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  • Sharon Koay

Going down the cancer journey a second time...


Today marks my mum's 1 year death anniversary. It has also been nearly 9 months since my last post, and so much has happened since then.


For most part of this year, we have been under the Movement Control Order (MCO) restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic - which means online schooling for the boys, no dine-in at restaurants and general stay-at-home orders.


This year, we celebrated my dad's 83rd birthday and Caleb's 15th birthday at home. Everyday, we encourage my dad to stay active with some physical exercise during the day, be it a short walk or a game of ping pong. In the evenings, we alternate between playing Si-Rummy and watching movies on Netflix as a family. And we reminisce daily about the wonderful times we had with my mum. It's amazing how vivid all those memories still are in our hearts and heads.

Having gone down the cancer journey with my mum last year, we truly value quality family time together and have had absolutely no issues with the lockdown restrictions. My boys have matured a lot through that journey, and I am now more aware of the subtle health warning signs that I would have normally ignored in the past.


My dad had been having on-and-off coughs with phlegm since the beginning of the year - which we thought was due to the construction work going on behind our house. I monitored this closely and had to forcefully bring him to the clinic regularly for repeated x-rays, nebulisers and antibiotics, despite his reluctance and accusations of me being a hypochondriac.


As the clinic visits became far too frequent, the GP referred us to a specialist who ran more x-rays, blood tests, urine tests and finally a CT scan on June 28. Sadly, the CT scan results came back showing a small tumour (2.2 x 2.1 x 1.8cm) in his right lung. He was then scheduled in for a biopsy on July 2, with the results coming back showing the tumour as malignant. The next step was a PET scan on July 12 to determine if this had spread beyond the lung. The PET scan results came back showing nodes in the neck, abdomen and pelvis meaning that removal of the lung cancer was no longer a viable option. My dad had to undergo a 2nd biopsy on June 24 to get more sample of the tumour in hopes to identify specific genes, proteins and other factors unique to the tumour so that targeted therapy could be used. Unfortunately, results from that biopsy, as well as a liquid biopsy on August 5, could not provide any information for targeted therapy, which leaves us with traditional chemotherapy to treat the cancer. My dad started his first chemo cycle this month, on August 9.


Last year, I hadn't talked or shared much about my mum's journey with cancer with anyone - even with her, or my dad, or my children. Joshua, my elder son, has since told me that he wished I had been more open with my mum's condition. I guess talking about dying has always been somewhat of a taboo, and I didn't realise then that it was important to be able to have these sort of conversations if a loved one has a life-threatening or serious illness.


I realise that now, and it is my privilege to participate in the Kind Malaysia 2021 Virtual Event next month, and moderate the session on "Talking About End-of-Life Care: Right Conversations at the Right Time" on Thursday, September 9 at 11:30 a.m. This virtual event is free and open to all, so do come and check it out: https://kindmalaysia.com/.


And so I'm doing it differently this time round on my dad's cancer journey. I've been totally open with my dad and my children about his condition and treatment plan every step of the way. I've also leaned on my small group at church for spiritual support, and am so blessed to receive regular words of assurance and prayers from my brothers and sisters in Christ. And since I started this blog a year ago in memory of my mum (which was meant to share life experiences and to let people know they aren't alone in seemingly dark situations - and that there is always hope, although admittedly, it may be hard to believe some times), I thought I'd share my dad's journey here too, in hope that it may bring some form of solace to those who are on a similar journey.

Amidst all of this, what is the silver lining, do I hear you ask?


Well, it was certainly an emotional time for us as a family when we were hit with this news 2 months ago. But we have grown so much as a unit through my mum's journey, before and after her passing, that nothing would be able to break the strength, or dampen the spirit we have together as we go down the cancer journey for a second time.


To be honest, I was also a little worried about finances. I want to be able to provide the same level of comfort, treatment and medical care for my dad, as I did for my mum. And I was worried that I may not be able to, as I haven't been in full-time employment for the last year, choosing to work from home on freelance marketing contracts, and doing volunteer work at Charis Hospice (a non-profit organisation providing free medical home care services for patients with cancer and other advanced critical illnesses in Penang), and of course, spending time with my family.


But God has always provided, and He continues to do so. I have recently secured additional work with a new client, and we have also found an excellent intern to support my work at the hospice, which will give me more time to care for my dad.


It has been a year since my mum's passing, and even though death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal (Quote from Richard Puz).


Forever in our hearts - my wonderful mother, a devoted wife, and a loving granny.

 

SILVER LINING


I do truly believe that God will always provide, but not in a way to make us wealthy or heal us of all our physical problems.


In Philippians 4:19, Paul says that God will meet all of our needs according to the riches in Christ Jesus. Now, this is not a promise of wealth, or even an easy life. Rather, the concept of "need" has to be considered according to God's will. What we "need" and what we "want" are not always the same thing. Note that a few verses before this, Paul talks about how God gives us the strength to be content regardless of our circumstances.


Whatever our needs are, when we trust in God, especially by way of giving for the sake of His mission, He will not fail to meet all our needs. There may be some wants and desires that are not from Him, but He will bring our heart’s desires in line with what He is providing. If there is something that we need, He will supply it.

 

Philippians 4:19 (New International Version)

"And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus."


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