When the inevitable happens

It's been a while. Actually, this is the first time since the beginning of December that I can sit in front of my own computer and catch up on my "other life". It's been 35 days since I received a phone call from my sister saying it was time to "say goodbye" to my father and I booked a plane on the next day. It's also been 3 weeks since my father passed away at a hospital in his hometown with his family around him.

If you're bummed out about cancer talk and the death of someone because of it, I advise you to stop reading now.

What was the problem? My father was diagnosed with lung cancer back in May 2014. At that time he was smoking daily since over 40 years. He was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer type, which has really low survival rates. Since it was diagnosed at a later stage, my father was given a few months at most (6 months at most).

What they didn't know was my father a retired military officer with  He was a bit overweight at that time with minor diabetes, but otherwise he was strong and I had never seen him ill until that time. Even he passed the regular cold like it was nothing. He had a strong body forged in the military. Body only gets you so far though, he also had the right mentality and optimism. Not like Polyanna type of optimism, but he generally didn't care about the cancer and was willing to do what was necessary without complaining. He was sure he was going to beat it, but if he didn't, he also accepted that.

During his 18 months or so of cancer treatment, he completely cleared his body of cancer with treatment 3 times. The happy "all clear" every patient and relative wants to hear. However this type of cancer is known as being extremely responsive to chemo, but the problem with the small-cell lung cancer is that it pretty much never goes away. There's always a small lump of cells that don't show up in PET scans, so you can't just go on living a normal life. You have to keep going with the chemo after a small break to recover sometimes not even that and some radiotherapy just to make sure) and it eventually comes back again. Mostly in a greater magnitude since the body is weaker now.

Do I even mention what chemo does to your body? It's basically poison for your body. Yes it destroys rapidly-reproducing cells (that's why the hair falls out) which also include cancer cells, but it also hurts your body as a whole as well. So when the next recurrence comes, the body is much weaker to fight against it. Alternative treatments help (and we tried pretty much everything available) but they help only so much. There's no "miracle medicine", it's just a bunch of people selling overpriced hope. Slowly the body starts degrading both due to cancer and the chemo.

The "terminal phase" comes when your body is too weak to receive chemo, but at the same time the cancer is wreaking havoc in your body. Despite beginning in his lung the cancer never touched his lung again after the first treatment. No, it settles in the weakest parts of your body next time. For my father, it was his liver at the end. He already had diabetes and the chemo took its toll. So when the cancer came back for the fourth time, it chose his liver. The liver pretty much stopped working with no way for us to stop it. His blood test values were simply not good enough to receive chemo. The doctors told us it was pretty much over.

In the last week of November, he suddenly stopped eating. Eventually we had to start feeding him with serum. Since he lacked energy, he stopped moving around. His belly got slowly bloated due to all the fluid build-up in his liver. His eyes turned yellow, his mind became cloudy. Then came the excruciating pain. He was dying. We took checked him in the hospital when his pain became too much to handle at home. He died a week after. I saw him give his last breath with his eyes open, looking at us. Despite being on a fuckton of painkillers he was still awake even at that moment.

Fuck cancer.

It's the worst feeling. You know you have this instinct to protect your relatives from harm, but cancer is such that you can't protect them from themselves. It's better for someone to die from a heart-attack or something rather than watching them slowly die and degrade over years. You know what the funny thing about this? Since you're with them, you don't notice it. You don't notice them degrading since it happens slowly and you see them every day. Only when you look at their pictures before the sickness that you realize what's happening to them.

The thing is, he knew he was at fault as well. For years we were pestering him to stop smoking and live healthier (he wasn't very active), but he went to great lengths to ignore it. He had a "just let me enjoy my little thing" attitude. In the end excessive smoking, living unhealthy and stress from his after-retirement job all combined and caused this cancer. He never complained during his sickness, he never showed his real pain to us. He simply accepted it and went through it. It takes a lot of strength to do that. He didn't want to us to be sad. Even in his last month, all he was worried about was our well-being.

He was that kind of a person. Compassionate and caring, even when was dying and had nothing to lose anymore. Cheerful, fair. Almost a hundred people turned out for his funeral in his hometown, far away from major cities. We received hundreds of phone calls from his buddies from the military, generals, soldiers who worked under him and even the freaking cleaning guy from the shopping mall he was the manager of after retiring. He was great at making friends and it made me very happy that he was so much loved both inside and outside the family.

It's just not fair. He really didn't deserve this, nor his family. But as the saying goes "the good guys die early". I'm really sad that he could not enjoy his retirement. Just as he stopped his job being the manager of the mall he was diagnosed with cancer.

He died just shy of his 60th birthday. His father also died at 60. He endured it for 18 months, much past the "3 months, 6 months at most" diagnosis. As the last bearer of our family name, the bar has been set pretty low for me.

If you made it down this far, let me say something to you. If you have a family and people who care for you, you're obligated to look after yourself. You can't have a "fuck it, I lived long enough" attitude. Nothing is more important than your health. If something is stressing you out a lot, get rid of it. Talk to people about it. Don't let it stay inside. If your body is showing signs that it's stressed, listen to it. Take care of it. Nothing, absolutely nothing is more important than living healthy. You only realize it after you lose it.

Don't listen to those people giving examples like "But X smoked for Y years and he's as health as a boar!". They're lying to themselves. Nobody is the same. Cancer is like Russian roulette. The unhealthier you live, the more bullets you load in the revolver. Eventually, you will find the bullet. I'm not saying become a health-freak and start drinking vegetable juice and eating grass, just take care of the major issues. Fitness, diet, smoking, alcohol, stress.

I'm saying these, but I'm not that kind of a person either. I have a lot to work out becoming such a person and hopefully I will, before it's too late.

You will be sorely missed Recep. Thank you for everything.

I'm sorry for making such a post on this "gaming" themed blog, but it's the only place I can actually let it out.

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About Rak

I'm an engineer who likes to write extremely long articles about games that border simulation and mainstream.
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