Recently my father who suffers from prostate cancer informed the uro-oncologist he will not take any medicines henceforth and will not undergo any surgery at the age of 86. This had upset me initially. Not because he asserted his right to be mortal, but in that journey he is opting to suffer, which is what annoyed me. Choosing to die can be without suffering.
When my father turned 82, he had to be rushed to the hospital, for a man who had never been admitted to one, this stint was rather long. 10 days with family doctors telling me be prepared for the worst and it could be total renal failure. I shared every detail with him, prepping to resolve. And if anyone knows my dad, his will power is stronger than steel. Like his mother
(Aaji) and elder sister, both who died.of cancer. Thereafter the treatment we chose was No chemo or or radiation. We opted for hormone therapy, medicines only, keeping in mind the possible effect, one being a paralysis stroke. That also not necessary. But all exceptions are in this family and on the day of Diwali within four months of treatment, father got a stroke.
His journey then onwards has been of immense recovery. Yes, prostate is a slow growing cancer, lily of the patient fyi g of other forms is what is believed. But it’s a cancer with no uniform pattern. With only medicines and his resolve, father can’t climb up and down stairs, but is mobile in the house. He is aging, obviously but looks good. There are days, but that if one assesses rationally, is also part of aging.
During this entire process, the provider, care taker and the patient do not necessarily have the most pleasant relationship. It is.to be understood it will get infuriating, emotionally draining. But patient is going through far worse and one needs to be slightly detached. It only helps to maintain sanity. During this time my school friend, a doctor pushed me to read ‘being mortal’ by Dr Atul Gawande. Well written, in detail how aging and old age illnesses, terminal diseases for aged impacts lives of all those around and most of all the patient.
Having experienced it all, read it, when father said no more, I did try to reason (believe me its tough) of don’t opt for suffering, but he has made his choice. We have to respect it. Saying is easy than experiencing it. But guess that is life,a journey.
The treatment has not been easy, absolute depletion of resources, but that is something you opt for if one does not want the patient to suffer. We opted for making father’s life comfortable and not to prolong it,that is right up Dr Gawande’s medical ideology. This end,too is. I too believe if one has led a whole life and instead of suffering opting wilfull death is a better option. But in a country where judiciary determines our private loves, euthanasia will never be allowed. Sad, till then all those whose end is known are forced to suffer. Their only choice is to wait for the end.
Meanwhile, discussions on organ donation have been taken seriously and steps towards getting it endorsed from the family doctors in process. These realities too need to be openly discussed and weighed. An open relationship with the family doctors helps. It’s a way forward, I believe and when I first discussed, few years ago, father was fit and fine. Both took it seriously, but till now we didn’t work towards it
The one stark fact that hits you in the face is this country is just not prepared for old age oppmedication. We have no decent medical centre, it’s your luck..to get good doctors who have got, good faculties and treatment. This whole waiting for death is tragic. We need to find a way around it. Which can only come with futuristic options,R&D,facilities. Not sure iny lifetime I will see.