day of week

She Died

5 March 2012

I think of my blog as a happy little island – in amongst the trouble and noise of the world. My blog is made up of (mostly) the good things that happen in my life. Yummy food, clothes, cute moments with my kids, inspirational moments. I really try to avoid negative issues in my writing.

But some things can’t be avoided.

Two and a half years ago, I wrote about a 4 year old Singaporean girl named Charmaine, who was suffering from a rare cancer. Her mother was raising money to have extremely expensive treatment in a New York hospital. Tens of thousands of strangers each gave a little, in their own way, to give Charmaine a shot at surviving.

Well, after two and a half years, the treatment options had run out, and cancer overtook little Charmaine. She died in October last year, but it has taken me till now to summon up the courage to mention it here.

She died. I hoped like crazy that she wouldn’t, but she did. I never knew Charmaine or her mother Cynthia, but her story was special to me because I have been in a similar situation.

If you have been reading my website for a long time, you might know, cancer is a topic especially close to me…my husband has nearly died twice, most recently in 2004, when our first child was only a year old.

We have been so lucky that he survived both times.

But it is still an almost daily fear of mine, of what might come back. I am reminded so frequently because a friend of mine, who has children the same age as mine, has breast cancer, and struggles everyday with the treatment and the uncertainty.

What makes Cynthia and Charmaine’s story so important to me is that it forces me – again – to realise how sad, scared and helpless I am.

It is so, so wrong when cancer takes someone so young, and in such an awful way.

Cynthia has kept a blog of her struggle to keep Charmaine in this world, through the whole of the illness. And she still writes this blog now.

I am in awe-filled respect of this woman, who has opened her heart so honestly, in a way I have not been able to.

She has told the whole story, from the shock of the diagnosis, to the hopeful fund-raising for the treatment, the endless, invasive treatments. Charmaine grows from 4 to 6 years old while all this is happening, her whole world shaped by her illness. Cynthia shares her fears, triumphs, and even confesses to praying, in the end days, that her own daughter will die to end the suffering.

If you want to realise how insignificant your own troubles are, if you think you have had a shitty day at work, or you just can’t stand your kids’ bad behaviour anymore, then I invite you to read this post, a few days before Charmaine dies. But I warn you, you will need to have a big box of tissues nearby.

Since Charmaine has died, Cynthia has continued to write about her feelings, of loss, anger, and then depression, and her attempt to make sense of what has happened.

In 2009, I met Lance Armstrong, the cycling champion who has had cancer, survived, and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research.

I was inspired by him. He survived, and he has communicated to a lot of people about fighting cancer.

And I am inspired by Cynthia too. She too has communicated the experience of cancer in her own, powerful way.

Now I’m hoping to find my own way to communicate about it.