Yes, I'm gay. I probably was since the day I was born. On my 21st birthday, I sort of had my debut. I came out to my parents. A little drama from mom, and some indifference from dad. An above-average coming out. Almost perfect.

Nine years later, two weeks before my 30th birthday, I found out... I'M HIV POSITIVE.

And so my story begins... I'm BACK IN THE CLOSET.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Why I Cry

Why I CryI’d mentioned before that my aunt – my mom’s sister and my godmother – was diagnosed with cancer. She had a hysterectomy in May, and had undergone three rounds of chemotherapy. I’d never seen her since before she got diagnosed.

Not until yesterday.

My aunt’s family – my uncle and cousins – had already asked for help. Simply help to relieve them at my aunt’s bedside and give them some chances to rest. My mom had already assumed even beforehand that I’d be going with her to watch over my aunt in the hospital, thanks to my availability it being a holiday. But overhearing that my aunt had developed pneumonia had left me concerned.

I know I sound selfish. But whether I like it or not, I am now immuno-compromised. And pneumonia is always going to be one of my foes. Ate, our nurse at the RITM, had advised me against exposing myself to it. But my mom nagged me enough to get me to go. Of course she didn’t know what risk I was running. Until last minute, I still wasn’t sure whether I’d stay the whole time or just take my mom there and leave. I just thought, worst case, if I stayed, I’d just spend most of the time outside the room.

So, fine. I woke up early for a holiday, took breakfast, showered and dressed up. My first instinct was to wear my happiest outfit to cheer things up. Was it inappropriate? It wasn’t a wake anyway, right? So I ended up in a blinding orange shirt with a huge smiley printed on it. Very me.

I spent the cab ride to the hospital thinking. I knew she was in recovery. I knew she was in some pain. I knew chemotherapy had caused her to lose her hair. I knew she’d been wearing wigs and hats to hide it. I knew she was going to look different from when I last saw her. But no matter how much I knew, nothing could prepare me for what I was going to see.

Stepping into her room and seeing her for the first time, I was overwhelmed. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe how different she looked. It was pitiful. I almost cried. But I couldn’t. I shouldn’t. I knew that in the same way I don’t want anyone’s pity, she wouldn’t want it either. So I tried my best to keep the tears at bay. But I didn’t know how else to react for the first few minutes.

Frail, pale and lying in bed, she looked up at me, pointed at my shirt and said, “Now that makes me smile!” But you know what, more than me making her smile, I think she was trying to make me smile. As always.

This was the woman who never made me feel like I was a disappointment. This was the woman who always made me feel good about myself. This was the woman who always had something good to say about me. This was the woman who would take the news of my HIV status well. This was the woman who I don’t think ever made me cry. She still was.

So at that point, the pneumonia was not a factor. Catching anything was the least of my concerns. I was going to stay. For her.

The rest of the day was spent massaging her legs, applying some hot compress, adjusting her blanket, fanning her head... just anything she needed that could give her comfort. But I could feel she was in a lot of pain. It was so bad at times that she was crying. I admit, I shed a few tears myself. But I tried my best to hide them. Believe me, I shed more secret tears during my six-hour stay with my aunt, than I did for the more than a year that my dad suffered from cancer himself. It was heartbreaking to see her suffering. But what was more heartbreaking was that there was nothing I could do to ease it.

It was tough to be there to hear that the prognosis was bad. It was tough to hear that the cancer came back with a vengeance. It was tough to hear she wasn’t responding to chemotherapy. It was tough to hear the word “palliative” being used. But surely, not as tough as what she was going through.

Indeed, it is scary that the cancer genes are definitely present in both sides of my family tree. And HIV causing me to be more prone to it definitely won’t help. But certainly, if my own time comes, I shall never forget the spirit with which my aunt is fighting right now.

Right now, I’m still physically, mentally and emotionally drained. You won’t believe how many times and how hard I cried just writing this entry. The heavens can be so unfair sometimes. Certainly, as a mentor, as a daughter, as a sister, as a wife and as a mother, she has much more to live for than I do. She just doesn’t deserve this. If I could take her pain and suffering, I would. I would. I would.

Before leaving, while no one was looking, I left a rosary by her bedside. It was a rosary given to me, brought from and blessed in Jerusalem itself. I always had it at my own bedside. But this time, I think my aunt needs it more than I do. Please help me pray for her... if not for her recovery, just for some relief and comfort. Please... Thanks.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the short time that you stayed with her, believe me it made a lot of diiference. Just the thought that somebody is there for her I'm pretty sure it gives her a lot of comfort. Will be praying for your aunt as I am praying for you.

Ayan said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your aunt. I'll definitely pray for her. I don't know what to say but just hang in there.

MrCens said...

this is one of the best entries you've made. moving, touching and above all, real...

bro, im hoping for the best both for your aunt and the rest of her family including you.

thanks for sharing, this story though sad but gave me more courage to fight for my own challenges.

from dubai...

Ming Meows said...

i could relate.

Kane said...

Back in the Closet,

All we need is some relief through these hard times. I know battling cancer isn't easy, and your aunt is so brave. Be brave for her too.

We all have our own battles to fight. Hug.

Kane

onestrangeboy said...

Your aunt is a great and brave woman. I pray that she will be given comfort and recovery.

BLACKPOOL said...

i lost both my mother and father because of "C" and i too am a candidate.

what can i do but emphatize? i understand so much what your aunt is going through. the pain is just physical lets look through the eternal happiness she will have when she leaves this world where we are all in.

cancer patients as well as hiv positive people are number one in my list.....

and yes. you did the right thing even if you were at risk of catching something but next time when you visit just wear a mask and declare you have a cold.

Anonymous said...

when it is dark, you can see the stars.
...your star shone bright that moment.
your aunt saw it, and it gave smile to her lips.
thats all that matters.
the rest is unimportant.
be strong,
have faith,
be well.
i'm one with you in prayer,
cook

Manila said...

Hi BITCH,

Your Aunt would be in my prayers.

Be brave. Everything will be all right in the end.

More than a disease, Cancer is a teacher... it teaches us a lot of lessons that help us live our lives better.

There is always a blessing in every situation. There is one in there. Try to look for it.

Sincerely,
The Green Man

Toilet Thoughts said...

"Pallative." i've come to know the gravity of the word ever since I've worked with Oncology studies. And they're always a sad story behind, sometimes a lesson to learn as well.

It's nice that your aunt is fighting still, maybe for the family more than herself. The pain in itself is a hard enough feat to endure already. Added the tears being shed by family.

She's a tough woman. And I think she has gained your respect and admiration by having her touch your life.

I'll have her and your family in my prayers.

Prayers and hugs,

Poi

BadPapiNYC said...

I always believe in the power of prayers... and with all the prayers being offered here, I am certain that God is with her and will walk with her through all this pain.

I will light a candle and offer a prayer for your aunt.

Good night and hugs my J.

all i need is love (im one of your twitter followers) said...

after reading the first sentence of this post, i already knew that this post is definitely gonna make me cry. and it did.

as i was halfway through, cant help but relieve the days when my lola was in that situation like your aunt's. it was hard,for she was the person that i loved the most in my life.

i know how you feel. death is part and parcel of life, and even if in my line of job, the concept of death and dying is no stranger and i witnessed a lot of it, i can never get use to seeing it and it hurts me to see the pain that each family has to endure.

just be strong when you are around your aunt. it'll hurt them more than you would actually be, seeing her loved ones suffer because of her ailment.

i know this wouldnt be enough, but im giving you this virtual hug. hope it helps a bit.

*huuuuuugs*

PinoyPoz said...

Thanks everyone. It took me a while to respond because just reading your comments and pledges of prayer bring tears to my eyes everytime... From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

wanderingcommuter said...

now this made me cry too... seriously, i am moved. well, hoping you and your aunt all the best...

don't forget to smile. fellow introvert.

Anonymous said...

a huge sacrifice you made there. cheers!

and your aunt is right, you are not a disappointment. =)