It’s the first chapter of my book, which probably won’t be finished since I could die anytime. I’m twenty eight years old and I have cancer. Very contrast with my name Eloise, which means “very healthy” in French.
It was Friday afternoon and rained heavily when Dr. Boey told me that a lump in my left breast is a spreading tumor cell. I eat healthy, I don’t drink alcohol, I’m not obese, but here I am, having cancer. Way to go, god!
Dr. Boey put me on medication and asked me whether I would like to do surgery. I was a complete stone. Then he continued whether I want to discuss with my family first. Again, stoned I was still.
I walked home from the hospital, since my rented house is only 6 blocks away from it. A little boy kept ringing his bicycle bell towards me from behind, I still occupied the whole space of the pedestrian walk, won’t let him to go through. Then he overtook me by force and hit my right waist with his bike.
“Ouch!” I yelled.
“You supposed to move!” He yelled back at me and cycled fast his bicycle further from me before I had completed my reply “It’s a pedestrian—“
So it was an ultimate bad day. I almost cried then, but I waited another block to go inside my rented room.
I cried myself to sleep that night.
Two weeks later, I visited the hospital and talked to Dr. Boey. “I don’t have family. I’m the only child, and my parents died. I don’t know my aunties or uncles. I make decisions on my own and I’ve decided not to do surgery.”
Dr. Boey seemed shock but then replied, “So it’s medication then?”
“Will I die slowly and painfully if I didn’t take medication?” I asked him.
Now he seemed even more shock. “Miss, you know cancer is not the end of everything. Your cancer can be cured if you start being on medication now. There are also some of the government’s programs—“
“Sorry to cut your speech, doctor. I know it’s not the end of my life, it’s just making my life complicated.”
“What do you mean?”
“That day, when I went here to take my medical report, I didn’t expect cancer to show up. I was expecting a full clean and clear report so I could apply for insurance.”
“You still have medisave*. You don’t need insurance,” replied Dr. Boey.
“I wasn’t going to apply for health insurance. I was going to apply for death insurance. Now that I have cancer, it will be complicated.”
“Why would you apply…?”
“I was planning to suicide.”
Then there was a complete silence. I could hear the clock ticking and a heavy breath of Doctor Boey. “Who’s the money for?” he asked softly. I didn’t know what to answer. I didn’t know should I answer.
“Well, you mentioned no family and you seem so cynical about life, so why do you need the money? You could just suicide. Matter of fact, this cancer is doing you a favor.” He spoke boldly.
“Is there any doctor’s ethic or something? Can’t you be fired of what you just said, doctor?’
He smiled. “I just thought that suicide is so silly, Miss—“ He stopped and stared my particulars.
“Excuse me, is this meant to be blank?” he pointed my surname.
“Yes it is.” I replied.
Doctor Boey didn’t say anything. He closed the thin book full of my particulars and medical information, walked to his cupboard full of stuff and leaving me sitting on the chair in front of his desk.
“My parent is Indonesian Chinese, during 80’s era, we couldn’t have Chinese name. They didn’t give me surname because I’m a girl and they said girls don’t need surname because eventually we will get married and take our husband’s surname.” I explained. “Ironically, they didn’t think that I might not get married, so I’ll die without a surname.”
Dr Boey sighed, “Again Miss Eloise, this cancer is curable. You just need to do surgery or medication, before it spreads and become worse. Please think about it.”
I wanted to argue him back but I found it to be useless. He’s the kind of happy optimistic person and I’m the exact opposite. So I just nodded slowly.
I walk back from the hospital but I don’tt go back straight to my rented house. I sit quietly in the bench park below my HDB flat watching little kids playing on the small playground. Their nannies watch them as they are gossiping the latest news.
I’m lost in my miserable mind. Why should I be upset of this cancer? Dr Boey was right, if I wanted to die, this cancer is doing me a favor. So why would I be upset?
Should I tell my father about this cancer? Maybe he would pay back all my money he borrowed if he knew I was dying.
Then I chuckle. It is probably the funniest thing that comes across my mind this week. My father won’t pay me back my money; he would totally ask whether I had death insurance. Guess what daddy, I don’t! So, ha! You could actually cry at my funeral.
So telling my father is not an option, I start to think what I should do with this cancer.
There is one person I would like to tell though, maybe the only person in the world that would actually care. She is my best friend since we could remember things. We were always together. She always protected me from bigger kids who wanted to bully me in school. She shared her lunch with me, wrote me notes if I skipped school and she was always nice to me. I left Indonesia when I was 12 and since then, Shannon and I would visit each other every one or two years. When we started to work and have our own money, we would visit each other every two months. Flight between Singapore to Jakarta wasn’t so expensive anyway. So we managed to keep our friendship, just like we always did for all those years.
About three years ago, we went to Thailand for a holiday together and she met this guy named John from London. I thought it was just another hook up but six months later they got married. That kind of shocked me. Sometimes I think I’m a lesbian because I love Shannon just too much. I never wanted to share her with anyone. She always had boyfriends who comes and goes, but she never intended to get married.
I came to her wedding in Jakarta and it was the last time I saw her. She moved to London with her husband and from her facebook page I know she has one cute daughter now. Shannon and I tried our best to meet up but something has always gotten in a way. She was busy with her new house and when she could finally buy a ticket to Singapore, she got pregnant and had a miscarriage. She canceled the flight and she never bought one again. I stopped talking to her. I felt like betrayed. I was always her priority and I just wasn’t anymore. I was angry and I threw her away out of my life.
A tear drops to my cheek. I feel so broken hearted whenever I remember Shannon. I pushed people away ever since I lost her. I know Shannon tried her best to keep entertaining my non-sense while she pulled herself together with her family, but I always demanded more from her. Maybe going out from her life was a best decision after all because if it wasn’t right, Shannon might try to keep looking for me and come here to see me, but she didn’t.
God I miss her so much. I start to cry like a baby. I just let myself cry for missing Shannon, for the cancer and for my miserable judgment, for not wanting to fight for my own life.
Will telling her about my cancer do any good for her? Or is it just my ego to get attention from her?
I wipe off my tear, walk to a vending machine nearby to get me a coffee. I go up to 7th floor and step inside my flat and start to collect all my CPF documents. I know what to do.