05 November 2005

Some People Get It Bad

As I grow up I discover the suffering that the people I know go through. Especially in the last 2 years, I've had a couple of friends who lost one of their parents. But this post is on a particular person I know - Joe.

I knew Joe from college. We met in our first year but I never really got close to him. He was a little odd, spoke mostly Chinese, and didn't speak very good English. So naturally he wasn't in my clique because I spoke mostly English, and didn't speak very good Mandarin. But we maintained a professional relationship, if you can call it that.

Then in the middle of last year, I transferred to the main campus. Joe was one of the Penangites to come along too, and incidentally, we chose the same major. Basically he was the only person I knew on the first day of lectures. So I had no choice but to befriend him.

It's not like I'm an anti-social person but we just didn't 'click' at the beginning. And I'm naturally friendly and polite if I needed to, and that's how I approached Joe. At any rate I began to find out about his personality. He's one of those weird geeks who are destined to live a lonely life without a girlfriend, working his life away. Unfortunately, fate has other plans for him.

Late last year he began developing health complications. He ate some spicy curry for dinner, and by 9pm, he lost his voice. It was totally barren and he could only squeak out some words. I quickly took him to the doctor, but he only prescribed some antibiotics and antiseptic mouth wash.

The semester ended, and when I saw him again early this year, his voice barely recovered. It sounded very deep and husky, and it was indeed a worrying trend. He's been to a few specialists with not much result. And as the semester went on, other throat problems arose. Bad sorethroats were the order of the day and I really pitied him. It got so serious that he had to fly back to Penang to check again.

And that's when the results came in - he had cancer. More specifically, lymphoma near his lungs. That could explain why his throat and respiratory health has been terrible. He stopped college and underwent chemotherapy treatment. My whole class was shocked when I told them the news, and it certainly wasn't easy for me to be the messenger.

Whenever I went back during breaks I would visit him occassionally. Sometimes I needed a little 'reminder' from him. But basically I just went there to listen to him. His weird mannerisms ensured he had very few friends, and I wouldn't claim to be a friend of his. But I went out of compassion and empathy of his need for friends. It sure wasn't easy staying in the hospital so often for almost a year.

Yes, that's how long it has been. Joe finished his last chemotherapy treatment a couple of months back and I'm just as relieved that he will soon be back on his feet. He already started planning to continue college and I helped him enquire about some admin matters.

That was about a month ago. And then last night he called me again. I haven't chatted with him for quite some time so I really wanted to know what's been going on. And I was left speechless once again when he told me the cancer cells went to his brain. "Brain cancer?" I said to myself. Hasn't he gone through enough bad luck?

I visited him this afternoon. He looked perky and was his talkative self. But he is about to commence on a 3 month treatment cost, and it definitely won't come cheap. He's not below the poverty line, so getting financial aid has been impossible. I know how slim the chances of brain cancer recovery is, and I pray that he will pull through after all he experienced. Thinking of him makes me mellow and reminds me of the fragility of life. It further reminds me that I better work on escaping samsara before my bad karma catches up on me.

Basically, that's the story of Joe. I really, really hope that this is not the end of his story but the beginning of a new chapter. Not a bed of roses, but sometimes it's better to have the thorns than to have nothing at all.


Mike said...

Yeah, lymphoma in the brain is very serious. I hope he does well with his treatment. Mike

Anonymous said...

sad sad.. God create every human being.. and he have to suffer this sickness :( really pity him.. i have one friend thou.. lung cancer.. know him half a semester.. he start coughing like shit.. went and see doctor 2-3 time still havent heal.. in the end went back to kedah and found out he had lung cancer.. he stay strong but.. guess nature always have upper hand...