Not So Soon
On a cold winter morning in 2014, I received a phone call from my Mother and she told me that she had been diagnosed with stage-four ovarian cancer. It was just over six years since she had had a mastectomy for her very early stages of breast cancer. I googled ‘stage four ovarian cancer survival rate’ straight away, and it said there was only a 10 percent five-year cure/remission rate.
Mum decided to undergo chemotherapy after the doctor told her that she would not live a year without it. However, one afternoon, I found out that she was still smoking. I cannot explain how furious I was at the time. “Taking chemotherapy and still smoking? Do you want to live or kill yourself? Why would you suffer this much to go through chemotherapy if you want to die? Don’t you know how serious this situation is now? You only have a 10 percent chance of living five years!” She made some silly excuses. A few days later, I found out Mum was still smoking.
After a few months of chemotherapy, Mum became really weak and fragile. Her skin colour became dark, her nails became black, and she lost most of her hair, including her eyebrows and eye lashes. She had pins and needles in her hands and feet all the time, and could not even walk on the tiled floor as it caused pain. She started using a walker to perform some easy household duties and for going out. She could not even sit up and play with her laptop anymore like she used to do all the time. All she could do was hold an iPhone and play games. “It’s good to play games all day. That way I don’t have to think about anything. I would start crying otherwise.”
All of a sudden, I realised what a horrible experience she had gone through. How hard her life has been. I thought I knew it, but I didn’t really understand it until she had become this weak. It must be tremendously hard for Mum to face the harsh reality of her situation. That is probably why she tries to avoid facing it, smoking, and playing games all day. It is easy to say that Mum is silly. But this is the way she tries to ‘live’. In my previous research For Grief (2013), I emphasised the significance of talking about death and dying openly, but now I realised how hard it is in reality and that is why we attempt to look away from the fact of death. Our ignorance and denial of death is sometimes an effective safety blanket to overcome our fear of death. I also realised I tend to project my own fear and denial of death upon my Mother.
This doctoral research project Not So Soon (2014-2018) is my journey where I tried to cope with this emotionally hard time and tried to understand my Mother more through the camera lens.
Not So Soon
Wednesday, 16 May– Saturday, 26 May 2018
Venue: Webb Gallery, QCA, 226 Grey Street, South Bank
To view previous exhibiton for the HeadOn Photo Festival associate exhibition
at DepotII, 2 Danks St Gallery in Sydney from 3 May – 5 May 2016,
Exhibitions, conferences and research outcomes:
- 2017 ‘Erehwon’, January 11 – 22 at POP Gallery, Woolloongabba, Brisbane
- 2016 Not So Soon: a case study of mother-daughter relationship amid the fear of the mother’s impending death, AWGSA (Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association) conference 2016, Queensland University of Technology
- 2016 ‘Not So Soon’, associated exhibition of Head On Photo Festival, May 3 May – May 14 at Depot II, 2 Danks Street Gallery, Sydney
- 2015 Not So Soon: dying with denial, fear and acception, Death, Dying and the Undead Conference, Central Queensland University
- 2015 ‘Not So Soon (work in progress)’, CreateWorld 2015 Conference, QCA Griffith University