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A Superhuman Dad: Reflections Of A Son Left Behind

"The strength of a warrior is not defined by the wars he wins, but the times he seeks for peace." -- Aniket S. Sharma

My co-worker was still early in his middle-aged years when he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer. There had been no apparent symptoms that he could use to point toward the disease. He got pneumonia, had a drastic drop in platelet count, and a persistent cough. These were not exactly what any man would think would be associated with prostate cancer. This came as a big shock to him when he was diagnosed.

He has been gone for a few years now. His son now shares with me how his respect for his late father’s fighting spirit had deepened. How his life has undoubtedly been changed forever because of this.

A series of futile treatments

The first order of action recommended by the oncologist was chemical castration. This is a hormone therapy drug for advanced prostate cancer that was meant to suppress the production of sex hormones. What followed was an effort to regulate thyroid hormone production to slow down the progress of the cancer. However, the state of his health had begun to decline rapidly and chemotherapy which was the final treatment only accelerated this decline.

And yet he remained strong

Yet, he remained strong at every juncture of his suffering, never complaining, or submitting to self-pity. He endured the physical and psychological pain that came with the disease.

He used his time instead to reach out to friends, both from the military and a few co-workers. He was constantly mindful of whatever time he still had left was to be shared.

A responsible father, a filial son

He was not only the breadwinner for his family but the main provider for his mother and brother as well. An addict of gambling and alcohol, his brother had racked up several debts to his name, forcing him to pay them off over the years. Alone with his thoughts, he would acknowledge his shock and disappointment at being stricken with a terminal illness when all he had worked hard for was to enjoy his retirement once his son had graduated from college.

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Still, he continued to maintain a calm disposition, largely for the sake of his family. "...because of what was beneath his stoic, patient self, was a superhuman effort and strength which I can never fully appreciate and comprehend the magnitude of."

Some lessons are learned through loss

It has been four years since the passing of my co-worker and friend. His son is still the breadwinner for the family and going very strong. These circumstances have forced him to view life in a more realistic light which often leads him toward making different decisions than his peers. This includes not being able to pursue passions and hobbies. This has undoubtedly resulted in a much harder time fitting in with his friends.

Still, above all, he has gained a firm grasp on the importance of relationships; how unbeknownst to us, are much more transient and stronger than most of us think we know. He has reminded me that when things are not within my control, there is no point in grappling for a hold but to look instead to the people who are closest to us and whom we can rely on.

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