“Goodbye,” a short film I co-wrote and co-produced, about losing a loved one to cancer.
Growing up, I had a pretty blessed, middle-class kind of childhood. Aside from the occasional deaths of a few elderly relatives that I’d never met and my beloved kitty Salmon, I’d never really suffered any kind of emotional loss. I was really lucky. Looking back, I think this semi-charmed kind of upbringing is what made my mother’s cancer diagnosis earlier this year so damn hard to process.
Over the past few years, I’d noticed that my mother was increasingly moody, tired, and generally disappointed in me; I chalked it up to a combination of aging and my own personal faults. Last winter, however, her behavior got even more erratic as she’d start falling asleep in the middle of conversations and would screaming over nothing. What I didn’t know was that she had had cancer growing inside her for years that, undiagnosed and untreated, had taken over parts of her body and altered its functions.
Then, in January, I went to visit her in the hospital after she had what we were initially told was a benign lump in her throat removed. Walking into her room, I was not prepared to see her unconscious, with a bloody gash across her neck. I was even less prepared for the barrage of doctors that rushed into the room and started detailing how the cancer was more widespread than they’d thought, and what the likely plan of action for fighting her disease was. On the way out, one of the busy doctors asked my father if he understood how we were going to proceed with the cancer. Without looking up, he said, very softly, “Yes, thank you. It’s just that we didn’t know it was cancer until just now.”
The year that followed has been full of illness. Treatment for cancer has advanced in its effectiveness, but it still wrecks havoc on patients’ bodies. For months, I watched my mother get sicker and sicker in order to get better. Her body changed as she couldn’t eat, and her hair fell out. My mother had always cared for me, and suddenly she couldn’t care for herself. For the first time in my life, there was nothing I could do to make it better, and the feeling of helplessness was overwhelming.
Today, my mother is now in the process of recovery, and I’m so grateful because not everyone is that lucky. What I’ve learned throughout this shitty and seemingly unnecessary process is that there is literally nothing good about cancer: it eats away at people, and it eats away at those that love and care for them. But as awful and useless as it is, cancer is a reality.
As Jacey Gibb’s feature article outlines in this issue of The Other Press, the men around us will sprout mustaches next month for Movember, in honour of prostate cancer sufferers and survivors, as well as to raise awareness for men’s general health. While a bushy, crumb-encrusted moustache may be disgusting, this sort of movement is an important reminder that cancer is the worst, and that it can affect any and all of us—so hug the mustachioed men you love this month, and stay healthy.