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Home sweet home

After my mother’s diagnosis with colon cancer, it doesn’t feel right to laze on the beaches of Greece and ogle hard bodies. So I head to Milano and Amsterdam seeking the comfort of longtime friends. In Milano, I visit a friend from high school that I haven’t seen in 20 years. She was always one of my most fashionable friends, and I’m embarrassed to show up in my plastic sandals and nylon pants that zip off into shorts (really practical for travelling, but not very stylish!). I have been living out of a backpack for six months, and it’s such a treat to have all the comforts of a real home, including a divine mattress. As the weather shifts to a frigid 60 degrees, I get sick and fly to Amsterdam. It’s even colder and I spend the next few days holed up in my friend’s apartment, drinking endless mugs of tea and watching dozens of episodes of True Blood and Cougar Town.

I arrive in Seattle and hug my mother tightly at the airport. Choking back tears since I want to be strong for her during this time. It’s a complex web of emotions – relief to be home with my mother, fear of the unknown and looming cancer, happiness to be surrounded by comforts and familiarity. My mother is  typically Asian, and has packed the refrigerator full of food for my homecoming. Friends from Vancouver visit us and fill the house with life, love and the joyful company of their three year old son. There are many surprisingly sunny Seattle days, and I go on many walks marveling at the fall foliage. Friends cook us dinner, or I meet friends for meals and never pay a dime.

Everything is so easy, comfortable and convenient. I can read menus, ask for directions (and understand the answers) and take rapid transit without getting lost.  Overseas, the smallest task can feel like a huge negotiation. Navigating language and culture can be challenging. Friends ask if I’m going to stay home, and I quickly answer NO! I love Seattle and this will always be my home. But Vietnam has a vibrancy that I want to plunge into and I won’t be lulled by Seattle and easy-to-read street signs.

My mother and I spend five hours with her medical team in preparation for her surgery. Everyone is friendly, accessible, thorough and professional. My experience with surgeons is limited to television and movies, where doctors are overly cautious and cryptic for fear of litigation. In contrast, her medical team all confidently proclaim they have caught the cancer early and there shouldn’t be any further treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation.  I cancel all my fall plans to travel in Vietnam and Laos, and volunteer in the Philippines. Right now, I just want to be home with my mom, surrounded by my friends, family and community. My mom is her usual spunky self, and continues to attend her Latin dance class twice a week. Occasionally, I have a wavering negative thought about the cancer. These are fleeting moments, and instead I feel so happy to be home, with the steadfast knowledge that my mother is going to be just fine.

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