On Friday September 20th, 2019 6.40 AM, cancer claimed the life of my dear father. He just turned 59 years old last June. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer since 2017 and had been living with it ever since. It’s hard to talk about my father because growing up, I had so few memories of him. Those memories are the hidden treasures that I cherished the most and become a part of me.
In my eyes, my father is a hard-working man, stubborn and persistence when facing challenges and not easy to give up. All his life I felt that his priority was working. We often disagree and had arguments because he’s a big finance guy that driven by logical thinking, careful planning while I’m the wild-spirit, spontaneous and big dreamer. But deep down I know I’m very much like him. He passed down to me his love for music, his great sense of style, his perks for spectacle eyewear. At home, he would call me,” The greatest”. He said that’s the word my name originated from. Greta = Great. He didn’t always agree with my life choices. He wanted me to have a stable job or better yet, become a doctor, save up and get married but didn’t say anything when I went backpacking alone, traveling cross country or move to Bali and went to the US. I remember his eyes would enlarge while listening to my crazy travel stories, knowing it’s something that he would never do. He always takes pride from my photography, said that he bought my first Fujifilm pocket camera. My father is not perfect but he taught me to have the empathy to the less fortunate, to love and help others when they are in need. “Life is like a wheel, Greta. When God gives you enough blessings and put you above everyone else, don’t forget to help others who are not as fortunate because when you hit the bottom low, you will be surprised who will be God’s extended hand to help you when you are in need. People will show their true color when you don’t have anything to give them.”
After my breast cancer diagnosis and surgery in 2015, he always asked about my health, about my diet and why I chose the holistic approached. He would always remind me to avoid grilled stuff and fast foods when I travel. He made sure I did my annual follow-ups and check-up. He reminded me to stay happy and don’t stress too much about work. He told me about articles he read about alternative cancer treatment. He always worried about me. I never imagined in 3 years, I would be the one who lost him from cancer.
After my father’s diagnosis, our family endured a great deal of hardship, suffering, fear and enormous financial burdens. For the past 2 years, I could only wish our family had enough money to put my dad into the treatment and service he needed. Being a stubborn man that he is, he insisted to stayed on herbal treatment, argued that it works with me even though I told him that the approached doesn’t always work and different with everybody. Last year, I expressed my frustration towards him, begged him to give up the herbal medicine and take the conventional treatment instead after I brought him to the hospital for a check-up. He looked away as he replied,” Iya, Greta. Papa tau tapi duit darimana? KIta gak punya uang. (Yes, Greta. I know but we don’t have enough money). I felt like there was a lump in my throat. My logic grew bigger than my faith. What he said is our reality. How can we pay for a tumor removal surgery and an 18-months hormone therapy that cost $3000 per injection? and did I mentioned the cost of chemotherapy and radiation? We had to sell our property to pay for my father’s surgery but it was already too late. The doctor successfully removed the tumor from dad’s spine with the hope that he would be able to walk again but turned out, cancer already spread.
It took my father 14 months of increasing pain with a physical disability started from his legs to his back. I remembered when he tried to suppress the pain just so he can do a father-daughter dance at my sister’s wedding. At night, he slept for 3 hours and woke up in the middle of the night, saying,” It hurts. My back so painful.” repeatedly. There was never enough pain killer to stop it. The pain consumed his body and spirit. During our video call, our conversation would last for 2 minutes. 4 minutes and to see him smile and laugh considered my lucky day and that only happened if he regained enough strength to endure the pain. The final weeks of his life were unbearable to watch. The cancer metastasis deteriorated his bones, pressed on his nerves, blocked his gut and throat that he can’t eat or drink, compress his heart that it can’t beat properly, gradually cut off the air supply that made him gasping for air. His organs stopped working one by one. He begged for the doctor and nurse in the hospital to take his own life because he can’t endure it any longer. What left of him was skin and bones. I couldn’t recognize him anymore. He didn’t look like my father. I prayed every single day, that God would lift his pain and suffering. You don’t want to die like this. You don’t want to die a slow death from cancer.
As I watched my father drew his last breath, I thought how much I would miss him when I eventually walk down the aisle, how much I would miss him during father-daughter dance or family holidays, he would never see me raising my own family, I’ll never be able to go to him for advice. Losing a parent made me realize that family isn’t a choice but loving them is. This cancer not only affected my father but our whole family, especially my mom. She has been our rock all along while taking care of our father. My hope is that no family should ever go through the same heartache and struggle of losing their loved one from cancer. That they can get the support and service that wasn’t available when we needed it the most. For those who have extended their hands and helped us during this tough times, we can only say thank you and may God return to you, for your love, your kindness, generosity, and goodness a thousand-fold in blessings.
And for you, Papa, Rest in peace. You don’t have to worry about anything now or working too hard. No more pain, Papa. I wish you had more time so that I can take you and mama with me in one of my adventures but I know up there is more beautiful than anything the world can offer. I’m sure you enjoy the music in heaven far more than listening to your turntable at home. I love you and I will miss you every day until we meet again in that bright morning when Jesus comes.