When people walk up to me these days and ask how my father is doing, I honestly don’t know how to respond. I’ve been asked that question many times over but I still can’t get myself to compose a standard answer–one that is palatable but would be faithful to his real condition now. “Mabuti naman siya” won’t do as he isn’t stable yet. But he is in a much better condition now than two weeks ago: shrunken cheeks and torso, color had left his face, and he could barely sit down to eat. “Recovering” won’t fit either because though he is in a better condition I am not sure if there’s a way for him to bounce back from cancer and it’s complications given that he won’t allow the doctors to perform surgery on him nor would he agree to undergo chemotherapy.
The earliest diagnosis that indicated the probability of him having lung cancer was summer of 2009. His joints from head to feet were swelling like anything. Not arthritis according to the lab test results, uric acid levels were normal. Not finding anything conclusive, he was given meds to remedy joint pains and, for our part at home, we didn’t serve uric-acid rich foods on the table. Nothing’s changed, however, after one month, and it got his doctor thinking. But when an x-ray of his chest came into the picture the equation changed dramatically because there it was sitting gloriously and proudly on the upper side of right lung: a big mass of misbehaving cells. Might be cancer. Could be the source of fluids lodged in his joints. Might be the thing that’s causing him pain. Might be… Could be… He need’s to undergo a CT Scan-guided biopsy, the doctor said. They needed to do it so they could give us something conclusive and prescribe medication that is more directed to his real condition. Fear is what the whole family felt, on different levels. And as expected, NO was his answer.
Thus, alternative medicine accompanied our prayers for his health: crystals, albularyos, feng shui items, herbal meds, carrot juice, kangkong tops, and the like. But to no avail. Our three-day island hopping trip in the Visayas last December for his and mama’s 25th wedding anniversary was his last major lakad. Painful and heart-wrenching is how I’d describe seeing our father, who has always been the strong man of the house, slowly wilt under his illness. It’s almost unbelievable to see it happen day by day.
Prayers for and with the family have been keeping us hopeful that things will be better someday. Prayers may be intangible but knowing that there is an outpouring of compassion and love from most people we know speaks to and warms our hearts. The emotional, financial, and spiritual support we get from close friends in the office and the community quells much of our fear of being alone in this experience. If, by chance, you read the thank you note I posted on my Facebook and Twitter accounts some days ago, trust me that it came from the heart.
I am well aware that there are families out there who have gone through/still going through the same, or maybe even more than what we are experiencing. And if there’s anything that this experience has taught me at this point, it’s my newfound compassion and respect for them. I now feel how gripping this cancer drama is. I now know why cancer survivors are being celebrated and I think their families also deserve the same.
This is not an epilogue to an ongoing saga that is our family’s battle with the Big C. The situation isn’t over yet. Fr. Tuzzi Flores, our parish’s administrator, among other select people, was able to convince papa to have himself admitted to the hospital last week. We brought him there on his terms: no surgery, no chemotherapy. We happily agreed. He is currently receiving supportive care, a term we all use to describe the treatment accorded to him with respect to the conditions he laid out.
Not an epilogue, definitely. But the new reality our family is facing right now is slowly taking its toll on us. A week in the hospital seemed like eternity and I personally do not know where it’s heading. Fear of the unknown. Fear of not knowing when it will all stop. Fear of not getting back to normal.
As I type this piece, I do not really have something clear to impart to you my reader. I just want these thoughts to be put out in the open just to lighten the load. And with this closing thought is an appeal for you to always include my family in your prayers, most especially our mother, Edna. And if one of these days we’d meet down the hallway or you’d drop me a note and ask how my father is doing and I won’t be able to answer clearly, please understand. I know that you are not really wanting to get a full report of his medical condition but it’s a way for you tell me that you care enough to ask how I am doing in the midst of all these things. I believe that those questions are little prayers which hope for our patient and the whole family’s well being. Thank you for asking/praying for us. We appreciate it much.