March of 2009, my dad was diagnosed with liver cancer. After a month of many doctor visits, x-rays, and ultrasounds, his first surgery was scheduled for that next month, the day after my birthday. However, the surgery didn’t go as planned because the surgeons had discovered another tumor on his left lobe of the liver. After searching, they diagnosed him with stage IV colon cancer and for months, my dad’s illness was described as “two storms going at each other.”
Throughout his battle, my dad did six weeks of radiation treatments, three to four chemoembolizations, three rounds of chemotherapy and countless supplies of blood transfusions. During all 14 months, my dad never gave up or complained but always had a smile and answered “I’m feeling okay.”
In February of 2010, he was rushed to the ER because of his low blood count. Nurses were amazed on how he survived because with his blood level being a three, the lowest any nurse has seen, they told my family that he should have fallen into a coma, but he didn’t. He stayed in the hospital for a week and was released that weekend. That next week, he was admitted back into the hospital for a low blood count and once again stayed for another week and was released over the weekend.
For one month, this became a routine until the beginning of March. In March, a week became two and two weeks became a month. Next thing you know, my dad stayed in the hospital for three months. He came home for one day in April and was taken back to the hospital that very night because of his bleeding.
This year, the nurses became very familiar with my dad, uncle, and the rest of my family. During those three months he stayed in the hospital, my dad grew a strong, caring friendship with all the nurses on the cancer floor at Presbyterian Hospital. After my dad started to get weak and fell a couple of times, he had a sitter outside his door watching him and making sure he didn’t get up on his own.
I remember sitting in his room watching him sleep, every nurse and nurse assistant that clocked out would stop by my dad’s room whether he’s sleeping or not to say “Bye Mike, I’m leaving now. I’ll see you tomorrow.” My dad was offered the option of doing hospice three times, but he refused and requested to keep doing treatments. He wasn’t ready to give up and even though he barely could walk without assistance, he did a lot of the things in the hospital on his own. He was a very independent man and whatever his heart was on, he would go for it.
The day that the doctor told my cousin and I that my dad’s ammonia level in his liver is rising and can’t be stopped, we were given the permission to make the decision to put my dad into hospice. My family and I agreed that my dad fought a long time and it was time. Once he was moved into the hospice room, he became weaker each day. After one week, the nurses approached my family and said that my dad had only about two days from the look of him.
Once again, my dad kept fighting as long as he could. The second day passed and my dad was still here, then another day passed then the weekend came. The nurses mentioned that many patients wish to either die with the family in the room or to die alone. In February when my dad was rushed to the ER, he told me that he felt so weak because of his blood lost that he felt like he was going to die at home. But, since the family is living at home, he couldn’t put that on our shoulders, knowing that he had passed at home, so he kept strong and fought til he got to the hospital.
That was how I knew my dad would wish to die alone because he would not want any of my family to have that burden on our shoulders. Saturday, May 28 my family agreed on leaving my dad alone in the hospital after that whole week of staying in the hospital day and night by his side. For three days, I felt a nervous chill that I could not shake off. My mom had a dream of a white figure standing outside the door, the face was blurred, but she recognized his belly. Sunday, May 30th at 5:00 am my older sister called me to tell me that the nurses called our uncle and said my dad was getting weaker. When I got to the hospital, it was too late. My dad had already passed at 5:25 am.
For 14 months, I’ve seen my dad in a lot of pain. I’ve seen my dad go through so many stages such as: frustration, losing patience, tired, weak, losing a large amount of weight, and losing his appetite. But through each stage, he held on strong and always ended up with a smile on his face. My dad’s last week here, my cousin told me that when she left the hospital, the people at the ticket booth had said, “There’s a lot of you that come and visit him each day and night.” That same week, all of his old nurses would come by the room to check up on him and my family. They would talk to him and say how much they miss talking to him. Every nurse and doctor that took care of my dad always described him as a “very sweet and strong young man.” He created relationships and touched so many people in so many ways that its unbelievable. He became a father figure to many and a great to others. Even though it’s so hard to accept that my dad is actually gone and hard to say goodbye, deep down inside, I’m at ease because I no longer have to worry about my dad being in pain.
“Even though my body is sick, my brain and mind is still working. Because it’s still working I can still plan and think for the family to make sure each and every one of you will be okay.” My dad said that to me in February when he was in one of his many hospital rooms. He was a man with an amazing and unique personality that no one could or will ever forget. He was a very bright, smart, funny, thoughtful, independent, hard-working, and the jack of all trades kind of man. He was a father, an uncle, great-uncle, a brother, and a loving husband. He was a kid at heart no matter what age he was. There was a time he walked around the house carrying a flashlight and turning it on in each of our eyes. He would walk away and laugh. When he heard my mom coming through the front door, he would stand around the corner from upstairs and flash the light at her. Most importantly, no matter what life threw at him, he never gave up on the fight.
He was my father. He wasn’t perfect, but no matter what fight he was in, he never gave up. He gave me hope that nothing is impossible and that if you put your heart and soul in it, you’ll win. Even though he was taken away from us, he still won his fight with cancer because he never gave up.
Survived by his wife, Thuy Huynh; children: Dao Huynh, Tony Huynh, Linda Huynh, and Dalena Huynh; brothers: Thai Huynh, Quang V. Huynh, Quyen V. Huynh; sisters: Em Thi Huynh and Thuong Thi Huynh.