November 17th marked the first month of my father's first intake of 800 mg of brivanib alanate - a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that is not yet available commercially - in the hope that it will somehow stop or retard the progression of his liver cancer, the way another drug of a similar class - sorafenib - showed the much-touted promise in another clinical trial published 4 months ago.
Asymptomatic that he was/is, we chanced upon father's liver tumors first week of September last year. By the last week of the same month, we had the diagnosis of liver cancer confirmed by histopath/biopsy. This is not happy news, especially in the light of the treatment option given - none. Even then, I was already advised by colleagues (ophthalmologists) to look for clinical trials and enrol father in one.
Before he was discharged during the biopsy, the hepatologist had a change of heart. (I could only guess why.) She suggested radiofrequency ablation (RFA). Father was readmitted for the procedure. This time the admitting diagnosis was hepatocellular carcinoma, and he was for RFA and percutaneous ethanol injection (PIE). The prognosis though was still guarded. Both procedures work for tumors of a certain size only. And although, Papa was not symptomatic, I knew that his biggest tumor was already bigger than the cut-off.
Another round of RFA was suggested to be done 3 months after, but only when the intestines clear out of the way. I remembered asking the hepatologist if father needed an oncologic referral. The reply was in negative. I believed her. And so we waited for the intestines to clear out of my father's right lobe. They never did.
During one of this hepatologic consult, Papa asked his doctor his life expectancy in the light of his medical condition. Without batting an eyelash, the hepatologist told him "6 months". I could kick my father at that time, in asking that question of someone whose "people skills" need a lot of improvement.
I remembered the advice I got at the outset of this battle. Our pursuit of the unconventional brought us abroad, only to find our answer back home, specifically, while queueing at a bakeshop. This couldn't just be serendipity.
The most trying time came with the intake of brivanib, as like in any anti-VEGF, it caused my father's blood pressure to go sky high. His 800mg-dose also sent him to liver failure, Papa had to be admitted. But it was his high BP that almost crippled him.
All these have come to past now.
Two days ago, without his doctors' knowledge my father, with mother and Tim, hopped on a plane to go home (I could just imagine the number of strings my brother had to pull to get him a plane ticket). When they landed in Iloilo, I got a real chirpy phone call from him. He was so happy, you can almost feel his elation, it instantly erased my guilt in aiding him escape.
Today I'm just grateful.
Grateful that something is being done for his tumors; Grateful for his sassy, smart, sexy doctors; Grateful that they have the nerve to tell him, "Aba Dad, gusto niyo bang mabuhay o mamatay? Kasi kung gusto niyong mamatay, wala na tayong pag-usapan, wag na natin pahabain to."
Grateful for the family and friends who truly care for him. One suggested pranic healing, another went to Lourdes, France and included Papa in her intentions, still another wanted to give him holy water. Instead of saying "duh!" and be exasprated, I/we said "thank you". They do care for him.
But you see, the only one who can heal father is the Great Physician. Direct to Him, no go-betweens. The minute we lose focus of Christ as the center of our lives and everything that is happening, good or bad, things will not be right anymore. I'm grateful we have Him in our lives, and in Him we live, and move, and have our being. Cancer or no cancer.