The Holiday That Changed Everything
It was a journey that began when my father and I returned from holiday. My father was feeling unwell, and upon visiting the hospital, they found a black spot on his chest. He was then diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. At the time, his main symptoms were coughing up blood and blood in his urine. Despite the diagnosis, my father didn’t experience any physical pain. However, my family and I felt unsupported as he was isolated in the hospital, and he also faced a language barrier. My father struggled to sleep, and it affected my mother and the rest of the family. He underwent a part lobectomy, which is a procedure to remove the cancer, and after regular check-ups, we were told that everything was okay. Chest X-rays came back normal for four years. However, my father’s symptoms started to return, and he lost his appetite and became severely depressed after my mother’s sudden death. This was a great shock for me as she passed away unexpectedly next to me during a car ride.
My father’s pain worsened, and blood started to appear in his urine and vomit again. Despite the tests not showing anything in his lungs, he continued to deteriorate. The oncologists kept reassuring us that everything was fine. However, my father’s headaches were so severe that I pushed for another MRI of his head. Upon request, the oncologist conducted another MRI and informed us that my father had tumours in his brain and kidneys. The cancer was not curable and would affect his ability to walk, but radiotherapy was recommended to delay the experience and improve his quality of life.
My husband, children, and I moved in to care for my father. I became a full-time carer; his cancer had rapidly spread within four years of the initial diagnosis. We were not well supported, and there were no facilities to make day-to-day life easier, even after Macmillan finally provided a bed downstairs. Slowly, my father’s condition worsened, and he passed away in July 2022 (May Allah have mercy on him)
I always feel like I should have stayed with my father longer, despite the fact I was with him all the time. I think it is a guilt that every loved one deals with. Providing end-of-life care was heart-breaking, and it was a struggle to deal with the grief, especially since some of my family members were more concerned with inheritance and other matters and did not offer any support. Often this can be the case, it’s difficult to undergo such a traumatic experience when not all the family members are on the same page. Grief can also worsen already complicated family dynamics. The only thing that kept me going was my faith and belief in Allah.
If you or someone you know is going through a similar experience, it is important to know that they should not give up. For patients, having family and loved ones there for emotional support is crucial. If you cannot be there in person, at least keep in touch. Sharing the responsibility with family members also helps ease the pain. Don’t isolate yourself and make sure you reach out for help. I remember spending Ramadan in hospital, when the doctors told my dad, he only had 4 months left to live, each day he would want me to write the date on a whiteboard. It felt like a countdown and was extremely difficult. Seek out help, Despite the fact that I was never offered any materials, or signposted to any help, when I would accompany my father to his radiotherapy appointments, I always made an effort to read all the brochures and leaflets there, and bring them home. The wait was especially tough for me since we were not allowed to accompany my father whilst he underwent the treatment, he had a customised mask fastened onto the treatment table, specifically built to fit tightly around his head. This would frequently result in me silently crying as I could only imagine the physical and the distress he must have been feeling. Despite being told by others that I appeared to be in a terrible mood, no one seemed to completely comprehend the situation’s significant impact and anguish. Reading through the accessible informational materials gave me with relief and comfort in knowing that I was not alone, as well as some helpful direction for what we were experiencing.
If you are worried about any health issues, no matter how mild, it is important to seek medical attention. If you smoke, it is crucial to quit for the sake of your health and the health of your loved ones. Our elderly generation may not always ask for help, but it is important to support them and ensure they receive the care they need. Make the best of the memories with your loved ones.
The pain to losing family members to cancer is horrifying. Keep faith in Allah, support one another. It may not get easier but dealing with it will.