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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cancer Took My Dad Away - One Year On

- Colon cancer is apparently the number 1 disease in Singapore. For more information on this disease, please visit the Heath Promotion Board. My dad was featured in a short video interview at the end of the link's article -

I'm not completely sure if I have overcome my grief toward the passing of my dad.  I guess I may have not because when I recount the last hours of his life - be it in the shower, while I'm cooking or driving in the car with the radio playing his favorite songs,  there will be an unleash of pent-up tears.

My mom has definitely not come to terms with dad being in heaven yet. She often tells me that I don't understand the grieve she has in her heart and I would remind her that I do because he is my father but perhaps, not to the extent of losing the man who has taken care of her every need from the time they got married. Who would have thought he would leave us so soon?

When we first got to know of dad's diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer from the specialist, we were indignant. At that stage as we all knew, his life will be short-lived and the ultimate outcome would be a painful death. Well, to put it bluntly, everyone has to die anyway but life always seem unfair that one has to leave the world behind because of an illness and not of old age. What made us even more upset was that dad was as fit as a fiddle. He had been a sportsman all his life. Yet, a strong, healthy and active man succumbed to this dreadful disease.

Dad had never stepped foot in a hospital for any kind of sickness treatment before so I can imagine how very nervous he was about it when he had to be operated on. Part of his colon were removed and chemotherapy sessions began as soon as he recovered from the operation.

Dad's "moment of fame". He was one of the ambassadors for HPB, advocating the colorectal screening kit.
I admire dad for his jovial and positive disposition throughout his treatment. He was a breath of fresh air to everyone around him despite being in pain. I knew deep down in my heart, he was in pain yet he never showed it. Whenever I saw him crouching to his knees when we were seated,  my heart would break into a million pieces. He would lightly brush me off when I asked if he was okay and I would leave him alone because I didn't want to add on to his frustration. I felt helpless that I couldn't help him feel better in anyway. I could only pray and spent any free time I had with him and mom.

Little else could be done when we found out the cancer cells spread too fast and furious to his liver. His body stopped responding to the chemotherapy sessions after the last few clinical trials he signed himself up for. We were so desperate to prolong his life that we searched the internet for possible natural resources to fight the disease. Dad consumed the 'Sabah snake grass' for a short while - a recommended plant that apparently cured many who juiced the leaves and drank it raw. We also found out at that time, the NTU chinese medicinal department was also researching on this plant as the possible cure to cancer. Perhaps it was all a little too late because his body was already weakened by all the western medication that no amount of supplements could battle with the disease. It was agonizing watching him deteriorate in the last few months of his life.

I will always remember, 3 weeks before his passing, we went out for our last lunch at his favorite coffee shop in Hougang at his request to have char kway teow. After that last outing, he confined himself at home because he no longer had the strength to walk. Not long after, he didn't even had the strength to talk or swallow any solid food. We could only get him nutritional drinks to support his well-being.

A moment with dad while he was resting on his bed just two weeks before he passed on. This photo, taken with my mobile phone, remains a favorite of mine and my mom's.
On the day of his passing, I was with my mom at the hospital for her last checkup on the cataracts that she had removed. After the specialist gave her the all clear, I texted my dad to update him on it as per his request. He was glad that all went well and asked me to accompany mom for lunch. When I sent my mom back home about 2 hours later, my dad had already gone into a vegetative state. We were in shock because he was still quite all right in the morning. We didn't expect matters to take a turn for the worst in such a short span of time. We prepared for the worst.

The most painful moment for me was watching dad take his very last breath that very evening. The moment I had dreaded to face most in my life. I was surprisingly calm and unafraid because I knew God was with all of us in that room. I held on to my dad's arm and gently kissed him goodbye.

My mom, myself, my children and 2 aunts who rushed down upon the news, were with dad at his passing. Regretfully, dad did not manage to wait and bid farewell to my brothers and their families as my brothers were out rushing to pick their children from school, in the hopes of spending the last few moments with him. My husband was also not with me at the time because he had just flown off to Korea for work the night before. I am thankful he took the last flight out that very night to come home to be with me.

Dad battled with colon cancer for 2 years. The moment of his passing still remains vivid in my memory. It only seemed like yesterday and I miss him terribly. On the other hand, I am comforted to know that he is happy in the house of God as the dreams I have of him always portray him in a blissful state.

Today, I remember my dad as it is his 1st death anniversary.

Here's a nostalgic montage my brother arranged, in dad's memory with cool vintage photos from his punky younger days, the wedding with mom, as a national coach, a teacher in Outram Seconday School and the family moments captured in our younger days.

Till the next post, have a blessed week!

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  1. *hugs*...losing someone close to you is definitely heartbreaking. But your father in heaven will be proud to know that a filial daughter like you who is spending more time with your mummy each week will be blessed in happiness in everything you do.

    1. Thank you Amie for your kindest words! I try to be a worthy daughter because when my own daughter grows up, I hope she'll be worthy for me too. :)

  2. *hugs* my dad also had colon cancer, and just yesterday he went for his annual check up and was given an all-clear the 8th time.

    my dad seems a lot like yours. healthy, fit, sportsman (swims and plays badminton at least twice a week). makes you wonder how that is all possible. cancer is really very scary. my mom didn't even tell us about this until my elder sis found out! and even then, she won't say much about it.

    i totally know how it feels to lose someone to anything but old age. my grandma, my friend... all gone too young, too soon.

    1. Mabel, happy to know that your dad's condition is in remission!

  3. Indeed, for to me to live is Christ, & to die is gain - Philippians 1:21 (KJV). Look up, Adeline, so that yr sorrow will be lifted by the golden heaven awaiting all to be reunited.

    1. Yes Jenn! Thanks for the reminder again. Albeit, we are still human flesh in the physical world.

  4. When I read your post it brings me back to my own experience. My dad passed on suddenly too, he was ok that morning but left us the same afternoon. I still remember the day I was in the hospital looking at my dad's peaceful face, I did not make it on time to see him for the last time *sigh*

    1. *hugs* we can only console ourselves that they are now in a pain-free world of their own. Perhaps, it is better that way than to suffer.

  5. I've not had the privilege of meeting your Dad, but knowing you as not only my friend, but as my one and only Ah Che... I'm sure I would have nothing but respect for him.

    I don't think we will ever cease grieving. As long as we love, we will always find a void in our hearts when someone dear passes on, because they cannot be replaced.

    Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone whom you've never met.

    Over time, perhaps we may move on, but they will always be a wonderful memory for us. The pain of not having them around may somewhat lessen, but the dull ache will still remain.

    But look at it this way. As much as he lives on in your hearts, he will be proud to know that his legacy lives in you.

    1. You made me weep (again) with such a touching comment. Thanks Regina for looking up to me that way. :) And I would be sure that if you knew my dad, you would be able to sampat with him like you with me. :p

    2. Hahahhahha!!! You think?! :D

    3. Yes! My dad had an original super corny joke which he shares in the Indonesian accent. It's about a man living in remote village being taught how to use contraception so that his family doesn't keep growing. :p

    4. TSK. So he speaks about contraception. Perhaps next time you can use that when B asks about those candies :D

  6. Hi, I can totally understand how your feel. My mum also passed away a year ago because of breast cancer. She was like your dad as fit as fiddle. It was truly heartbreaking for the family. I still think of her. Your blog reminds me that I am not alone. We will see them someday in heaven...hugs


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