Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dad, Cancer

Grief is a universal form of mental anguish that is very difficult to overcome, it takes courage and time to truly recover, if at all possible (I don’t know). Most people have lost someone they love and can hopefully understand the multi-faceted response to loss.

My father fought cancer (a topic I wrote about extensively at a previous post from last year) for more than a year and sadly passed away on October 28, 2008. With the stress of having to resume medical school and his request that I not repeat my school year, I made the decision to finish the semester despite a broken heart. It is strange to admit how the school-work load became a form of mental diversion which kept me from dwelling too much on my fathers death. But now that we are on holiday vacation, the pain and grief intensifies.

While in school, I asked the Dean of Students for a leave of absence since the oncologist had announced that Dad would have only weeks to survive. He was placed at Hospice Care where I spent his last two weeks with him. On Monday morning, he sadly passed away. Within days of the terminal diagnosis, his semblance changed dramatically. Always complaining of pain, loosing weight, refusing to eat, difficulty breathing… Just writing about this tears me inside. Briefly, the point I will try to make is that suffering is one of the least understood and highly controversial topics one will ever encounter. Having to witness a loved one experience such slow and prolonged systemic pain, makes one question why this is happening. We all should realize that suffering is an element of the human condition, but even domestic animals are spared such suffering by their owners by putting them to sleep. Why should a
human being who wishes to stop his pain be denied such option? The gentleman two doors from my fathers bed had terminal osteosarcoma and wanted to end his life because of the unbearable pain. The concept of euthanasia in such cases, like Dad and the gentleman, has made me reconsider the idea of euthanasia based on suffering. However, I will admit perhaps my emotions are clouding my judgment and with time will posit a better, more academically refined rationale in supporting euthanasia in such controversial cases.

One of the most inspirational speeches I‘ve heard was given by Jim Valvano, the man often quoted for his famous phrase, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” This quote truly embodied my Dad’s approach to life. It reflects him as the man I have known throughout 23 years. Dad was a stubborn, relentless and inspirational human being. Throughout his fight with cancer, he showed courage and serenity; an unrelenting spirit filled with hope such that his desire to live was solemnly contagious. Despite his pain, Dad would go about the yard wanting to use his carpentry tools for house maintenance, handling the huge weed-whacker to cut the lawn or starting up his old truck. Dad refused to let any one tell him he was limited, and would go about trying to show people they were wrong. He did so many times… Whenever my brothers and I were taking pictures of him, he would laugh while giving us the middle finger - something that always brought smiles to our faces since we were young boys.

As we grow, we get things taken from us- a reality that is hard to embrace. In fact, we only learn this when we start loosing stuff.

With all due respect, **** cancer, and **** all the Goddamm suffering in this *****-up world.

1 comment:

JustAnotherGirl said...

Thank you for your encouraging words. I am sorry for your loss. My uncle battled leukemia a few years back, and the pain is still the same every time I think about how much he suffered through his final days as well.