re a good person, doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to you 
  42. You are worth it
  43. Working hard doesn’t mean working smart
  44. Disconnect to reconnect, pick up the phone and call people, set up plans
  45. Never walk away from someone angry
  46. Don’t let the little things get to you
  47. Your gut is always right
  48. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else
  49. Surround yourself with people who dream big, and work with talented and brilliant people 
  50. Girl talk is important
  51. You’re going to feel lost and that’s okay 
  52. Invest in experiences, not things, so travel more

It’s funny how the first day of the year flirts with us and promises us a better life, a new beginning, “trust me” she says, and we do. We take time out of our day to look for the perfect outfit and then book appointments to style our perfect self so that when we finally meet, we are spontaneously different and forever changed. She flirts with us with her countdowns, and her fireworks and we fall for her every move. And even when we think we’re immune to her coy, we somehow manage to fall into the new year resolutions and new diet fabs while she dates other people in secret and tells them the exact same thing, “I believe in you” she says when we fail, and she gives us the promise of tomorrow, the promise of another day to restart. January 1st, the first day of the year represents different things to different people, but more often than not, it represents forgiveness and a second chance. We really don’t need a set date on the calendar to decide to reset and change something about ourselves, we can break a habit, or go to the gym, or read a book any time of the year. We don’t need a date to make that happen, but somehow we always fall for her charms, the first day of the year, after all, there are fireworks. And its so easy to want so many things for 2019, and I can create a list that will go on for days, but what I really want? What I really want is for me to hone who I really am, I’ve done the searching, I’ve done the experimenting, I know who I am, who I want to be, what I want to achieve, and this year is the year where I go after it, and believe it or not, I’m going to be ruthless. 

Mardin
1/1/2019

closing chapters

a prose for a lost friendship

Playlist: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/playlist/closing-chapters/pl.u-4JommebumaoaKa

the good,

I don’t remember your first impression of me, I certainly don’t remember asking you, but if you told me, I don’t remember it. We always talked about my first impression of you, but for the life of me, I just can’t recall your first impression of me. Isn’t that sad? I think that’s sad. I think that will always bug me, not knowing. We were eighteen and fresh out of high school, we’ve both had very different experiences but there we were, young, innocent and eager, we wanted to get to know our V1-S4 family, and we went around the circle introducing ourselves, and there you went introducing yourself, I don’t remember anyone’s introduction but yours, so I think your intentions worked, you wanted a memorable introduction, and that it was. 

I’ve changed a lot in the past two years, and I don’t know if it’s for the better, but I’ve hardened, put up walls and opened up to no-one, I can’t open up at all. To sit down and talk to someone and tell them how I feel, it’s become the hardest thing for me to do. Because that would mean I would be setting up the expectation that they can help me, and you’ve taught me one very important lesson and that is, I can’t rely on anyone to help me. I’ve been in pain, felt sad, confused and angry, I’ve definitely been lost, and I don’t want to be anymore, I don’t want to give this any more thought than I already have, so this is my ode to a lost, forgotten and adrift friendship, we always did say a book should be written about us, and this is my one last benevolence to us, or rather to what once was us. This is my ending.

You cornered me in the lounge and introduced yourself to me, personally at least. You took me back to my room and then started grilling me about where I’m from. When I took my first weekend back home, you met me at the lounge and hugged me goodbye. At the time, I was caught a little off guard and I thought you were coming on way too strong but it was something that I later was thankful for.

People tell you different things, some say that your high school friends are the ones that stay in your life forever, some say that it’s your university friends, and others tell you it’s your work friends. I happen to think that the friends you will have in your life forever are the ones that you can undeniably be yourself with, the ones that understand you and accept you despite your flaws, they are the ones that are ready to catch you when you’re free falling into an abyss. And on the bus looking out the window, all my fears about school and meeting new people and adjusting to not only a new city but a new country were washed away. As extremely pubescent as this may sound, I made a friend.

For two people to be in school we didn’t study a lot, in fact, we were horrible study partners. Something we learned the hard way. I mean we tried, we would set up study dates and late night cram sessions in the SLC or cafeteria and boy were they an epic fail. But we successfully managed to take pictures, dye our hair, take videos, and dance to Bohemian Rhapsody. We were good at that, taking a book and turning it into a hair dye. I learned to stick to my perogies when I had the pork mishap and you oh so subtly asked me “oh I didn’t know you eat pork.” We went to Sci-Balls and had you do my eye makeup every time, I still need help in the eye makeup department. I helped with your sister’s invitation letters, not because it felt like a chore, but because I loved your sister in the short amount of time I got to know her, I looked up to her and admired her. We had sleepovers and morning-after sticky notes and sweater sharing and you even stole my key off my keychain and surprised me for my nineteenth birthday, and I adult napped you and almost put you in the trunk of the car month later. I still think that was a pretty good idea. 

It wasn’t until the second year when we progressed to moving mattresses between apartments and going on 3 AM jogs which then later turned into us almost getting attacked by some stranger on the street and us having to call a taxi back to our apartment. It’s bittersweet, isn’t it? You forced me to walk over the highway and I temporarily got over my fear of heights. Germany won the world cup. You didn’t think our friendship would make it through the finals, maybe 2022 will be Argentina’s year. You were a balcony away when I got attacked by a flying cockroach, remember that balcony? Remember when we planned out how we would cross over to each other’s apartments rather than use the door just for the adventure? Well, speaking of climbing over things, remember when we climbed over a brick wall to avoid a certain someone? I sometimes look back at these moments and wonder, “What the hell were we thinking?” But we had fun, with everything we did, we made sure we had fun, hatched eggs, monkeys, sticks and barrels and all, we had fun. 

We had our moments, our friendship stood the test of distance, when I was in Amman, we were Skyping for 9 hours straight, my night turned into day and your day turned into night, we were keeping each other filled in on everything and everyone, me complaining about my crazy neighbour, and you telling me about your summer adventures. I won’t forget the laughter that came with that Asian man who laughed at you when we were on Lady of the Mist, that cop who added us on Instagram by the Brooklyn Bridge, and oh my God everyone in New York, even our decision to hop in cars with strangers to see the Manhattan skyline. Weren’t we taught to avoid getting into cars with strangers when we were younger? Every adventure felt safe as long as it was with you. Bruce Peninsula was a fluke, I had to get ready in less than 15 minutes, pack a bag and all, if it was anyone else, anyone else’s family, I would have had a hard time convincing myself let alone my parents to let me go with only 15 minutes notice. It amazes me how quick I got ready, and how easily I felt at home with your family, they treated me no less than they treated you, a daughter, part of the family.

Remember when a parked car hit me while I was biking? I do, at least that’s how I choose to remember it. My life was always one adventure after the other with you, I hadn’t ridden a bike in years and here I was going to a random person’s house who I met off Kijiji to buy a bike off of them, and we both know how that turned out, and I’m not talking about the bike, I’m talking about game night and truth or dare Jenga. How do you fit three people in a bed? Simple, you don’t, but we made it work and we spent months doing it. And remember when I fell off my bike and broke my pinkie, how I got back up, went to dinner and then we biked from one pharmacy to the next because we were playing rookie doctor, remember that? We rented a car to surprise you for your birthday, I don’t know how we did it, but we did it. We took a bunch of mini road trips to all parts of Ontario, we split the driving, I had my foot on the gas and you had your hands on the steering wheel. I really hope we can’t get charged if a police officer is reading this, but it was fair, no? I won’t mention our overnight trip in Toronto, because I really don’t want anyone to get in trouble for that.  

the bad, 

Losing a friend is never easy, especially when you don’t understand why you lost them in the first place. You taught me that after all. I hurt you, or so you said. You didn’t understand the pattern of behaviours that lead us to where we are. And I don’t think I ever really explained it to you, or I didn’t try hard enough to get you to listen at least. It doesn’t matter how old we get and how tough we are, a loss will always leave a silent scar, and to lose someone when you’re not whole when you’re dealing with chemical imbalances can make you do things you don’t understand yourself. You find yourself justifying yourself but not understanding your justification. Nothing makes sense. It’s not supposed to, Cancer doesn’t make sense, I learned that the hard way, but we don’t invalidate someone’s illness because we don’t understand it, because it scares us, we don’t.

I left first, I walked out first, but you fought like hell to get me back. Why? Just so you can hurt me? Just so you can have the last say? You should have just left me alone, it is inhumane to mess with someone’s life like that. The worst part is, you told me, you told me how it felt to completely disappear without a trace, you told me how much I hurt you. And at the time, I didn’t see it, I didn’t see how I was causing hurt and pain, I can honestly say that yes, I did hurt you and I’m so sorry that I did, but it was unknowingly, I was trying to protect what was left of me. But you purposely did the exact same thing to me, knowing how much it would hurt, knowing the events that were going on in my family and knowing where I was mentally. You fought to have me back in your life just so that you can have the last word, just so that you can hurt me right back right after I told you I left to protect myself from you. That messed me up, being your friend messed me up. You called my mother and spoke to her, you told me that you and she had a friendship beyond our friendship. Where was this friendship when she got sick? That messed me up even more because you confirmed my suspicions; four years of deception, four years a lie, four years wasted, because the person I met in the lounge in 2012, the person who drove down to my house just to scare me, the person whose family became mine, and mine became theirs, that person wouldn’t have purposefully hurt someone with the intention of vengeance, that person would have reached out to my mother regardless of where our friendship stood, but maybe I got it wrong, maybe I misread everything. Maybe I couldn’t see what was always there.

and the now;

They tell you to forgive and forget, but who’s they? And can we really just simply forgive and forget? Is that practical? I think you can either forgive or forget, you can’t do both. Forgiveness allows us to move on, but so does forgetting, but do I have to do either or to move on? Forgive and forget, forgive or forget, I don’t know where I stand. The reason why two years later I’m still here, is because I did love you, and I’de like to think that it was reciprocal, and if it wasn’t, that’s okay too. 

I don’t regret the four years, because it taught me the value of time, how precious it is, how without a moment’s notice you can lose someone. I’ve lost people in the past before, not by choice, but because it was their time. There are so many things left unspoken, so many things that I wished I could tell them, I wish they could come back to me for one minute so that I can tell them how I feel, how much they mean to me, how much I love them, and how much it hurts that they’re gone. This past year has been brutal, time has been moving so fast, too fast, it’s almost impossible to believe that we are here in December, sometimes I close my eyes and wonder how the hell did we get here, how? I understand the value of time, and how not to waste it. My time with you was a lesson, was a lesson in the preciousness of time, how not to waste it on the wrong people.

Forgiveness is for the strong, for the people who don’t want to learn this lesson a second time, for those who want to graduate. They carry their wound proudly as a reminder of where they were, what they overcame, and what to avoid in the future. I don’t know if I’m there yet, because I just want to forget. Once upon a time, there were adventures, bike rides, road trips, climbs down to the grove in Bruce Peninsula, there were breakfasts and dinners, there were dorm room and hotel room scares, promises made, music shared, pictures taken, birthdays, surprises, hour-long conversations, once upon a time there was a friendship, there had to be one. Do I regret all the time spent with you, despite all the hurt? Do I really? No. The only way I can move on now is to forgive, and although this wound may never heal, I hope that one day I’m lucky enough to forget, forget everything. Until then, I’ll carry the scar to remind me to never find myself here ever again.

the end.

Mardin
5/12/2012

The Day I Found Out My Mom has Cancer

(and every day since)

Playlist: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/playlist/everyday-since/pl.u-qxyllMaTG2e2L2

It’s August six, and I’m looking at my mom lying down on the couch, she’s snuggled around a fuzzy blanket, her skin is a little pale, her hair is scarce. She’s cold, but there’s a national heat warning, yet she’s wrapped tightly by this blanket like a newborn baby just out of the nursery. She’s tired, she keeps dosing off and then waking up again to the sound of her rapid heartbeat; she hasn’t had a proper night’s sleep since March. My dad is right next to her, the TV is on, but no one is watching. I’m going back and forth between watching her and watching him watch her; he watches her intently and unknowingly. For a second, our gaze meet one another, we’re both thinking and feeling the same thing, we both feel so helpless. There is absolutely nothing that we can do. “I love you Daya” is all I can think, and he thinks it too. We look away, because if we hold each others gaze for too long, we’ll both cry.

~

They were in their bedroom when I first heard them talking in low whispers. If you know my parents, then you know they aren’t the whispering type, and normally whispers indicate bad news. If you know my parents, you will also know that they are the kind of people who would keep bad news from my sister and I to “protect” us. They still see us as kids who need to be protected from the cruel, cruel world. Whispers scare me, and after losing my Nana just a year ago, I couldn’t imagine a tragedy worse. I liked to think that I was capable of handling any bad news, so I walked into my parent’s room and asked them straight on “what are you hiding from me?” “Nothing” they replied in Kurdish, but I was persistent and something in my gut was telling me to not let this one go. After going back and forth, they eventually told me that my mom had done a mammogram and an ultrasound after a routine checkup with our family doctor. My mom reassured me that there is nothing to worry about, it was just time to do her yearly exams. She even went on to say, that our family doctor had told her since they haven’t heard back from the technologists, its more than likely that there is no news, and no news is good news. My dad had a flight booked to Amman, a week from that night, so I knew almost certainly, that I had nothing to worry about, sure her results hadn’t come back yet, but the delay in her results was even more proof that there is nothing to worry about. I forgot about that night and started planning for the summer. 

~

I was at work on a Monday morning. It was a good day, Monday is always my favourite day of the week, I’m weird like that. I get a call, it’s my mom. She’s “tired” she says, her voice is broken and quiet, she’s driving I can tell. I already knew the answer, because this isn’t my mom on the phone, it some foreign person who has taken over, my mom is never broken, she’s never this tired, so I ask “Why?” “Just come home” she replies. “Why?” I ask persistently, “I’m tired” she whispers. I instantly fell to the floor and the tears came streaming down my cheeks, I’ve lost all my sensations, my reasoning, my clarity, because I knew, I didn’t have to hear it out loud, I just knew, my mom doesn’t get tired, she just doesn’t.

~

When you hear the word cancer, a nuclear explosion goes off in your life, no matter who you are and where you are. You don’t realize, because you can’t realize it until it happens to you, how disruptive, chaotic, traumatic and life-shattering cancer is. It consumes your every thought, lingers in the background of every meal, it is the unspoken elephant in the room, it’s what you see when you close your eyes, it’s what you dream when you sleep, and the nightmare that you awaken from every morning. Boom. 

We spent five days waiting to be seen by a specialist, it was the longest five days of my life. But I was optimistic, there’s absolutely no way that my mom’s condition is bad, at best; it is stage I, at worst; stage II. How could it ever be anything else? My mom had told two of her friends during this time, and they all had stories of a friend of a friend who had gone through the same thing, they simply had surgery and now they are living their best life, nothing to worry about they said. My Aunt back home would say cancer research is so advanced in Canada, we’ve got nothing to worry about, this is curable. And how I wished I believed them, how I wished I never took Human Aging with Cheryl Duxbury in my 4th year at UW. How I wished I skipped the cancer chapter, I just wanted to forget the line that said cancer is treatable, not curable; you can manage it, not eliminate it. I would give anything to just un-learn it all. And in those five days, I would look at my mom and hold her hand every day because she was scared, she’s never been scared before, and the lines of mother and daughter have never been ever so blurred since that moment. It was a freaky Friday situation without the body swaps; I was now the mother taking care of her daughter. The tables have turned.

~

Five days later we’re in an elevator, it’s my mom, her best friend and I. We’re meeting with the specialist. I had asked my mom time and time again to give me the specialist’s name, maybe I can search her up, to give me any test results she had about her diagnosis, maybe I can understand something, “I don’t know her name,” “I don’t have any results” she would say. She lied. She lied to protect me of course, but in that elevator, finally flipping through the multitude of pages of her diagnosis I did not feel protected, there were scary words that I understood and even scarier words that I didn’t understand. This is serious. This is serious and I’m angry, how could she not have shown me this? Why didn’t she go to the doctor earlier? How could she have waited this long? Because this is no stage I or stage II, this is stage serious and I was on the verge of an emotional meltdown in the elevator. And yet somehow, I needed to look okay, because I was the only thing getting in the way of my mom from completely breaking down. How could I stand in front of her and not be moved to tears?

I went into research mode, and with the delay of the specialist, we, unfortunately, had an hour and a half of researching, I was left to my devices, I was flipping between her results and google. It was not good. Google is never good. I buried myself in page after page, and my mom knew. She would ask me “Mardin, what did you find out?” And “Mardin what are you reading?” And I would persistently say, “I’m not a doctor.” I avoided her gaze because I was still going through the motions, I was still angry and I knew that would break her heart, so I had to avoid her gaze to protect her from my sadness. I had to protect my mom.

After we had met with the specialist, my mom asked me the most heart breaking question that a mother could ask her daughter, “Do you think I will survive this?” How do you respond to a question like that? And just like that my whole life flashes before my eyes; a daughter needs her mother at her graduation, on her wedding day, when she’s furnishing her first home, a daughter needs her mother when she’s a new mother to be herself, but more importantly, a daughter doesn’t have to have a reason to why she needs her mother, a daughter just does. She then continues to say, “I just want to live long enough to know that you and Hana will be okay.” My heart has never been as broken as it was in that moment.

~

We spent the next couple of weeks going from one hospital to the next and from one appointment to the next, I became my mother’s personal in-house nurse, learning to read her blood work, charts, trying to understand her biopsy results, bone scans and MRI’s. I’ve become so familiar with the hospital, the nurses, and with the staff, as they have of me. The hardest part of the treatment was waiting for it. Waiting, we spent about a month waiting to go to booked appointments, waiting for the results to come back, based off of the results booking further appointments, it seemed as though it was a cycle that never ended. Time was both still and quick. It seemed as though we were frozen in time, while everyone and everything else was moving at high speed. There was no time to breathe and when I could steal a moment’s breath, I would just pause and think about the reality of our situation. “How is this happening to us? How?” It wasn’t so much the how but the “Is this actually happening to us?” You hear about other families, read articles and books, watch news reports and documentaries, but never do you think that the C word would affect you, your family. And then reality smacks you right in the face. This is happening to us, and we have to face this head on.

The Diagnosis: Stage III Locally Advanced Breast Cancer

The Treatment: Chemotherapy, Surgery and finally Radiation (all 3)

The Hope: A Cure. 

~

My sister didn’t know what was going on until about a month later. Why? Because my parents wanted to protect her. In the solemn air of our dinners, she was a ray of sunshine, cracking up jokes and poking fun at me, being playful and unknowingly taking our minds off of the C word. We all had this dark cloud hovering over us, and she was bringing life to it. Most days I was jealous, jealous that she didn’t know, but I was also sad, sad because she will eventually find out, and we would then both share in having experienced the worst day of our life, and that is nothing to be jealous of. We each took turns rehearsing how we were going to break the news to her, initially my mother was going to tell her, and I was the understudy. My mother couldn’t do it, so I ended up telling her. No amount of rehearsal will ever prepare you for breaking your sister’s heart. 

~

It’s been 4 months now, and my mom has just completed her second to last round. She’s weaker than the previous, which had her weaker than the one before that. It’s not easy, every battle that hits us comes and goes in waves. The last round landed my mom in the ER, her second visit. After a sleepless night of vomiting, hot flashes, painful stomach aches, and vomiting again, she had fainted twice, and on the second time she had lost consciousness. The chemo was killing her soul. We were in a private room, she was lying down and hooked to an IV. “I don’t want to do this anymore” She would say between falling into and out of consciousness. She couldn’t do this anymore, the chemo was tearing her apart, and in turn tearing my heart apart. 

~

We have one more round of chemo left. Just one more. What comes next? A series of tests, decisions, doctor appointments, surgery, radiation, and more tests. It’s a long journey, and the chemotherapy was only step 2 of the 10 we’ve got left. But I’m looking forward to witnessing my mom attend her last chemo session, I’m looking forward to having her doctor remove the PICC line that she’s had on for months, I’m looking forward to saying thank you and goodbye to everyone who has played a vital part of her treatments in the Oncology Department, but most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing her ring her chemo bell; it’s not over yet, but it is a step closer.

~

Now, I want to take a moment to talk about the Canadian health care system, or more specifically, OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan). As Canadians, we are fortunate to have free health care, and the common misconception, primarily within the USA, and other foreign countries, is that when healthcare, a basic human right, is free, the quality deteriorates. This couldn’t be farther from the truth in my mother’s case. Having walked into three different hospitals for my mother, for starters, I’ve never seen cleaner facilities anywhere else, with the best of the best when it comes to equipment. Appointments are true to the time slot that is assigned and the procedures are explained thoroughly before execution. Based off of the patient’s decision, a team of heroes is assembled to help guide the patient on this journey. In my mother’s case, in addition to her family doctor, she has a team of Oncologists from her chemotherapy doctor, to her surgeon, to her radiation doctor, with all of their primary nurses, and a pharmacist, a dietician, and a social worker that help with the process. Additionally, there are classes such as the chemotherapy education class, where a team of specialists walks the cancer patient and their family members through every step of the journey. And outside of the hospital, there is a tremendous support group, such as the Wellspring Wellness Centre, where they host free classes for cancer patients and cancer patient families. These classes can be anything from yoga to cooking classes, to make up classes. I would have never known where to buy a wig, and how clean is really clean when it comes to cancer patients if it weren’t for these classes. A team of heroes and angels is what they represent to me. They are the heroes working hard to save the number one hero in my life; my mom, my daya. 

~

I hate statistics and numbers, so bear with me, because it is important to know that 1 in 8 Canadian women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. This means that when you’re out with friends at a dinner, or when you’re hosting a birthday party, look around you, because more than likely, one of you will develop breast cancer. That’s how common it is, and it won’t hit you until it crashes into your world. Women are living longer, healthier lives after a breast cancer diagnosis, but there is still so much work to be done and more research to be conducted. That being said, I’m participating in this year’s Canadian Cancer Society CIBC Run for the Cure to make breast cancer beatable. I’m running in honour of my mother, Kany, and all of the incredible women in my life. 

I’m not only running for my mother, but also for my late grandmother who also had breast cancer, God rest her soul. And if you are in the GTA, I would love it if you could join my team, KANY, and run for her with us. 

I am also taking donations to help fund innovative research to help save the lives of more women, and provide support programs to those affected by this disease.

This is the link to join and/or contribute to my team, KANY:

http://www.supportcbcf.com/site/TR/RunfortheCureFY19/RFTC19?team_id=111448&pg=team&fr_id=2722

~

I am optimistic, I have to be. I have no choice. I can’t begin to imagine a world without my mother and I won’t. I want her to be present for all of it, every moment, every whisper, every thought, conversation, and she will be. She often feels alone tossing and turning between two lovers; Life and Death. But I want her to know she’s not alone but surrounded by a blanket of family and friends that love her and believe in her strength, that she will fight cancer and beat it, no matter how weak and defeated she feels. Although it’s difficult to put into words the range of emotions and feelings in addition to each individual battle that a cancer patient goes through, I hope that you, the reader, the sister, the friend, the confident, will leave this article with a clearer understanding of cancer. 

To my mother, my daya, my hero, I love you.

Mardin
8/9/2018