My father was 63 years old when he was diagnosed with urinary bladder cancer. He showed symptoms such as painful urination initially, but he took it lightly and regarded it to be a prostate problem. However, he started bleeding after a week and realized that there is a bigger problem. The urologist suggested a uroscopy and biopsy, where we learned that he had stage 1 cancer. It was restricted to the lining of the urinary bladder and had not spread to the muscles. Thus, there was a high chance of survival. Further, the doctors suggested that a procedure to remove the bladder would lead to a higher survival rate. So, the ureter would be connected to the intestine, and that is how his body would function smoothly.
Initially, we were skeptical regarding it. However, the doctor suggested we meet a patient who was just getting discharged. He was only 25 years old and had had a bladder removal. Seeing him accept his stomatal opening, so gracefully inspired my father. Additionally, we contacted other past patients to ask them questions regarding their recovery and how they were functioning. When we spoke to an individual as young as 19 years old, it instilled renewed confidence in us. The operation went well, and every seven to fifteen days, we had to change my father’s bag. It started suiting my father, and we understood how to operate it. My father himself was a general practitioner, and his recovery was excellent. At one point, it was impossible to say if he had indeed undergone such a massive body change.
The previous episode ended in 2005, and all was well until 2011 when he started bleeding again and felt a sharp pain. This is when we found out that his urinary bladder cancer had spread to the ureter, and it needed to be removed. Luckily, it was a localized development and had not spread to any other region in the body. Though the operation was successful, my father experienced excessive fever and infections. He underwent a series of tests to get accurate results. Even when he was recovering, he was fragile. But, it genuinely takes around two weeks to recover from such an operation, and we waited to see the results.
In two months, my father felt pain in his abdomen, and we found out that he had liver cancer. But the biggest question here was whether it was primary cancer in the liver or it was a secondary development from the ureter. We understood that it had spread from the ureter, and no surgery would be useful because it had spread everywhere in his body. The only option was to rely on chemotherapy, which is a general treatment method. We were suggested 12 chemo cycles, but it is essential to understand that it leads to severely reduced WBC, RBC, and platelets. Each Saturday, he underwent chemo, and every Sunday, he would go for blood transmission. It was important to prepare his body for the next chemo session.
I kept him home for six months because his decreased immunity demanded that he stayed in a dust-free and hygienic environment. The most common side effects include nausea, itching, and loss of appetite. After continued chemotherapy, his sonography reports showed that the cancer cells in his liver had considerably gone down, and the doctors said that he did not need any more chemo. Though he was feeling better for a month or so, he never said that he was free of his pain.
He experienced unbearable pain after a month and collapsed when the ambulance came home to take him. Thankfully, the ambulance had doctors and nurses who revived him and got him back to consciousness. The liver sonography showed 12 cm of cancer cells that had perforated and affected his hemoglobin. Consequently, the hemoglobin count had gone down to 4, and he was admitted into the hospital again.
Around this time, I learned about pain management. We used spine insertions to reduce his pain, but this, in turn, led to a spine infection, and he started facing extreme back pain. His spine procedure had resulted in a vertebrae infection that needed an operation. Though the orthopedic surgery was successful, he was unable to move from the bed, and he experienced immense headaches. The neurologist told us about a perforated spinal column that can leak cerebral fluid. The process was to remove the patient’s blood and then inject the same blood via IV so the clot can find its way for immediate relief. It was miraculous that he could finally get up and talk to us.
In less than two months, he had gone through so much. During and after chemo, he had limited food intake and relied on saline, glucose, and likewise. Soon, the doctors gave up and told me to take him home. I was worried if I would be able to find his vein for the saline each day. When I discussed the idea of using his central chest vein for the insertion, they suggested an alternative, and I got him home.
We could use the GI tract via endoscopy so that the blood could absorb painkillers and provide him relief. But the doctors told me that he has not more than a month or two to live. I discussed radiotherapy with the doctors who said to me that it would be possible only if my father’s body could tolerate it. Instead of leaving him in the hospital for primary maintenance, we got him home and gave him painkillers and local anesthesia. He passed away within two months.
My husband, two brothers, and I did not leave my father’s side even for a minute. Right from the start till the end, we stayed by him. We put motivational quotes around his room and being strict Jain, he followed ‘pratikraman’ even during chemotherapy. He was notably attached to his grandchildren- my brothers’ sons and wanted to live more to see them grow up. It is why we tried everything possible and did not give up hope.
I want to educate all cancer fighters that it is crucial to stay positive because it is a tough time that can weaken anyone. Thus, optimism can help you smile through everything. Moreover, a diet based on raw vegetables can also be beneficial. As Jains, we forbid smoking and drinking and abide by strict dietary restrictions. These can be great in the long run!