This post is not going to be easy for me to write. I lost my father a couple of weeks ago to his prolonged illness caused by the metastasized prostate cancer. Diagnosed at an advanced stage 6.5 years ago, it has been a long hard battle for all of us. At the time of diagnosis, he was given about 18 months. We, of course, beat that estimate by many a mile! For almost 4 years after the diagnosis, he managed to lead a fairly normal life, with some amount of nagging issues. This was with the help of the cancer drugs and in parallel taking Ayurvedic treatment specific for cancer from an Ayurvedic cancer center in Kerala.
To the external world of course, he looked his hale, hearty, healthy self - energetic, robust and enthusiastic. So, we let that be. We hardly mentioned it to anybody we ran into on a daily basis. He wanted to be seen not as a cancer patient, but a regular retired person going about his everyday business. Some of you who are my friends and who are reading about this only now maybe very surprised reading this and all that is going to follow in this post.
After a fairly bearable 4 yrs, started his suffering. It was an extremely slow, steady deterioration. The cancer triumphed with tenacity and strength. He has had extreme pain/discomfort practically in every part of his body. We have been through many, many challenges in these years. The sure deterioration started about 2 years ago. But it was the last one year that was really really bad on him, and on those of us who saw him succumb steadily. What hurt the most was to watch the cancer eat into his immense energy and unbridled enthusiasm.
The deal with caring for the terminally ill is the knowing that you are fighting a losing battle right from the start. It is almost impossible to feel hopeful, and you almost always feel helpless. After all what you are up against is so much more bigger and vicious than anything you have ever encountered. But, what I must say is how my mom in spite of it all was always hopeful and tried to find solutions to all of the complications. Regular western cancer medicines can only help you so much, especially in handling the complications that arise because of cancer. So, you must find workarounds practically on your own. And my mom worked miracles in trying to read, research, and find many alternative solutions to simply make his everyday living a lot more livable. I admire her spirit and strength in staying hopeful in spite of knowing the downhill road we were on.
As I conclude, I want to share this one evening from many many years ago, from the early 80s. Then, my parents and I lived on the Old Airport road in Bangalore. And seeing planes in the sky from the door-step was an everyday thing. But I had still not seen a plane from close quarters. And one evening, my dad took my mom and me to the airport. We just had to take a ride to the airport. In those days, the old airport didn’t even have compound walls, just a fence to separate the airport boundary from the sidewalk on the Airport road. We found a spot from where we could watch a plane from real close. I was about 7 or so, and my dad in his late 30s. I still distinctly remember him looking down at me after I had seen the plane. He was young, robust, in the pink of health (he was very healthy for most of his life, that is until the cancer infested his body), a head full of very thick pitch black hair and ….. smiling. And for some reason that image of him has come to be ever lasting. His smile had so much of love for me ….. me, his only child. Who knew, years later, it was that image that was going to stay imprinted in my mind. Especially after having seen him succumb and crumble to the dreaded growth inside. The physical changes in the last year were so hard to watch. The cancer was succeeding and we couldn’t do a thing to prevent it.
What a life he led! He was very hardworking, honest, energetic, always on his feet, never down with even a fever, paid a lot of attention to details, understood things at length, spoke to everybody he came across, and to now know that he is no more is heartbreaking to say the least. My children are too young to know what is it they have lost. He loved them sooo much and now they don’t even know the huge source of unconditional love that they have lost …. forever But I know that loss, and that makes it all the more hard on me. My dear children having to grow up without my dear father.
My dad with my daughter, Aug 03 in our Calif home. He loved, adored her. (That head full of hair never came back in full after all the chemo. Oh the chemo and the toll it takes! Hair loss is the least of all miseries.)In the end, my parents came out with flying colors.
- He, for enduring the disease
- and She, for battling it for him.
They are my heroes for all that they have been. I got to witness both - his endurance and her battle. And to watch it helplessly has been the greatest test of my strength. I kept quiet for most of last year. I haven’t spoken about it in detail to too many people, just to a couple of good friends. Keeping to myself in the midst of all this seemed like the default choice. Of course, my husband always was my greatest support. Together, we got to see it all. It has been 2 years since we returned to Bangalore, and we managed to spend time with him on almost all days that we were in Bangalore in that period.
I am thankful to all our extended family members who helped us immensely in all ways possible. I was with my dad when he breathed his last, just the way I wanted it. It is going to take me a long time to get over the grief. I am afraid, I may never get over it completely. And …. I am ok with that.
PS: If you know of anybody who is dealing with cancer (prostate in particular) and if s/he or a family member wants to talk to somebody about it, please feel free to give them my email - chitra [_] aiyer [@] yahoo [.] com. I will be more than happy to share from experience and share ways by which we managed the complications. And if somebody wants an ear to listen to their plight, I will be happy to visit (anywhere in Bangalore). Because I know how exceptionally difficult it can be for close family members to talk to the affected person. It is easier for an unattached person.I will also be happy to give doc/hospital details, and lastly the contact details of the palliative team that we came to so depend on in the last 1.5 years. The palliative team is so praiseworthy that I will be writing about those docs and nurses in detail in another post.
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