My father died almost 2 years ago because of multiple organ failures but his memory lived in me. His last 4 years was a very enduring journey for our family, especially for my mother who became his personal caregiver. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease on August of 2008. Initially, his doctor gave him maintenance medications to slow the progress of the symptoms, but in a year’s time, the symptoms greatly progressed.
Due to desperation, aside from medical treatments, we also opted to consult quack doctors, acupuncturists, herbalists, and everything else related to disease treatment but to no avail. We always go back to his doctor for additional dosage of the same medicines. New symptoms emerged and the doctor kept on adding new medicines, treating one symptom after another. The last doctor we consulted gave us a dead-end; he said that my father acquired the illness through his occupation – he was chemically poisoned. Being a seafarer for 36 years working at a lower deck of an international tanker ship, it was a no-brainer how my father got his disorder. It was not only Parkinson’s Disease, it was a lot, lot more.
During the first 2 years, his motor skills gradually declined; he can barely walk and can not spoon-feed himself anymore. Notwithstanding his 90-kg physique, we had to carry him wherever he needs to go. The most crucial part that happens every single day was his going to the comfort room when he needs to go; it was a true labor of love that my mother had to go through. My mother is the extension of his body; she did all (as in, all) things for him. My mother bathed him, fed him, scratched all the itch for him, even picked the smallest food particle in his mouth. When my father sleeps, she had to wake up in the middle of the night just to move him in a different position. At times, I find it very scourging and agonizing; my mother’s patience was tested by fire. It was the marriage vows in skin and bones, “in sickness and in health“.
Came the time when the involuntary responses of his body did not function anymore; when my father blinks, his eyes won’t open anymore. His body functions just dropped all together. It tormented me to watch him slowly eaten by his illness. He only communicated with his eyes, nothing else. He looks at me and I see thousands of things he wanted to tell me; that pained me more than anything. I would just cry where he can’t see me.
During these trying times, nothing beats the support that a family can give. My father may not have said anything in his last breath, but deep in my heart I know he wanted to say thank you.
The memory of my father was relived when I came across a very touching story of a family who had gone through the same battling process with chemical poisons, but became successful. The story of Heather Von St. James.
Heather Von St. James was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Mesothelioma in 2005 just after her daughter Lily was born. It is a cancer caused due to her exposure to asbestos when she was a child. After she was diagnosed, she was given only 15 months to live, but she faced all her fears and had her lung removed. Until today she is cancer-free and very active in promoting awareness of the illness. Hers is a very inspiring story of hope, courage, and survival with the love and full support of her family, most especially her husband Cameron.
Her successful surgery was nicknamed “Lung Leavin’ Day” by her sister and they celebrated it every 2nd of February since then. It is now a growing community of what began as a family event in their backyard where they write all their fears in a plate and smash the plates into the fire. I haven’t tried that but I would really love to smash all my fears into something. I salute the couple for a wonderful celebration of life and love.
The “Lung Leavin’ Day” is a very beautiful commemoration to face all our fears and fight them all. To participate in the event, please click this link.