Cancer Killed My Father & I Couldn't Do Anything
My first baby was born on 1st January 2019. What an amazing coincidence. Right? Those days were truly beautiful and amazing. A baby in the house redefines the whole atmosphere. There comes this strange energy in the environment, in people, and in things. Everyone smiles more, laughs more and enjoys more. Everyone starts feeling young or even childish most of the time. And that’s what I wanted to see a lot. Happy faces all around.
I have learned a number of things about human nature and parenting. The babies are truly wonderful creatures. I am still unable to understand how babies actually learn so much things and what are they observing all the time. What is going on in their tiny little minds. Whatever scientific explanation is there, but to me it’s simply fascinating.
But with these beautiful memories and days passing by, there was my father losing smile, strength, health, and specifically memory. He was forgetting names of people, things, paths, routines and more. He started seeing things which weren’t actually there. He started talking about past as its present. He started telling things which didn’t make sense. This made us worried. I mean really worried.
At first, we were confused about it. But since my father — or as I called him “Abu” — had a little history of schizophrenia. So we actually miscalculated it as symptoms of that. We never imagined that this would be the tumor eating the brain from inside. With ongoing consultations with our current doctor, memory loss was a side effect of some medication which had been changed in previous weeks. We thought that this is matter of few days until body accept new medication and then it will be fine again. Like a very gentle and humble person as he was before.
It was that night. That very unfortunate night. There was an ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) championship’s final cricket at that time in my city. Our home is very close to the cricket stadium. Almost all roads surrounding stadium were closed for security purposes. The city was filled with lights, flags, and there was celebration vibe in the air everywhere.
But here my Abu was vomiting over and over again. We were on the way to hospital through those closed roads. Police understood the situation after seeing my father in the passenger seat in a very bad condition and let us pass through the road barriers. After about 20 minutes ride, we reached hospital emergency at around 11:00 pm in night.
After going through some tests and medical procedure whole night, I got a response from doctor saying “I’m sorry to tell you that your father has rapidly growing brain tumor. Its already spread about 80% of the brain. We have to operate it as soon as possible. Let me know your decision quick so I can make arrangements.”
Wait. Just hold on. Are you really saying that this is tumor? Like the cancer? Couldn’t this be food poisoning as he is vomiting? Or maybe it’s just dizziness. Just tell me something which I can believe. I cannot accept this. Or maybe I do not want to accept this… again.
When I was 17 years old and full of life, my mother passed away suddenly. That was the first time I actually saw someone without life. That was first time I actually saw a grave. That was first time I actually saw how a funeral is done. And after that, there was this whole strange vacuum in my heart which couldn’t filled with anything.
And now, here I am in a situation where I have to accept something which I have never imagined or expected. And I don’t know even anything about it.
What’s that supposed to mean? What it’s supposed to do? Eat brain? What will happen once this reaches from 80% to 100%? What happens to body if there’s no brain? What about the feelings my Abu had? What about the conversations we used to have? What about his smile? Or his big soft hand which we siblings used to put on our head when we felt sad, or we were stuck in some problem, or we just wanted to feel an ounce of peace from the noise of this world.
A lot of questions were coming in my mind. But there were no answers. Instead more questions — especially from doctors. “Should we go ahead with surgery and remove tumor?”. Our answer was “We don’t know”. How are we actually supposed to know? Do a Master’s degree on Neurology? Or watch some YouTube videos about it? Or read some random articles on medical websites or Wikipedia?
Days were passing by. Abu’s health was becoming worse. And we all were stuck on one thing:
Surgery or No Surgery.
Pressure from doctors and hospital is increasing. Questions are increasing. Confusions are increasing. Stress is increasing. But Abu’s health state is decreasing. He doesn’t recognize us anymore. The grill around bed feels like a trap cage to him. He is wondering where he is. Why he is there? He even doesn’t know what ICU or a hospital is.
And it seemed like a lifetime to answer one question. That answer was.
A big NO.
NO. We don’t want to do the surgery.
Here. We said it. Was it that hard? I don’t know. I only know that it took me about 2 years to put these words from mind to a screen. How do I feel about it? I dare you don’t take that path. Pretty please!!!!
We didn’t go for surgery. Probably, it was too late to do surgery at that time. Even after surgery there weren’t great chances for recovery. And Abu didn’t have the stamina to fight and do Chemotherapy.
I am no expert in medical or tumor etc. But believe me when I say this.
Chemotherapy is the most brutal and horrible kind of treatment there is. I salute and admire all the people’s courage who have gone through Chemotherapy. And I have great respect for the survivors. Those are real-life heroes.
My father wasn’t that kind of hero though. But he was still our hero. Going through different options, we decided to keep him at home. And take care of him ourselves.
Day by day.
Night by night.
Medicine by medicine.
Tear by tear.
Word by word.
Those 6 months of 2019 were THE most challenging and depressing months of my life. I was supposed to enjoy the new baby and his silly moves. But rather I was crying silently sitting beside my father losing battle to tumor. A stupid brain tumor. How dare it, huh. Every week Abu was losing something. One day we realize he can’t stand up anymore. Next, we realize he can’t even sit now.
Over the weeks, his condition was becoming worse and worse. His legs stopped responding. He lost hearing completely. Pin drop silence. He lost his sight. What a sad day it was. There was a very tensed silence in house all day. It was like no one wanted to believe it. Whatever condition his health was in — at least he was able to see his children. It didn’t matter if he recognized us or not. But it was more than hope for us that he can see us. And he feels that we are there for him and support him.
But now he can’t.
He was in semi-coma about 6 months. Everything was a big challenge we were unprepared for. We never imagined this kind of stuff. The coma was very painful for Abu and probably more painful for us. We couldn’t see him in that pain. And we probably can never understand what Abu was going through.
My mother died suddenly out of nowhere one day. It was shocking. So with that context, there was this one strange thing. No one mentioned it anytime but there was this feeling that one day Abu won’t wake up. We sort of knew and were kinda waiting for that day. We wanted Abu’s pain to end and go away. Probably this was only way. And we assumed that we are ready.
So let me ask you a question.
“Can anyone be ever ready for this? Are 6 months enough to be ready? Enough to say good-bye to father and won’t see him ever again?”
I don’t know the answer. No one knows. I only know that I assumed it would be easier to face Abu’s demise. But one and half years later, I still haven’t been able to accept his death and wish that he was alive.
Yes, he was in Coma. He was in great pain. He didn’t recognize us. He had no memory. He couldn’t stand. Sit. Talk. Hear. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Scream.
He was alive.
That one word. Alive. It mattered a lot. It gave us a hope. It gave me courage that whenever I feel sad, I just have to put his big soft hand on my face. And everything will be fine. All the problems will go away. There will only be peace and happiness. That tiny moment, which felt more than years. That moment gave me power to fight anything in this world. Even this stupid brain tumor.
But now I don’t have that hand.
Don’t have that hope.
Don’t have that power.
Don’t have our beloved Abu anymore.
July 2019. My father passes away. The most saddest day of my life.
It was raining heavily. I remember the phone call I got when I was about to have lunch. My Aunty called me and as soon I picked up the phone, she said:
“Wajahat, Abu has took last breath. Can you come?”
There was a heavy storm and rain going on at that time. I was about 170 KM away from him. The travel was not safe at that time during the storm. Somehow, a rental car driver agreed to go after hearing my reason.
Me and my wife were silent throughout whole 3 hours journey in the car. It’s like we didn’t know what we should say at all.
Due to rough weather, a funeral and burial was not possible. Abu was in the morgue for next 2 days while we were trying to figure out the best time for grave digging process. Weather wasn’t helping us at all.
And then on the 3rd day, we finally buried Abu and did the funeral. And said goodbyes.
There’s this question which sometimes comes in my mind. Would it have been a good decision to go with surgery? Would it have changed the outcome? Do I have any regret about this? Do I feel guilty of not going with surgery?
I don’t know the answers to all these questions. I just know that I don’t have my Abu anymore.
Today, its been almost 20 months, but I still wish that he was alive. I miss his smile. I miss his life advices. I miss his company while going to market for errands. I miss his random poetry and explanations. I miss his stories about him and my mother. I miss his being proud of me and my siblings. I miss his big soft hand over my head and face. I miss his hug. I miss his love for some songs. I miss his innocence when I tried to explain Android development to him. I miss his prayers which made me what I am today. I miss him a lot. And I just wish that he was alive….
I would like to extend huge gratitude to people who helped us in this tough time including my sisters, my Aunty who is like my mother, my wife, my uncles and many more people. Thank you everyone for helping us through our most painful and sad time of life.