My dad was called home to the Lord on Saturday, June 17th 2023, after having been on a 2 year journey with cancer. As sad as we are that my dad is no longer with us, we take comfort in knowing that he is now in a better place with my beloved mum, and free from pain.
Ever since my mum's passing in August 2020, we tried our best to fill that void within him. He took the first step himself by reciting the sinner's prayer over my mum's casket before she was wheeled out of our house to the crematorium.
Soon after, my dad started a series of online classes with Pastor Shearn, and was baptised on Easter 2021.
Being in Penang, it was relatively easy to keep busy by indulging in the myriad of good food. Among my dad's favourites were: Loh Bak at Kheng Pin Cafe, Crispy Honey-Chipotle Chicken Crispers at Chili's, Dim Sum at Tai Tong, Laksa & Char Koay Teow at Taman Emas, Hainanese Chicken Chop at Khoon Pastry House, Sweet & Sour Prawns at CRC, Bak Kut Teh at Zealand, Cendol at New World Park, Roti Canai & Fried Chicken at Arati, Xiao Long Bao at Dragon-i, and Durians.
There were also holidays within Malaysia when my dad was still well enough to travel: Kuala Lumpur in October 2021, Langkawi in December 2021 and Kuantan in June 2022.
We also encouraged him to play Si-Rummy for mental exercise. We used to play this with my mum, and so we had to find a replacement player. His brother Sonny joined us once, and subsequently, Caleb picked up the game to be our permanent replacement player.
Unfortunately, my dad's health went downhill in April 2023:
Tuesday, April 11 to Monday, April 17: He spent 6 days in Island Hospital's high-dependency unit (HDU) after a fall. An MRI showed a 1.5cm tumour on the left part of his brain, which was causing my dad's degradation in speech, motor skills, alertness and mental state of confusion.
Monday, April 17: We transferred my dad to Sunway Medical Centre Seberang Jaya to be under the care of his oncologist, Dr Cheah Soon Keat. Thanks to the steroids that was prescribed after we found the tumour in the brain, the oedema had reduced and my dad regained his movement, motor and speech, and is very alert, although he drifts back to living in the past intermittently. At one point, he had to be restrained to his bed as he was very insistent on getting up to have a shower and then driving out to play badminton. That morning, he thought I was his sister Daisy, and Joshua was his brother Tony.
Thursday, April 20: My dad went through Stereotactic Radiosurgery (SRS) using the state-of-the-art HyperArc technique to treat his brain tumour. He was a little confused and lethargic after the procedure, but it all went well and he was discharged on April 22.
In my blog post on April 13, when my dad was in Island Hospital's HDU and we weren't sure if he would be able to pull through, and if he did, we weren't sure if he would ever be able to speak or eat properly again, I had written "Now, I can only hope to see that same joy in his face again" referring to photographs I had of him enjoying durians.
Praise be to God for giving my dad and us that gift of normalcy for 1 month post-SRS, where he could fully enjoy his favourite fruit, as well as KFC and CRC meals. The video and photos below are so very priceless to us.
Joshua, Caleb and I are so very grateful to have that 1 month with my dad before his health took a very severe downhill turn in May:
Saturday, May 20: My dad's appetite decreased significantly over the weekend
Monday, May 22: When he refused to even drink water, we brought him in to Sunway Medical Centre Seberang Jaya. He was confused, could not recognise people or his surroundings, was weak and could barely speak at that time. An MRI showed that the earlier brain tumour had shrunk after the SRS treatment on April 20 from 1.7cm to 1.4cm. However, we discovered 3 new tumours in the brain: two small ones (below 1cm) in the back; and a bigger one in the right temporal lobe (1.5cm) - which could be the cause of recent behavioral changes. His lung tumour had also grown from 5.7cm to 6.4cm.
Thursday, May 25: After being on antibiotics and IV for 4 days, his health improved - he became aware of his surroundings and people again, and was able to have conversations. He even ate his first proper meal of a kaya bun and a glass of milk for lunch.
Sunday, June 4: We were looking forward to discharging him from the hospital in the coming week, but unfortunately, his hemoglobin levels suddenly dropped rather significantly and we had to start a blood transfusion.
Monday, June 5: Test results came back showing that my dad has a blood infection originating from his chemo port. He was put on a course of antibiotics immediately, with the plan to have the port removed within 24-48 hours.
Tuesday, June 6: Sadly, my father tested positive for Covid, and his chemo port removal had to be pushed out as he enters quarantine at Island Hospital
Tuesday, June 13: My dad is released from quarantine and we are shocked by his severe weight loss. He had refused food and drink for 8 days, barely having just a banana and very little water daily while in quarantine
Wednesday, June 14: Under IV sedation, he went through a procedure to remove his chemo port, which was the cause of a blood infection. This procedure was supposed to be done over a week ago, but was unfortunately delayed when my dad caught Covid.
Thursday, June 15: His RTK test came back negative, and we were able to transfer him back to Sunway Medical Centre Seberang Jaya to be under the care of his oncologist. Since his quarantine though, he has lost a lot of weight and his health (physically and mentally) had deteriorated significantly.
His last 48 hours:
Friday, June 16: My dad coughed up blood in the morning. He was malnourished, and still refusing food and drink; and was no longer able to form proper sentences. We started him on some medication to control the hemoptysis (bleeding in the airway); Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) by IV for nourishment; and steroids to reduce the swelling and inflammation caused by the tumours in his brain.
Friday afternoon: Surprisingly, in his weakened state, as Joshua and I stood by his bedside, my dad asked us, muffled, but clear enough for us to hear "Where's Caleb?". I told him that Caleb would visit the next day, as Friday was a school day.
Friday 6pm: My dad's SpO2 dropped to 87, and he was given supplemental oxygen
Friday midnight: My dad's SpO2 dropped further to 72
Saturday 1:30am: An X-ray showed that his right lung had collapsed. He was given a nebuliser to help open his airway.
Saturday 2:30am: My dad was in a distressed state and morphine was administered
Saturday 3am: Caleb arrived at the hospital. As he got to the bedside, my dad lifted his head up and smiled so very sweetly and tenderly at Caleb. By then, my dad was no longer able to speak. Caleb asked him if he was awake, to which he nodded. In typical Caleb fashion of wanting to test further, Caleb asked him if he was sleeping, to which my dad shook his head - validating that he was indeed still aware of his surroundings and could hear and understand everything that was being said to him. My dad was never left alone, not for a moment since then, with either Joshua, Caleb or I holding his hand, talking to him, playing his favourite songs from the past, hymns and reading him Scripture.
Saturday 9pm: My dad's breathing became shallow
Saturday around 10pm: His heart stopped
Through my dad's life, he had many ups and downs, but he always had one constant - my mum. We had gifted him a pillow with a photo of my mum on Christmas 2020, and that was his prized possession till his death.
As sad as we are that my dad is no longer with us, we take comfort in knowing that he is now in a better place with my beloved mum, and free from pain. We also take comfort with the assurance, through our faith in Jesus, that we will be reunited again as a family.
Till we meet again, mum & dad. You will both be always loved, never forgotten and forever missed.