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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Battling Cancer at 64



Chito turned 64 last December 31. He has lost weight and his health condition plunged since then. Meeting him reminded me of Benjamin Button. His occasional grin and playful retorts will make you see his youth despite his aging appearance. Although I have been warned by his son, Carlos, I mustered my courage to face the tyrant.

Chito, a mechanical engineer by profession, used to have what many could only dream of: a steady stream of cashflow without having to work. He was blessed to have a wealthy family. Despite his fortune, he spent most of his days alone and detached from family and friends.

Carlos Zaragoza introduced me to his dad. He half-opened his eyes to peek and then resumed his focus on breathing. When asked how he is today, Chito quietly says, "Nanghihina". Because he has been having difficulty breathing, he has been dependent on Ensure since the first weeks of January. "Have you eaten?" I asked. He resignedly said no and refused to take anything even his medicine. I waited and asked him if he would go back to see his doctor for another treatment, he said "No, sagabal." But he said that the treatment was not causing him any pain or difficulty. Carlos says his dad was given medicine to counter the side effects of Chemotherapy. The only evident side effect was the hair loss. But his hair is growing now. He just doesn't recall the names of the medicines because it has been months since Chito had his last treatment. But he had kept his dad's medical records and surrendered the receipts to the people who have helped him fund his dad's diagnosis and treatment.

In June 2010, upon the insistence of Carlos' cousin, Marian Araneta, Chito was checked by a doctor. Marian actually brought a friend doctor for a home visit because Chito did not want to go to the hospital. The doctor recommended that Chito be tested for Tuberculosis since he was physically manifesting the symptoms. Chito succumbed and they went to Manila Doctors Hospital for a series of laboratory tests. The tests, however, pointed them to a more grave illness: cancer.


The Zaragoza's went to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for further medical advice. In August, it was confirmed that Chito had cancer. For treatment, he had to go through chemotherapy every three weeks. He was also given Cobalt Treatment twice during his stay in PGH.


With so many patients lining up at PGH, Carlos felt that his father's needs can't be met adequately at PGH. He proceeded with the doctor's advice to follow up the treatment at San Juan de Dios Hospital. After Chito's 3rd Chemotherapy and removal of water from his lungs, the doctor at San Juan de Dios saw no improvement in his condition. Water continued to flood his lungs. They were referred to St. Luke's Medical Center for a second opinion.


At St. Luke's, Chito underwent a fine needle biopsy to determine the type of cancer he had. The result, however, was not conclusive but led them to confirm that Chito was positive for Tuberculosis. The results, the oncologists said, show that Chito's cancer can either be Lymphoma or Small Cell Cancer. To further determine whether Chito's cancer is Lymphoma or Small Cell Cancer, Dr. Gerardo Cornelio says he needs to undergo tissue sampling this January. The doctor says the samples will help them identify the type of cancer and make an efficient treatment plan for Chito. Although, Carlos has been informed that his dad's chances of survival with Small Cell Carcinoma will be strikingly low, especially if it has spread extensively.

Carlos and his brother only referred to the physicians' recommendations, trusting in their judgement. Carlos said he "just accepted what the doctors told him." Early January, he started a fundraising group composed of his friends in Facebook.

Chito has stopped Chemotherapy due to his pending operation. Since June 2010, they have spent at least Php 300,000 for his tests, treatments and medical consultations. Today, Carlos is troubled. It seems they have ran out of family and friends to ask for financial assistance. Since he had to resign from his teaching job last September to relieve his brother (who had been with his dad since June), they could hardly survive without the help of Marian, her family and Carlos' friends. He had sold whatever he can, his car and his iPhone, to fund his father's daily nourishment as well as his own. Last January, in an attempt to raise funds for his dad, he tapped his elementary and highschool batch mates for help. Only a handful responded, nevertheless, he is grateful for their support.

Carlos tried to reach out through foundations and the PCSO but was not accommodated because he had to be an indigent to qualify for financial support. In his desperation, he had thought about selling the house but could not think of where to bring his dad when the property will be sold.

Last Christmas, Chito was still able to cook his own glazed ham with pineapples. By January, however, Carlos noticed that he stopped getting up. He just preferred to lie in bed all day and often complained of difficulty in breathing. Carlos explained that his dad has been stubborn and more difficult to talk to since then. Though, he would be quick to respond when asked what he wants to eat: fried chicken, among others. I just wish he could have some. I'm sure it'd make him feel better.

While I was there, Marian came to visit and tried to get him to take some Ensure. He kept insisting that he doesn't want it. Eventually, he took a sip and then another. He preferred to have orange juice mixed with it. And then follow Ensure with water to wash the after taste. His face would lighten up whenever he had the chance to request his cravings: brandy and Coke.

On a final note, I asked Chito if its ok with him if his children visit him often, he said, "Syempre, mga anak ko e." Sometimes, he responds sarcastically. At times he'd joke around saying I can't visit anymore because he is already married. For terminally ill cancer patients, there seems to be no sense in trying. But Chito stands a chance to live longer with family members like Carlos and Marian. Perhaps, he has a greater chance of surviving if more people will make him feel that there is hope while he is still breathing.

To my readers who would like to brighten Chito's day, you can contact Carlos Zaragoza at teachercarlo@gmail.comDonations in kind and cash are most welcome. Send Chito some words of encouragement by leaving a comment below. All feedback will be relayed to Chito :)

Reactions:

7 comments:

Thank you Leah for this wonderful site!

Tito Chito, our prayers are always with you! -alvic ♥ rhanee

Hi Alvic, I've forwarded your message to Carlos. I think he needs to get him to the hospital asap.

"Fundraisers"

It's so hard making a fundraiser that will be successful. Alot of planning and effort and hard work is needed. Unfortunately, I need one asap for my dying father so I can be there for him until the very end providing palliative and nursing care. A last gift a son could give to his father.

After the last (5th hospitalization) in Quirino Memorial Medical Center, Proj. 4, Q.C., the neurologist and pulmonolgist suggested palliative and nursing care is the only option that can be done. My dad's life expectancy is between a month to a year, but estimatedly, perhaps only 2 months. But nevertheless, I must give it a try once more. He is aggressively loosing all his bodily and mental functions, including his eyesight. This is very painful for him and for me.

The 4 tumors (liver, lung, 2 in the brain) already devastedly destroyed his body and soul for I cannot imagine how horrific this can be to a person experiencing it.

If only I still have the strenght, the skills, the connections... May God hear my cry...

Hi Leah. Perhaps his relatives can set up a blog where folks interested to help can contribute through Paypal. I am sure some folks will be interested to help in their own way.

Hi Janette. Thank you for your thoughtfulness. Unfortunately, I don't have relatives like that. It is only the relatives of my cousin from my dad's side who are helping but sadly, they're also tired and exhausted in helping out. I'm hoping I could make a series of fundraisers or one big event to raise enough money but I don't have contacts.

Update:
We greatly appreciate readers' prayers and kind words. Chito passed away last February 20, 2011. The family needs financial support for his interment.
Contact Details:
Carlos Zaragoza
Tel: +632-4557788, Mobile: +639178172578, +639182340380;
Email: teachercarlo@gmail.com;
Yahoo Messenger: carloszaragoza;
Skype: carlos-zaragoza.
We will accept Gcash, Smart Money and Paypal donations.

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