Thursday, July 20, 2017

John McCain and How I Lost My Mother

Fairfax, Virginia 1998, a weekend.

My mother wasn't herself. She was irritated. Visibly upset. She snapped at us and then laid on couch, rubbing her head. I was yet 18, but as she dismissed my siblings one early Summer afternoon in Virginia, I knew something was wrong. This wasn't a sinus infection as diagnosed. That day my siblings had practice, they were late to practice and my mother refused to drive them. I didn't have my license, and if I recall correctly, mind you a big "if", I hopped in the car and drove my younger brother and younger sister to their respective practices. My mother all the while, on the couch, alone in our living room, staring at the ceiling. It felt like the hottest day of the year.

Twenty-four hours later, my mother was in surgery, having a brain tumor removed. Never was life the same.

I'm unsure if any of the above is real, to be honest, it all becomes a blur. I've tried, for nearly twenty years, to piece together the horror of finding out my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, but I can't. I simply can't. I've been angry at myself, the world, and my God since. I wish I never got in that car. I wish we spotted it sooner. I wish a lot of things, but most of all, I wish I had my mother back.

Yesterday was a shit day. Work was shitty. Boss was on my case. I didn't have time to have a proper lunch. I nearly re-injured my back. Petty first world problems. Then I saw the news alert that John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer. Don't cry at work. It's an ugly, frowned upon thing. I didn't, but I should've locked myself in a stall and at least let the moment in.

Anytime I hear anyone is diagnosed with brain cancer, it strikes an immediate and a gut-punching chord. No one, not even my worst enemy, deserves the tragedy of having someone they love suffer from brain cancer. It is not a forgiving disease. It is not a forgiving diagnosis. It is relentless. As a family, we saw our rock, our center deteriorate before our eyes. She fought, she faded, and then it was over in less than a year.

I will always have my critiques of John McCain, I've said plenty here in this space. The same goes for his wife and his children, but they don't deserve this. They deserve better. Everyone deserves better than what they're facing.

Re-watching McCain's interrogation of Comey gives me flashbacks, the similarities are there. The broken thought process, the shaky demeanor, and the internal struggle are present. I can close my eyes and see her on that couch. Head staring at the ceiling. Waving her arms. My siblings terrified. Me looking for the car keys. Her forgetting my name.

McCain visibly regressed in front of our eyes.

Brain cancer is all of the crap verses of cancer with a crescendo to the worst things about dementia in one heartbreaking coda. It leaves you weighted, exhausted, and numb. Forever changed.

John McCain served his country. He went through hell and back. Maybe just maybe he can overcome the inevitable one last time. The likelihood of that is none. Cancer sucks in that way. You can survive torture, you can survive being a prisoner of war, but something so minute can humble you in a second. It doesn't care who you are in the world, it comes and it collects.

My hope is McCain will bring to light that we can and we must do more about cancer. We need a more robust conversation about this, we need Senators to realize that when they attempt to pass bills that take away healthcare, it has real life consequences. No one is invincible. We all deserve an equal chance to fight and to live.

You can donate to End Brain Cancer here. And many other places.

Fuck Cancer.

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message

Sunday, July 9, 2017

RIP to One of the AAPI Greats - the Minority Militant

I'm a year late and I hate myself for it. Today while looking for one of the Minority Militant's classic screeds, I stumbled upon his passing.

From his family's GoFundMe:

Keon Enoy Munedouang (August 17, 1980 - May 4, 2016) was a Navy veteran and a writer who lost his life last week at the age of 35. He immigrated as a child from Laos as a refugee. Keon enlisted as a young man in the U.S. Navy, achieving the rank of SK2. Upon receiving his honorable discharge, he became a writer and an activist, connecting with others through his spoken and written words. As a writer and activist, Keon's influence was huge. He was known among his peers for his sharp wit, courage, and sensitivity to the less fortunate. He always stood up for those who had no voice. His work inspired a fellow writer and activist to organize the Banana Conference, which eventually became V3Con, the largest Asian American social media conference in the world.

Keon leaves behind his mother, three sisters, two nieces, one nephew, and a community of friends. As a veteran who dutifully protected his country and served with honor, Keon was eligible for a full military burial. However, his family chose to honor him with a traditional Buddhist ceremony followed by cremation, which is in keeping with Lao customs.

Keon was loved by all. He was generous with his time and money and never asked for anything in return. We, Keon's family and friends, ask your help in celebrating Keon's short but amazing life. Keon was always a hero to those around him, standing up for the oppressed, the underserved, and the forgotten. We wish to send him off with a celebration that recognizes him for who he was.

My comment on BigWoWo's blog:

I was lucky enough to work with Keon on a project in Chicago. He was a passionate, funny and complex individual. His in person demeanor was different than his blogging one, but the fire was always there. He challenged me to be a better and a prouder Asian American.

I lost touch with Keon when I moved to California. Shortly after, he became quiet and recluse, and closed his blog down. I’ve been away for sometime from the blogosphere, but this has me nostalgic for the old days. No one could rip like the Minority Militant.

RIP Keon. The Minority Militant was the realest.

I only wish we could've stayed in touch more and created more. The world would be better for it. We need more like the Minority Militant, especially in today's political climate. Rage on in peace, Keon, may your diamond shine ever so bright.

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message