Our Battle with Cancer. Chapter 7.

Here’s a brief lowdown of what’s been happening since my last post.

It doesn’t look good. Dad’s cancer is advancing too rapidly. The doctors showed me his x-ray results on the day he was confined (2 weeks ago), and the x-ray results from yesterday. The difference is staggering. As of yesterday, only a third of his left lung remained visible. The rest is filled with a growing tumor, and fluid that’s been accumulating as a combined result of his emphysema and his tumor.

Doctor told us yesterday that it’s unlikely that dad can go home anymore. He needs to be under constant medical supervision now.

So it’s really only a matter of time. The doctor’s guestimate — 3 months left.

A friend told me that there are stages, and there are signs when it’s time to prepare yourself for the worst.

The first is the doctor’s prognosis. And the same doctor discussing with us the need for one of us to sign a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) form soon.

The second is dad asking mom yesterday to “let him go” because he’s already having such a difficult time. And mom breaking down throughout the day in front of us, for the first time since this all began.

The third… well, I guess if you choose not to ignore the facts and confront the possibility.. then a part of you also knows when it’s time to start letting go, and giving him permission to let go if he’s ready for it already.

The fact that I can write this post without feeling a lump in my throat is something I’m grateful for.

There’s nothing on earth that can prepare anyone for news like this. It’s nothing short of a massive emotional roller coaster ride.

In the midst of all of this, I am supremely grateful for the brief moments in time when I actually feel a sense of normalness.

Spending time with people who are not part of the family crisis to talk about more bite-sized problems are a blessing.

Immersing in a specific goal-oriented task which has an end in mind reminds me that life goes on, and that when everything blows over, there’s something to fall back on that resembles more of the life I used to know.

I suppose I’ve taken the term “walking in a daze” for granted too many times in the past. For now, I seem to find myself doing just that more often than ever. I often feel like a machine that’s just programmed to keep doing things, one after another. It’s like being in auto-pilot. And guess what — walking in a daze as if on auto-pilot is a blessed relief and a wonderful reprieve from the emotional onslaught that comes with going back to reality.

My blog has become my best friend, for in here, I can rant and write anything I want, say what I want to say without fearing anyone being too taken aback; or feeling awkward for lack of something comforting to say. There’s no guilt for causing someone else to have a miserable day. No need to edit and filter the real emotions that courses through my body.

Although I have never really been close to my dad, he’s still my dad. In spite of all the problems we had growing up; and all the problems we had to face as adults because of my dad — at the end of it all, he’s still my dad. I will always love him, and will always want him to be a part of my life in whatever way.

I suppose now that the inevitable is closer than it’s been — unwanted thoughts creep into my mind every now and then.

I was holding a lighter in my hands the other day that reminded me of dad’s persistence in lighting a cigarette even while he was already in the hospital – and it brought a lump to my throat.

All our family get togethers on birthdays and special occasions… well, a day will come when we’ll be one family member less. In the family, dad has always been the grumpy one. Whenever we’d all yap away for hours talking about everything and nothing, he would be the only one sitting on the table with us without really listening and participating. We’d always tease him about it… but I guess we never really minded that he was the way he was. I knew that even if he wasn’t really being very cooperative, he would nonetheless sometimes spend time just gazing at his family all together for that one moment, and feeling that everything is right in the world.

I was writing out a check last night to pay for some bills… and even that hideous check book that was the cause of many fights we’ve had… now brings a tug in my heart.

I can imagine life without dad. But it would admittedly be a life that doesn’t quite feel right anymore.

If it’s already breaking my heart, I can’t imagine how torn and crushed my mom’s heart with all of this. I’ve never known a couple who were and are as close as they are. For the 40 or so years they’ve been married, they’ve always been together. Done everything together. Gone everywhere together. Slept together night after night.

They fought like cats and dogs every single day. And yet their lives are only ever complete when they’re together.

Times like these, “think positive” is just not possible. Thinking positive gives you nothing but false hopes… which helps no one. More than anything, our role now as his family is to make sure that when he goes, he is ready, he has no baggage left that will keep him tied to this life, and that he has peace in his heart.

I believe in everlasting life. And so I will do whatever I can to make sure he gets there.

It hurts letting him go, but it hurts even more seeing him suffer so.

If there’s anything else I’m grateful for… it’s that God is giving us this time to reconcile, to put things to rest as a family, and to just be together at this one time where we all need to stand strong for dad.

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Our Battle with Cancer. Chapter 6.

It’s just been a few days and dad has already taken a turn for the worse.

First, it seems that these past few weeks, he’s been sneaking in cigarettes whenever my mom’s not around. Hence, from a mild case of emphysema a month ago, he’s now progressed to moderate emphysema. He needs to be hooked to an oxygen tank now all the time.

Second, his stay in the hospital hasn’t helped him recover his strength. He still can’t sleep at night, still doesn’t eat. His muscles have started atrophying due to immobility. So he still can’t move around without any active assistance from anyone.

Third, in his quest to try to get discharged already, he asked the doctor for oral antibiotics instead of an intravenous one. The oral antibiotics seem to not be working in curing his pneumonia, so now he’s running a fever.

It’s heartbreaking.

One of the hardest things to deal with when an immediate family member is seriously ill is the effect it has on the family members. Inevitably, it also takes a toll on family relationships. You’ll never see eye to eye on how to handle the situation. Things like these bring out either the best, or the worst in people.

I don’t quite know how it happened… but mom has started treating me like the eldest child in the family. She calls only me when news comes in about dad’s condition. And she makes me be the bearer of bad news to my older brother, and the rest of our relatives. She expects me to handle arrangements about finances with everyone else, and to be the one to make decisions in her behalf.

I’m not complaining.

But admittedly it’s also starting to take a toll on me. It becomes even more difficult when I get calls in the middle of a busy, hectic work day. Of course, family always comes first before work. So there’s no issue there.

I guess it’s just not doing much good for my emotional state of mind. I need these uninterrupted retreats into my work for hours at a time to retain some sense of equilibrium. If I’m not whole, how can I be there for the rest of my family and be the strength they need me to be?

I’ve always heard stories from families suffering through a family member battling a terminal illness and heard how difficult it is for family members. But what I thought…. is nowhere close to how it really is.

*Sigh*

Our Battle with Cancer. Chapter 2.

It’s confirmed. Dad has Stage 3 Large Cell Lung Carcinoma (Lung cancer).

It’s still inconclusive if the cancer has metastasized to his bones and lymph nodes. A previous biopsy done on his lymph nodes done last week turned out negative for carcinoma, so we’re still a little bit hopeful that the Stage 3 is not yet leaning towards the bad Stage 3.

I’ve been spending a lot of time online, reading up on anything possibly related to dad’s condition. From emphysema, to lung cancer treatments, to large cell carcinoma (as opposed to small-cell carcinoma), to the definition of Stage 3 cancer, to alternative medications, to anything else that might actually help in some way.

Here are a few things I learned today:

1. There’s a wealth of medical information about cancer, in general. Anything you may need to know about the condition itself is all online.

2. There’s also a wealth of information about the different treatments for cancer. From the traditional chemotherapy and radiation, to alternative medication and herbal cures. But I’ve yet to see any sites that compare both. And I have seen no sites that compare the different alternative medication options. What makes it even scarier is that you sometimes would find yourself doubting whether or not what’s written is a legitimate product/ review; or just a product of a scam or quack doctor.

3. Since my brother and I are the ones who need to raise the money to fund dad’s treatment (whether out of our own extremely shallow pockets; from the pockets of loan sharks; or from ‘generous’ relatives who will finally pay their debt back), I googled “cost of chemotherapy treatment in the Philippines”. The search did not yield any substantial results. I wonder about this. I know that all things considered, we’re still in pretty much good shape compared to 90% of the country’s population…. but really, in the Philippines this would be the first question out of most people’s lips: how much will it cost to get treated for cancer? I need to know how much we need to raise. But I’ve yet to find any information online that answers this.

4. One of the hardest changes I’ve had to make in my life since this all began (aside from the quitting smoking thing) is acknowledging that I can’t ignore my family anymore. And if it means having to go beyond my usual EQ levels, it’s not really an option not to do it. This extends to being able to stomach talking to relatives I haven’t spoken with (for good reason) for almost a full decade now.

These are very trying times, and this is just the beginning. I worry a lot these days about many things. I guess that’s natural. How this all unfolds, only God can tell.

But I continue to pray for strength and courage enough to endure; and patience and love that this crisis won’t spell the end of a conflict-less relationship with my siblings.