Thursday, April 19, 2007

Chapter Two - To Tell or Not To Tell

Chapter Two

To Tell or Not to Tell

… better to let him know while he is still relatively strong, than at a later stage when he is expected to get worse.

WE WERE IN a dilemma. It was, as someone said, easy to suggest that a patient should always be told of his condition, but it was difficult for those who were taking care of him if the knowledge of imminent death created more anxiety. After much deliberation, the family finally arrived at one conclusion: we would have to tell him soon that his time was running out. He was dying of lung cancer.
“I think you all have to tell him anyhow,” my Uncle Billy advised, as we walked into the lift about to leave the hospital that evening after listening to the doctor’s explanation. “It is better to let him know while he is still relatively strong, than at a later stage when he is expected to get worse.”
I agreed, but said that the whole family should be together with him, when we decided to break the news. At least we could join our efforts to relieve his anxiety of facing death.
The doctor cooperated very well with the family members, in keeping the news from him. He just told Father that he had contracted tuberculosis and would prescribe him TB medication for two weeks before discharging him on September 23, exactly ten days later.

His Condition Got Worse
The ten days that he spent in the hospital were the greatest torture for him. He simply hated being hospitalised. He admitted, however, that he was a lot better than when he was first admitted. Having been given adequate medical treatment, including using the nebuliser, his condition had improved.
The real suffering only began the day after he was discharged. He had diarrhoea and started vomiting as well. According to Mother, he had to relieve himself nearly four or five times throughout the night. I began to feel very concerned about his condition.
Even when I returned to my own home, leaving behind my mother to take care of Father, I was unable to sleep. On my bed, I kept pondering over the thought that Father was going to go in just six months. And, he had not been saved yet. Besides, Mother needed someone to help take care of him. Neither she nor my younger sister had the strength to help him to the toilet.
That night, he woke up nearly every hour. Sometimes, he was able to pass motion, but at other times, he only complained of stomach upset. Fortunately, he was able to walk on his own, except for a little help to walk him to the toilet.
His condition began to worsen as time passed. As he was not eating well, his legs were beginning to grow weaker until he was unable to walk properly. By the time Uncle Billy and family arrived on Saturday evening of September 26, Father was already very weak and needed a walker. By Sunday, September 27, his condition had deteriorated to the extent that he was beginning to show signs of tiredness.
The following day, I bought a walker from Guardian Pharmacy to help Father, as his legs were growing weaker. A few days later, I had to borrow a wheelchair from Pastor Sia Siew Chin of Beautiful Gates. It was a very timely help as we were already spending a lot on his medical bills. We knew that he only needed a wheelchair for a short span of time. To borrow one was the best option.
I made an offer to Mother: "Should you need my help at any time to stay overnight, please let me know.”
Mother did not hesitate a moment. "You want to stay overnight, right. Maybe, you can start tonight," she suggested, feeling relieved that at least someone had offered to help. She must have gladly welcomed the thought that I was offering myself to take care of Father.
That night, Mother and I put our efforts together to care for him and walked him slowly to the toilet. He was frequently saying that he had stomach upset. Apparently, he was having diarrhoea. Thick watery motion was discharged each time he went to the toilet. I could hardly have any sleep myself.
“I think we should take turns round the clock to look after him. Both of us should not wear ourselves down by keeping on vigil all the time,” I told Mother on the third day.
By this time, my youngest sister, Su Li was also helping out. Father was too heavy for them, each time he needed their help in the toilet. As his legs were not improving, he could hardly stand unsupported for more than five minutes in order to put on his trousers.
Mother suspected that the doctor's medication could have caused the diarrhoea. I decided to consult Dr Yap over the phone.
“Normally TB medication would not cause diarrhoea,” he assured me. “However, if you feel that the medication could have contributed to the diarrhoea, you may stop it for three days just to see if there is going to be any improvement.”
We never suspected cancer of the colon. To have lung cancer was bad enough! It turned out that Father was probably also suffering from colon cancer.
I managed to get some Lomotil tablets to temporarily control his diarrhoea. Taking the pills helped a little, but there was no significant improvement at all. Each day and night, he visited the toilet at least eight times, much to the exasperation of my mother and myself.
It was harder for Mother as she had to take care of Father at night and at the same time, doing all the household chores in the daytime. I believe the little help I could offer to look after Father at night could only relieve her a little. But not much, as she was unable to sleep on most nights. She loved the man she had married for nearly 43 years. She could not bear the thought of abandoning him to his pains.
For the rest of the days before he passed away, my days were revolving around work in the daytime and taking care of Father at night. His ordeal lasted for nearly two months before he passed away. In the final two weeks that I was looking after him, I learnt that there is power in touch. My love and appreciation for him as a son grew as a result of the time spent with him. He leaves behind a legacy that we, his children, will all learn to cherish.
The man, whose main objective in life was to go after the pleasures of the world, finally found the Shepherd of love at a crucial turning point in his life.

No comments: