Saturday, February 05, 2005

Sad News About My Father-in-Law

Just got back from visiting the in-laws in San Jose. We've been making the weekly trip for several months now. The sad news is that my father-in-law has cancer and doesn't have much longer to live.

My father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer back in June 2004, but hasn't known his true condition until this week. That's because my in-laws and some other relatives conspired to keep the seriousness of his condition from him. Apparently, some Chinese people have this strange belief that older adults--like children--can't handle the whole truth about life-threatening illnesses, so they need to be spoon-fed a less serious version of the facts. Jenny and I have opposed lying to her father about his cancer, but we were overruled by her mom, her sisters and her aunts.

My father-in-law can't speak English, so he has been relying on my sister-in-laws to "translate" the doctors' diagnoses to him. The lies had piled up to the point that my father-in-law believed that he was getting chemotherapy to prevent a reoccurence of cancer after successful surgery to remove a tumor on his stomach. In reality, he had Stage 4 cancer in his stomach, intestines and lymph nodes, and his surgery was halted after the surgeon saw that his cancer had moved far beyond the outer lining of his stomach. Even last week, he was under the impression that he was going to be cured soon.

Then he saw his Chinese-speaking physician who dropped a bomb-shell on him: his cancer had actually been growing despite the chemotherapy, and he did not have long to live. This revelation appears to have made its mark. My father-in-law is now making preparations for his eventual passing, having accepted his fate in a remarkably short time.

While I cannot speak as a medical expert, I believe that lying to my father-in-law may have done more harm than good. For instance, he might have chosen not to undergo chemotherapy if he had known that the chances for success for someone in his condition were virtually zero. Instead, he underwent 6 grueling rounds of chemotherapy that made him feel miserable and perhaps even shortened his life.

Whether they realize it or not, my in-laws seriously underestimated my father-in-law's inner strength and capacity for the truth. As my father-in-law enters the last phase of his illness, Jenny and I pray that he sees a merciful and peaceful end to his life.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
- Psalm 23


At 12:26 AM, Blogger Edmund said...

I am sorry about your father-in-law's condition. It is never a good thing to lie to somebody about their health, even if it is to "spare them from the pain" of the reality of the situation.

I would have to agree that they underestimated his ability to comprehend and accept his situation. I would have to give kudos to him for remaining level-headed throughout this latter part of the revelation. But, I would have preferred that he learned of said revelation in an honest way.

I hope that he will be able to pass peacefully and to be able to forgive his family for not being as forthcoming as they should have been.

Personally, I might be resentful of being deceived - even if it was with good intentions. But, this sort of goes beyond that. Then again, it's not my place to really criticize.

I wish you all the best as you work towards assisting him in a peaceful passage.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Stan said...

Sorry to hear about your father in-law. I can't say I agree with what your in-laws did but I've learned that's a different generation and they do funny things (for good intentions). He himself may have done the same thing but I believe he probably knew what was going on and tried to be strong for the family.

Hopefully he is not in any pain.


Post a Comment

<< Home