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  • Writer's pictureDaniela Abedrabbo

On his 65th Birthday.

He knew it was going his last birthday with us. We were in denial.

I was driving to work. It was a beautiful day. I saw a big wall of sunflower grafiti. Sunflowers to me represent God. It is a reminder that I am not alone. I smiled and said 'Thank you for reminding me that you are with me'. And just a few minutes later I had another reminder that God was with me. I don't remember exactly what it was but I very clearly remember how strongly I felt. That feeling stuck with me and I remember it to this day. It sat directly in my gut. I remember being scared and thinking "Wait, what am I being told? is something about to happen? Do I need to be careful?" and then I was present to the message "Something is about to happen but remember everything is going to be ok, you are not alone." I smiled and said ok. And I went on with my day. I actually completely forgot about it.

“Don't worry I am with you.”

My dad had been sick for a few weeks. He had really bad stomach pain. For the first time ever I really related to that pain he was describing because I had similar pain for many years. I gave him some of the natural supplements I take, and shared a list of the foods to eat or avoid. For the first time I found something I connected with my dad about: Pain. Sad, but somehow it brought us a bit closer. Coincidentally I started having stomach pains again, really strong ones. I would have sleepless nights being in so much pain and in the following days, Dad would tell me he also didn't sleep because he was hurting so much. One Sunday, we were all at my parents' house and I really noticed how much weight Dad had lost and I was worried. He looked very unhealthy. Dad told us he was going to see his family doctor in the next few days for his results. I offered to go with him. He didn't want me to but I insisted. Dad had lost 30 lbs in 3 weeks, he was in a lot of pain and he was honestly looking pretty bad but everything in my heart was convinced he would be fine. "It is definitely not cancer" I kept saying to myself.

Tuesday April 25th, 1pm, I am with dad at his appointment. Dad is nervous and grateful that I am with him. We are in the waiting room for almost 2 hours and it's finally our turn. The doctor doesn't have any results? My dad is insisting for the doctor to call the hospital for his results. The doctor leaves the room and comes back, "I am sorry, it is a cancerous tumour in your pancreas. We have to send you to a surgeon right away." My heart dropped. "What?! How is this happening?! I was so sure he was going to be ok". I could feel my tears wanting to flood my face but I had to keep them in for as long as I could. I didn't want dad to see me worried. I wanted him to know that everything was going to be ok. He didn't have to worry. We were going to fix this. I promise we will. I looked at him and my heart broke even more; I could see the fear and sadness in his eyes. I wanted to erase that moment forever. It hurt so much to see him like this. He smiled and said "It's ok Dad, it's God's will. What can we do, it's my fate. Don't be upset Dad. It's ok," and kept smiling. I wanted to scream at the world, at God, at the doctor, at everything! "How DARE YOU do this to him!" but I smiled, gave him a kiss and said "Dad it's going to be ok. Do you need anything? Are you ok to drive home?" I looked at him in the eyes, gave him a hug and walked away. As soon as I turned around, all I could feel were tears flooding my face. It was like someone grabbed my heart and broke it into pieces. I called my sisters and all 3 of us just cried. We were devastated.

The next few weeks, we let the news and the reality sink in. We were all sad and very scared. Dad was in a state of fear, sadness but a ton of gratitude. Gratitude for us, for his life, for everything. It's like he knew his time was ticking and he had to be on his best behaviour. It was very emotional for all of us. Dad's pain increased by the days, he could barely eat, talk, walk - everything hurt so much and I really felt for him. We all did. We felt so powerless not being able to help him. All of us went home to search the internet, reaching out to our resources to see how we can help him. Ideally we wanted to help him heal naturally but found out very soon it would be challenging considering how aggressive his cancer was. We were told he was a good candidate for surgery which is rare for pancreatic patients and we were beyond grateful! We also found a great Naturopathic clinic in Port Moody that specializes in cancer treatment and they were available to see him right away. Being a Holistic Counsellor I knew that it is not just the physical that needed healing but the emotional and mental part of him too. I was able to find him an Arabic speaking counsellor that was able to see him right away. Dad agreed to all 3 options, surgery, the counsellor and the Naturopath.

On May 23rd, Dad was very blessed to have a successful surgery to remove the entire tumour in his pancreas. The doctor also told us it had not spread anywhere. We were all in so much gratitude and joy! Dad healed very quickly and was very happy and proud of himself and so were we! Part of his healing consisted of mind, body and soul changes but Dad wasn't willing to see the counsellor again and wasn't too keen on eating healthy foods. I tried really hard to empower him to do so but Dad wasn't having it and the surgeon and doctors weren't encouraging him to eat healthy either. They decided to start very aggressive chemo each week for 3 weeks and take one week off. They also told him to eat anything he wanted as he just needed to get stronger. I was angry and disappointed to hear that. "How could they give him such poor advice? He needs healthy food to heal!" but I also had to remind myself more than once that Dad has a choice and this is what he was choosing was to eat unhealthy and continue suppressing his emotions. On a better note, he agreed to start treatment with the Naturopath which would be a huge additional expense for us. We were willing to do what we needed to pay that bill to support dad and so we did.

A couple weeks later, I woke up in the middle of the night in so much pain again. The pain was back. I thought of dad right away, "Is he ok?" I wondered if he was hurting too. Sure enough the next day I checked on him and he was in pain again. For a few days Dad's pain was back and just as strong. On July 17th, less than a month after his surgery, Dad went back to his doctor with my sister Coco, for his follow up results and we discovered the cancer was back and had now spread all over his liver. This time, he was told he had 9 to 10 months to live. "9 to 10 MONTHS!!" Our hearts dropped again. Within seconds, my sisters, mom and I were in tears. "Is this really happening? Is he not getting another chance? Is this really our last months with him?"  I called him as soon as I heard the news, crying. Dad was positive once again, "Don't worry Dad, don't be sad, It's my fate. I can't do anything about it." How do I tell this man that he does have a chance when he is told other wise? How do I tell him not to give up? how do I tell him we are not ready for him to go yet? We want our kids one day to grow up around him! How is this even fair? Why is this happening? I had so many questions.

I was devastated. All I could think about was what was going on in his heart, in his mind. What is it like knowing you have only a few months and you are going to continue suffering until you take your last breath? I cried and cried all day.

"This is so unfair." I kept telling myself.

For days, we would talk to Dad multiple times a day checking on him. Everytime I spoke to him or thought of him I would just cry non stop. I was hurt. I was scared. I was angry. Dad's only request was always the same, he wanted us to spend as much time as we could as a family so we still try to make it happen as often as we can.

Dad was not an easy person to be around growing up. He was very kind, generous, loving and playful but he was also very emotionally distant, absent and strict. I was mostly afraid of my dad as a kid and I didn't really have a relationship with him. Dad grew up making some poor choices that had tough consequences on myself and people around us. Although Dad showed me love through buying me anything I ever wanted, he didn't know how to show affection and had poor communication skills. I had the best, newest toys always but I didn't really have a Dad. I didn't understand him, his behaviours and choices most of my life. As I grew older, faced life, pain and fears, I started having a lot more compassion for Dad and his journey.

Dad was born and raised in a big family in Gaza, Palestine in July 23, 1952. He was very close and very attached to his siblings and family. He would always do everything with them. At 14, Dad got himself in some trouble with the Israeli police and was imprisoned. My grandfather made a pact with the Israeli Police to release my dad and he would leave the country and never return. Israel agreed and within days my dad left his family, his school, and his country with a backpack, a passport and some money. Dad was terrified. He had never experienced being alone and having to take care of himself on his own. Dad was devastated and heartbroken. Dad has never been back to Gaza to see his family. He met his parents a couple times in Jordan but was never able to be with them again. He never graduated highschool. Dad had to learn to be a teenager, a man, a student, a husband and everything else on his own, with very little guidance.

Dad grew older having a lot of anger and resentment towards some of the experiences he went through, towards many people, towards God and life itself. In fact, Dad has always had a love/hate relationship with God. I don't blame him, I get it. I know Dad hasn't been in peace. I know Dad's anger, resentment and pain has come back to haunt him in the form of Cancer. Dad is angrier than ever, more resentful and hurt than ever and he is pointing at Cancer for everything that is happening to him. Dad is not seeing the connection between his emotional/mental pain and his physical pain. His pain, resentment and strong unresolved feelings have come back louder than ever asking him to pay attention but he isn't and today Cancer is eating him alive.

I know what that anger is like, I know how this pain feels, physically and emotionally. It breaks my heart to know that he is living this way, in a constant state of hurt. I want to hold him and shake him so hard and beg him to wake up and listen inward. Yet, I also know it is not my place to interrupt his journey. I can only serve him by sharing my love and knowledge but I can't make him do anything he is not willing or ready to do. And it is hard to step back and just observe him hurt. It is really hard and I am still learning.

Today, Dad has lost just under 60 lbs in almost 6 months. His cancer has not spread anywhere else. His tumour has grown just a bit, he is still under very aggressive chemo and he is in a ton of pain. Because of chemo, he has lost his hair, his sense of taste, his strength and his ability to do much. His quality of life has drastically changed and he is unhappy and sad. Dad has lost is sweetness of life. Everytime I see him or think of him, my heart aches, I can't help but hurt. I wish I could just hold him and take his pain away even for just a day. I wish I could do more to help him. I feel powerless and some days I feel really sad, yet I pray that I am given the strength to support him to the best I can through his journey and love him continuously no matter how he shows up. My wish for him is to find inner peace whether he chooses to stay or go.

I want to Thank all of the amazing souls around us that have supported us emotionally and financially through Dad's journey. Your Love, Prayers and Donations have made a great difference for Dad and our family. I am beyond grateful for you kindness and generosity. Thank You.

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