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18 Sep

I recently came across a great piece featured on the 15th April 2016, in The New York Times of the Well-Health section, beautifully written by Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter on ‘resisting the urge to treat untreatable disease-and instead treating the suffering’.

This brilliant article resonated with me on a very personal level. As I wrote in my book, Beyond Courage when Andrew knew he was at the end stage of his bone cancer, he sure made the best of the little time he had every day. He was given the very precious time to reflect on his life, and what was important to him and how he was going to live till the last moment. Of course no one can pick the place and the time to die. He was living in the moment.

Throughout the last months of his untimely passing, Andrew glowed with exuberance, peace and a certain calm about him, even though we could see he was gradually getting tired due to the aggressive progression of his bone cancer, and his pain control. Although he was very sick by that time, he remained very active, enjoyed his driving, catching up with his close group of friends and remained in contact with families and friends who remained his strongest support group, treating him with love and gentleness, not sympathy. A sense of normality surrounds him. After all, Andrew is still Andrew, his true nature had not changed or defined by his cancer.

On the day of his passing, he had come home after a great time with his girlfriends’ families celebrating an aunty’s birthday. I remembered Andrew coming back home full of energy, radiant and in very high spirits. He was telling us that he had a lovely time at the birthday celebration. He was happy, having his usual family conversation with his dad and I that Saturday evening. Nothing unusual. So he retreated into his room to do what he enjoyed most, listening to his favourite music, getting in touch with his friends on social media and watching television. He was in his personal space and peace. We then said good night to him. Andrew had always been a night owl, and somehow he loved working on his university projects and design work in the peace of the night, accompanied by his media activities.

Two and a half hours later, Andrew collapsed. 2 ambulance teams came after we called for an emergency crew, and given details to the ambulance dispatcher about his condition. About 25 minutes working on resuscitating Andrew, the team leader said to Andrew’s dad and I that they had done everything that they could for Andrew. If they were to transfer him to the hospital, the hospital team would be doing exactly what they had done.

On reflection, Andrew had a peaceful passing at home surrounded by his parents. There were no active and invasive management of his resuscitation because of Andrew’s history, which they had already received from his treating hospital. We were devastated at the time, for we didn’t have a chance to say our goodbyes. We believed Andrew had been saying his goodbyes everyday to us since he was given that 15 months. Our lives were enriched with Andrew in it, and are grateful for those 15 months we had with him.

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