Returning From My Hiatus — My Dad’s Cancer

I’m glad to say I’m finally be back pursuing my gamedev career. Unfortunately I’ve missed 5 weeks of blog posts because I didn’t have any written ahead of time. Sorry about that! I’m going to try to stay a couple blog posts ahead of each Sunday just in case something pops up.

I had to take some time off from everything to be with my family. I’ll explain what’s been going on.

In January my dad (64) was diagnosed with cancer. I’m assuming it was stage 4. There was a large “mass” in his intestine and the cancer had spread to lungs and liver. I immediately thought this was a possible death sentence. An older friend of mine died to throat cancer last year and I felt the same could happen with my dad.

Despite his diagnosis my dad continued to work 6 days a week at two restaurant jobs (waiter, bar manager). He had to watch his diet and he had to stop all consumption of coffee and alcohol. Every 3 weeks he would take a day off on chemo day to nap and relax. He was persistent and wouldn’t stop working unless he was physically unable to.

By the way, this is the moment when my motivation skyrocketed and I began pursuing game development.

Things got continuously harder for my dad. He later suffered an abscess which caused him significant discomfort (he couldn’t sit down straight). He also became incontinent and later had a colostomy bag installed. That made his life a little easier.

In May, one of the restaurants he worked at had closed for the season. He stayed home more often now which was good for his health. My mom cared for him when he was home. He and I had opposing schedules so I rarely got to see him, but now I had some time (I live with my parents, by the way).

I was surprised to find out he had lost around 50 pounds in a few months. He was starting to look far skinnier than I’ve ever seen him in my life. It was worrying to see him lose so much weight.

I had told him about my life changes. I talked about my pursuit of programming, gamedev, diet & exercise. He was proud that I was beginning to work hard on my career.

Eventually he had to take a leave of absence from his only job.

A week later my mom was stressing about his health. My dad had lost his appetite and was refusing to eat or drink more than a few nibbles and sips throughout the day. He was sleeping 20 hours a day. He became unable to walk or feed himself. He began to look anorexic.

It was driving my mother nuts. She continued to work above and beyond to take care of him and keep him on a schedule. She acted as a full time live-in nurse.

On June 17th at around 9PM one of my dad’s legs had swollen to around 4 times larger than the other. His arm went numb, and he became slightly delirious. He told my mom to call 911.

The paramedics arrived and took him to the nearby hospital. My mother visited and stayed with him for a few hours in the night. I took time off work and tried to remain calm at home. I wasn’t sure how serious it was yet which is why I stayed home.

At the hospital he was taken to ICS and found he had suffered a stroke: he had 7 blood clots in his brain. My mom was asked if she wanted to sign a do-not-resuscitate order. She asked dad if he wanted to come home, he said yes. She let him decide in private.

This hit us pretty hard as we started realizing he came so close to death. All night I worried that he would become a vegetable or lose his speech.

The next day my dad was still in ICS unconscious, my mother kept him company. I asked if she would like me to come with her, but she said nothing much is happening right now. The visitation window was during the morning & afternoon when I sleep.

I went to work that night and spent my time planning for the worst. I made sure I had several plans in place for our finances in case things go wrong. I already knew all of our bills, I had asked my dad for them 2 weeks prior.

On the 20th I received a call from my mom while I was running . She told me the Dr’s are stopping all attempts to treat the cancer, and that my dad is now in a hospice. She said he will be able to come home soon. She also told me there was visitation for a few more hours.

I finished my run and rushed over.

My dad was in bed and couldn’t walk, but thankfully he was conscious and could talk. He seemed to suffer minor motor skills issues

My goal this night was to say everything I needed to say to my dad. I didn’t want any regrets about this situation. I spoke about my progress towards becoming a gamedev, breaking my running records, my future investment plans. He seemed proud of me for being motivated to work hard.

He let me know he needs me to take over the finances. I let him know I already had. He was surprised and happy to hear that. He’s been in debt for as long as I can remember, finances were always his biggest worry. He could finally relax a bit.

The fathers day gifts we had bought for my dad were inedible for him now: Chocolates and his favorite pretzels. I offered to eat them for my dad, and he happily said yes. I broke my daily fast & my healthy diet with no regrets.

Visitation was about to close, so my family left the room.

I finally had the willpower to give him my last words that I needed to say. I let him know that he was a big motivation for me to begin pursuing the things I wanted this year. I told him even after he passes, I won’t be swayed from the things I want to accomplish. The damage is done. I’ve become self-driven.

Of course I also told him I loved him and I thanked him for taking care of me for most of my life.

I couldn’t hold back tears at this point, but it was more to just to get the physical part of it out of the way. I described it as a sneeze that I had to get out of my system. I was in control of my emotions for the first time in my life.

I hugged him goodbye and told him I was going to work since visitation was closing. I said he worked through chemo, it would be pathetic if I couldn’t go work my desk job tonight.

As I drove to work I felt the urge to de-stress, so I shed a few more tears. At this point I realized I’ve gained a significant amount of emotional strength since I started pursuing what I wanted. I used to be scared of sadness, but now I faced it head-on. I got one of the greatest griefs out of my system in a matter of a couple hours.

I thought back on the past few months and noticed I had actually prepared myself to handle a situation like this.

  • When my father was diagnosed I became extremely motivated to pursue the things I’ve always been too afraid & lazy to work for.
  • To reach my goals faster I worked on disciplining myself with a rigorous diet, exercise, & work schedule. (At least compared to what I was doing previously)
  • Because I had disciplined myself for my career, I was able to face my father’s death head-on with very low levels of grief than if I sat idle.

Sadly it turned out he was too weak to come home, he would have to remain in the hospice room until the end. I got word that 24-hour visitation rights opened up, I immediately stopped all work on gamedev & my blog. The only thing I maintained was my running which helped keep my anxiety very low.

My mom would sit next to my dad all day, and I would take the seat all night while my mom slept in the room. My being a night-shift worker actually allowed us to be there for my dad 24/7. At first my dad thought it was unnecessary, but after a couple days he was very thankful that we were with him day and night.

My dad didn’t lose his humor at all during hospice. He lobbed dry jokes around constantly, usually confusing family visitors at first. He got annoyed whenever someone didn’t get his jokes, just as he would if he were at his bar.

He and I mostly just hung out and joked for the remainder. He liked that I still respected his wit instead of assuming he was a confused patient. His last words to me was a corny joke, too.

“Dad, I’m going to run to the bathroom okay? I’ll be right back”

“Walk”, he whispered.

I’ve learned a lot from this situation and I’ve completely changed as a person. I think for as horrible as this situation was, I’ve managed to learn as much as I could from it to become a hard worker.

I’ve learned to never lose my sense of humor, no matter how hard the situation is. His persistence to live and work through his cancer helped motivate me to keep trying harder in my life. I now feel like there’s really no excuse to not to accomplish everything I want to.

This was the single most important thing in my life that got me on to my path to game dev & my craving for self improvement.

 

This was the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. This was the first time I’ve seriously thought back on everything that’s happened. I got a bit choked up at one point but I managed to pull through.

I thought about leaving most of the story vague and short, but I wrote it like this for my own sake. I realized I had to overcome my emotions yet again if I were to really get past this. It was an emotional rollercoaster, but I’m done dealing with it. I want to look back on it and remember the happy moments I had with my dad, and look forward to my future.

I’m breathing a sigh of relief as I finally finish writing. Now I can concentrate on the eulogy for next weeks ceremony, then put all of my attention back on my gamedev career.

I want to thank everyone that shared emotional support with me over the past few weeks. I couldn’t believe it when I had over 20 tweets in a day (a record for me) on Twitter saying to hang in there. There were so many kind messages that made me feel better about the situation.

I also had people share their similar experiences with me, which helped me so much. It wasn’t just coworkers and people on social media, but I even found relief talking to random people in stores who noticed the hospital ID sticker on my shirt.

It goes without saying I’m also thankful to those family & friends that donated money to help pay for my dad’s bills & provide emotional support. You all are awesome!

As of right now I’m getting back to my old weekly posts about gamedev & programming.

Thanks again.

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