Our Battle with Cancer, Chapter 4

I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve written about dad.

It’s been close to two months since he was diagnosed with Stage 3 Lung Cancer and Emphysema.

After several days and weeks of frantic paranoia, frenetic activity and manic emotional roller coaster rides, the hubbub has finally died down a bit.  We are little by little, settling in. In simple terms, if there’s anything close to resembling the stage of acceptance and normalcy in this kind of situation, I guess this is where we are at right now.

His treatment began around 5 weeks ago, and is now a normal part of his daily routine. The treatment is composed of a tonic formulated to massively boost his immune system. His eating habits have long since changed – he’s now dairy products-free, and red meat-free. No synthetic chemicals are allowed. Everything is organic and natural.

I don’t know for sure if his treatment is doing any good. What’s certain is that since he began his treatment, he spends a couple of hours every night with prolonged coughing fits where he expels a lot of phlegm. According to our Scientist-Doctor, this is a sign that his body has begun purging itself of toxins in the lungs and elsewhere. Hopefully, this means the toxin is doing its job in helping dad.

He is in constant pain, however… especially when  he coughs. He’s also starting to experience constant difficulty in briefing on account of his emphysema.

On the night ‘Tyhoon Basyang’ ravaged Metro Manila and a lengthened blackout hit, dad had a major panic attack. As soon as the airconditioning went out, he immediately ran downstairs to the living room, frantically opened the doors and windows to let in some air. He was eventually able to sleep that night, except he had to get wet from the rain pounding inside the house.

The following day, electricity in their home had not returned. The problem is, an airconditioning unit was an absolute necessity for dad to be able to rest properly. Thankfully, hubby and I were able to find and book a hotel where he and mom could stay in for the night. The following morning, the power was finally restored, so they were able to go home.

Apart from this night, it’s remarkable how things have seemingly returned to normal. On the surface at least.

We (my siblings and I) have returned to normal programming. Back to work full-time, back to our same old normal activities that define our respective family lives. Of course apart from me making a conscious effort to visit dad and mom at least once a week (this is a lot. In the past, seeing them once a month was already a big deal!), I would also call them every now and then to check up on them.

Doesn’t sound like much.

What I’ve come to realize though in the past week while restoring some normalcy in my own home, is that once something like this happens, things will never ever go back to how they used to be. Not anymore.

I read in a blog written by a father whose son passed away as a little boy that when tragedy strikes a family, you start defining events in your life relative only to when the tragedy occurred. Everything – all events, all get-togethers, all chats, all milestones — either happened before “it” happened, or after “it” happened. That’s it.

Dad is still alive. Tragedy hasn’t really struck yet, and hopefully he has many years yet to live and be with us.

But already, subtle changes here and there have come to be, and have become the new “normal”.

A phone call or text message from mom and dad is no longer just something I can choose to respond to at a later time when I’m free. When my phone rings and it’s one of them, I pick up right away, even if I’m in the middle of something important.

Every peso saved is no longer a peso I can set aside to buy a new outfit, a new book or a new DVD. Nowdays, every peso saved stays saved, for the possibility and likelihood that we will need it for dad’s treatments and medical bills at some point in time.

When a typhoon, earthquake or some other natural phenomenon strikes, it’s no longer about the repercussions on me or my hubby. It’s now – are my parents okay?

When mom spends hours chatting me up on the phone and telling me about all her woes, her problems, her disappointments with everything in general, I can’t shut her out anymore cause I know she needs this time to vent and rant — otherwise she’d go crazy and/or sick (she IS the one with dad and all his mood swings and general depression, 24/7).

When bills come in every month and mom and dad run short on paying the bills, it’s no longer an option of “I have no money this month, sorry”. There has to be a way to get that money and make sure all bills are paid. Even if it means their electricity bill is triple what it used to be.

They’re small things. Nothing earth-shattering. But they’re changes nonetheless.

Thing is, I believe that everything – even bad things that happen to people you love – happen for a reason. For everyone it affects. While this may just be the beginning of an epic journey for us as a family, I think this ordeal is forcing me to become a better daughter and sister.

Beneath all the small, almost imperceptible changes that we’re going through, I think this is teaching me to be more patient and loving. To be more understanding and accepting of my parents and all their frailties. To sacrifice lovingly and willingly, without expecting anything in return. To grow up, and give back for the best-laid plans they always had for me.

Dad turns 60 years old in two days. It used to be just another date in the calendar. Now, it’s a celebration of another day he’s alive.

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