Alden Boon

Bankruptcy, Divorce and Loss of His Son: How Jimmy Ong Restarted His Life after Hitting Rock Bottom



The master’s next instruction to Jimmy was specific: He would head to Bangkok the following day, and get forty virgin monks to chant atop a mountain. This Jimmy accepted with the alacrity of a well-trained pedigree dog hearkening to his owner’s commands. But there was a price: four thousand dollars to be exact. To afford this and other mounting hospitalisation bills, Jimmy began taking personal loans from his company and his relatives, the spectre of his imprudent habits rearing its ugly head again. But any worries about repaying his lenders were for the moment expunged from mind. “I was just so desperate to save Shaun’s life, I did anything I could think of to help.”

Over the next few weeks, Shaun’s health began taking an ill turn. The master appeared to have gone off the grid, only telling Jimmy to “do whatever the doctor says” over desperate phone calls. Jimmy was gifted a bottle of holy water, and told to spray it over Shaun while chanting. Jimmy did so diligently, until Shaun finally said, “Daddy, could you stop chanting?” “But it will bless you and help you get better.” “No, I don’t want you to chant anymore. I’m a Christian, I believe in Jesus.” At his son’s behest, Jimmy did so.

Bankruptcy, Divorce and Loss of His Son How Jimmy Ong Rebuilt His Life after Hitting Rock Bottom nedla

By now, the radiotherapy treatments had stopped working. The cancerous cells, grown in their menace, subjugated Shaun. Jimmy and his ex-wife were now presented with an impossible decision to make: to either let Shaun undergo chemotherapy or allow him to live out the last of his days with dignity. They were at a fork in the road, the perils and ends of both precarious paths blotted from sight.

Jimmy considered many things. Shaun was at the age when he was starting to pay attention to his looks, taking time and much care to style his hair; chemotherapy would cause all his hair to fall out, further devastating him. He would also experience nausea, and would not be able to enjoy his favourite dishes.

Just when the right path seemed clear, there entered another thought. “But what if? What if the chemotherapy works and cures Shaun?” Making a medical decision for yourself is easy, but having to make one for a child, effectively playing God and then having to live with that decision for the rest of your life, often second-guessing and wondering about the “what if”, is a cruel burden. After much vacillation, Jimmy and his ex-wife thought it was best to forgo chemotherapy, which would at best prolong Shaun’s life by a month or two but not improve his quality of living. Choosing to extend his life, and misery, just because they were not yet ready to say goodbye, would be selfish.

And so Shaun’s health continued to deteriorate. “Perhaps it is time to tell Shaun the truth that he’s not getting any better,” said the man in the white coat, now for the first time stepping out of ethical bounds, instead relating to Jimmy and letting himself feel a father’s pain. “You might regret it, if you do not tell him the truth, and he goes tomorrow …” Jimmy pondered the doctor’s words, and finally braced Shaun for the end. Shaun felt betrayed. “He was upset. He said, and by now the tumour had affected his speech so severely that it took a long time to understand what he was saying, ‘You asked me to go through all this pain, and promised me that I would get better! Now you’re telling me I’m going to die?’ I had to get the doctor to explain to him what was happening.”

As the news finally sank in, Shaun accepted his fate, and told his father that he was not afraid of death, because he would get to meet Jesus. Two days later, he slipped into a coma.

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.