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A Mother and Father on Losing Their Son To Cancer
Posted on September 19, 2016, 4:30 PM
Just three years old at the time he was diagnosed with leukemia, our son, Ben Obadia, fought for three years. Six months after those three years, it came back. Then followed two more years of intense chemo, during which the cancer returned. Again.
For years, Ben underwent first one treatment and then another. Chemo, followed by eight sessions of whole-body radiation. Then, at the age of nine, a partially-matching double-cord blood transplant. It worked! Ben enjoyed seven blissful, cancer-free years. Here’s what he did during those seven years: got straight As in school, wrote the manuscript for a book, said “I love you” like 15 times a day, played the piano and the trumpet, created movies, and threw tremendous parties.
Then, towards the end of June 2015, Ben had difficulty with his speech and his short-term memory. A CT scan revealed a 5-centimeter brain tumor; they operated the very next day. Analysis of the tumor found it to be a fast-growing, highly malignant glioblastoma (GBM) with a grim prognosis. Over the next year, Ben endured 33 sessions of intense radiation and, once again, chemotherapy. But despite all that, the cancer proved to be incurable and after 14 years of battling two types of cancer, first leukemia and then GBM, Ben passed away at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice on July 8th at the age of 17.
On that day, we made our last promise to Ben—to do good in his honor.
There isn’t a manual for grieving a child. Oh, sure, there is the advice of psychologists and counsellors, and well-known religious protocols. And that may work for some, but we all must face this magnitude of loss in our own way, and we can’t possibly know the way until it actually happens.
Losing a child stays with you everywhere you go and with every breath you take. It affects each and every atom of your being. You go to sleep sad and completely empty. Then, after that short reprieve, you wake up feeling the same way. Your child is not here! We go to his closed door the way we left it before bed. We half-expect it to be open and Ben to be downstairs, as he always woke up before everyone else. But, no. His door is still closed. His bed is unchanged from the night before. The room is quiet, still, and nothing has moved since he was here last, way back in May.
When we found Ben’s poem, My Story, at first our hearts sank, but it was also like finding a jewel he had left behind:
By Ben Obadia
I wake up in a room, cold sweats running down my face
First I think I’m lost, I’m scared, get me out of the place
I just need an explanation
A reason for this proclamation
I didn’t agree to this condemnation
All I want is an answer
I didn’t choose this fate
But I may fear that it’s too late
I can’t last long in this state
The truth is I have cancer
In and out of it every day
Not knowing if I’ll be ok
From the setting of the sun to the rise of the moon
I pleaded for it to be over soon
In and out of clinics I went
My body feeling drained and spent
I didn’t hurt but inside I knew
There wasn’t anything I could do
We don’t know if the grief we feel will ever lessen, but the sadness our family feels also stirs a compassion and desire for action. Ben may have said “there wasn’t anything I could do,” but maybe that’s because it’s our job now, our charge to call for more research and to Stand Up To Cancer.
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