My Dad and I had a special bond that even death cannot destroy. He passed away last year after a short battle with cancer, as we found out at stage 4. My parents separated, and I was "assigned" to my dad, and my sisters to my mom. Here, I want to celebrate our father and son love story that started when I was a little boy.
My dad would drive me to school every single day. If the car conks out, we would walk to school together. He would also come back for lunch to bring me food, and we would eat together. He would then pick me up, have snacks, and help me do my homework. Even when I was in high school and college, we would have the same routine. Thus, he became my friends' buddy too.
I had to go to Manila for work to find greener pastures. God was good enough to allow me to get my Dad from the province so we can be together. As I started earning better, my Dad and I became travel buddies, visiting countries that once were just dreams of ours. He also became my best friend who would cheer me up when I was down, and my biggest fan who would congratulate me whenever I did something good.
For 6 months he thought it was just an ordinary sore throat. He went to see our family doctor, who suggested to go see an ENT who did a lot of tests, and then we ended up going to the oncologist.
My dad’s throat cancer started in early 2018, he had a sore throat which he started feeling on one of trips to the U.S., but it only really bothered him by June of that year. For 6 months he thought it was just an ordinary sore throat. He went to see our family doctor, who suggested to go see an ENT who did a lot of tests, and then we ended up going to the oncologist.
It was 6 long weeks including all tests to finally confirm that he had stage 4A cancer. Then came the difficult part--deciding on which procedures and options to pursue, whether we should be aggressive or not. Each choice had pros and cons because my Dad was already 72. But at stage 4A, we had to decide fast, and we just followed what the team of doctors advised us to.
I can still remember that day in Feb 2019--Dad asked me, "Will I die?" And I had to tell him with a straight face that, "No you will not. I'll do everything to manage this." But I was so scared and I just cried inside the restroom cubicle at St Luke's Hospital because I didn't want to show my Dad that I was scared.
Aside from Dad and I battling cancer, I also had to come up with the money to spend for everything, which was another challenge as bills were piling up in seven figures. There was homecare 24/7, with nurses to look after him because of all the medicines that needed to be administered, and the gadgets we had to bring home. I was spending maybe P15,000 (about $300 a day) in cash, aside from the chemo and radiation therapy.
However, I had to show my Dad that I was in control, and the last thing I wanted is to show him how problematic I was with it all. My Dad lives with me, and whenever I’d go to his room, I’d make sure I had a brave front. I had to compose myself, be cheerful and "normal." After I see him, I just go to my room to pray and cry.
Dad asked me, "Will I die?" And I had to tell him with a straight face that, "No you will not. I'll do everything to manage this." But I was so scared and I just cried inside the restroom cubicle.
When he had his operation we decided to stay at one of the most expensive hospitals in Manila, Makati Med, for several weeks so he could receive topnotch care. I was there everyday because my Dad couldn't speak anymore, and I became his voice. He had around 9 main doctors among others. At the time we had just switched health insurances 2 months prior, and we found out that the new company won't cover the expenses. Everything was out of pocket, but luckily we were able to get some assistance from government benefits and relatives for radiation and hospital bills.
Sometimes you'd think these things won't happen to you, that you just watch these in the movies, but when it does, reality just explodes on your face and you just have to be man enough to manage it. I was responsible for the life and care of my dad, not because he asked me to, but because he took care of me well when I was growing up and I know he would have done the same for me.
I was there everyday because my Dad couldn't speak anymore, and I became his voice.
But what I went through was nothing to what Dad went through: Knowing you have Stage 4 cancer--the surgeries, radiation, chemo. Losing your voice. Having a hole on your throat post operation. The fear of not surviving.
Up to his very last days, my dad and I were together. I stayed with him in the hospital the entire 5 weeks he was hospitalized, and not a day did I leave. I was beside him in his final hour, and I was holding his hand and whispering to his ear until he took his final breath. I hold on to the hope that I will be with my dad again someday. Until then, I am one lucky son to have a lot of great memories with my dad to last me this lifetime.
Love you Dad,
Story of Javier Villarruel for his father, Boy