A young love taken away by cancer

  • Family
  • Wednesday, 19 Nov 2014

When a Malaysian girl fell in love with an Italian in New Zealand, their beautiful love story was cut short by a tragic twist of fate.

When my daughter, Su San, fell in love with Alfio, an Italian, life seemed like a bed of roses to her. Su San was a medical student in Auckland, New Zealand, when she met Alfio, 33.

They were very much in love and harboured dreams of spending their lives together. Six months into the relationship, Alfio discovered that he had lymphoma. The news came as a terrible blow to the lovebirds. Fear and distress crept into their once blissful lives.

The devastating news couldn’t have come at a worse time. Su San’s final exams were approaching. She had always wanted to be a doctor. She had worked all her young life to secure a place at a prestigious university in Auckland.

We were concerned when Alfio decided to move into Su San’s flat as she wanted to take care of her ailing boyfriend. How would she juggle between her studies and caring for a terminally ill patient, we wondered.

Both my husband and I found it hard to accept the fact that a young and energetic man could be struck down by cancer at the prime of his life. From the onset of the relationship, we had butterflies in our stomach when we learnt that our daughter’s boyfriend was a sommelier.

My husband barked: “I’ve spent a fortune on her studies and she wants to have a wine steward for a partner? Is he a waiter?”

I did my homework and tried to pacify my hubby.

“Alfio is the head waiter and sommelier in a fine restaurant in Auckland. He is a knowledgeable and trained professional, and specialises in wine. Su San is young and this is her first serious boyfriend. Don’t worry,” I tried to allay my hubby’s fears.

I must admit that initially, I sided with my hubby and thought that Su San had become disobedient. That Christmas, she decided to fly to Italy with her boyfriend to spend Christmas with his family. Perhaps in her heart, she feared that this could be their last Christmas together.

My hubby was enraged at the thought that our daughter would not be spending Christmas with us. I felt sad for both Su San and my husband, as heated words were exchanged over the phone.

It dawned on me that life’s path is not strewn with petals, and we can choose to be sad or contented. That realisation made me decide to be happy for my daughter’s sake.

My hubby and I talked things over, and we agreed to give our beloved daughter whatever support we could. After all, she has always been a good daughter to us.

I resigned from my job and flew to Auckland to assist Su San in her bid to help the cancer-stricken Alfio.

Su San had been raised to be caring, and it was only natural for her to want to care for Alfio at a time when he needed her most.

When I arrived in Auckland, I found that Alfio’s mother and sister had flown in from Italy, and they were putting up in my daughter’s flat.

My heart sank when I read Alfio’s medical report. He was suffering from relapsed or refractory Burkitt lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer. There were no conventional treatment options for Alfio and he was a candidate for palliative care. He required pain relief and psychosocial support which was available at Auckland City Hospital. However, Alfio chose to stay at home with Su San.

When the doctor mentioned “palliative care”, it meant that Alfio had no hope of surviving. That drummed terror in our hearts and my husband flew to Auckland to accompany Alfio to Melbourne to consult the best cancer specialist around. The oncologist said that Alfio could not undergo the latest treatment for aggressive cancer, as his platelet level was too low. The poor man decided to consult a herbalist who had saved a few cancer patients. After taking herbs for a few months, Alfio’s condition deteriorated. My daughter was admirable. She cooked for him and bathed him, for the malignant lump under his armpit was hurting him.

We cried when he wailed in pain. Between her studies and examinations, she rushed to buy his painkillers. There were nights when she had to wake up to hold him when pain racked his feeble frame. He had taken too much medication and his liver hurt.

When Alfio had coughing bouts, we pounded ginger and gave him lemon and honey to soothe him. We cooked pasta and soup, and gave him lots of fruits and vegetables.

I grew to love Alfio, and it took me a while to realise that he was going to die. It was difficult to envisage him dying for he looked strong and able-bodied. Su San flew to Sicily in Italy after her exams to spend Alfio’s last days with him. My hubby and I did not realise that Alfio would succumb to cancer within a year. Somehow we were hopeful that he would recover and spend more time with Su San.

Rest in peace, dear Alfio. You will always occupy a precious corner in our hearts.

Beyond Barriers is a platform for sharing and raising awareness on disability issues and any chronic medical condition. We welcome contributions from readers who have a disability or any special needs, caregivers, advocates of disability groups, or anyone living with any chronic medical condition. E-mail your stories to star2@thestar.com.my. Contributions which are published will be paid, so please include your full name, IC number, address and contact number.

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