How do you say goodbye to your Dad?

Posted on January 17, 2022


Tonight I have recorded the most painful voice message of my life. I never ever thought I would have to say goodbye to my father like this.

I am thousands of miles away in Chiang Mai northern Thailand while my father lies in ICU in London, struggling to live. Infected with Covid, clot in heart, and painfully thin after a week of being sedated on a ventilator. He does not have many days left. And my mum tells me he is barely lucid and is suffering.

His body is fragile and he is too weak to fight his infection despite being pumped full of drugs. He was not vaccinated when he fell ill in December and has many underlying health issues. Inevitable, suicide, some might say. He spent a week on a covid ward before collapsing and being taken to ICU.

Despite the decades of broadcasting I could not hold my voice steady tonight and fight back the tsunami of tears. I just needed him to know how much he is loved and that it’s ok to let go. I don’t want him to suffer. I want him to be at peace and that everything will be ok if he chooses to give up. He had a great life. He achieved so much, a poor immigrant who came to the UK with big dreams that all came true. He provided a wonderful and privileged life for us. I am so thankful for all of it. He has always and will always be my hero.

Acceptance is my word for 2022. It’s hard to swallow all the time when bone marrow cancer keeps taking from me all the f-ing time. But it is a fight I know I am guaranteed to lose in the end.

I have been put into a miserable situation. I cannot travel to the UK to support my mother because I am sick, so many people forget this fact, and I need treatment every 8 weeks. Without blood I deteriorate fast. It is scary on days when I am bedridden, see no daylight and feel so weak I want to give up altogether. Without blood the cancer will progress faster and I will have organ damage. The NHS does not give regular transfusions to cancer patients as treatment. And right now, covid patients take priority.

I cannot get on an international flight from Thailand because I cannot get medical insurance. No one will insure an active blood cancer patient. I am untouchable.

One of the conditions the Thai government insists on is medical insurance to leave and enter the kingdom during covid times. The cancer is in my blood. It affects every part of my body. Any potential claim would be impacted by my disease. Do you have any idea how messed up that is? It makes me feel so utterly worthless and repulsed by what is growing inside of me. I am in limbo.

I have wrestled with the idea of travelling to a land border and trying to get an international flight from another neighboring country. But with my immunity as weak as it is, I will be exposing myself to more risk with more unnecessary interactions.

If I somehow leave, more than likely I’ll will get locked out of Thailand. A home environment that has helped to keep me stable. Affordable health care, excellent nutrition, warm climate – the cold is very painful for me, and yoga practioners who truly understand that asana and pranayama all help to keep mind and body healthy. I am at peace here, I cannot afford to live in London without a full time job. Flying into Europe would be like entering a Petri dish of infection.

You have no idea how many nights I have cried violently so frustrated that this is how cancer screws up something as simple as being with family. It is painful not being able to put my arms around my mum. To be the physical pillar of support she needs. I have not seen either of them in three years.

My mother has told me to stay put. She doesn’t want me risking my health and adding to her worries. She told me she needs me strong and safe. So I am doing my best to honour that wish, but my god it is so excruciating watching from the sidelines, helpless.

My extended family have been a marvel. Cousins have called and showed up to prop up mum and take her to hospital and bring her food. I am truly grateful from the bottom of my heart that this is happening. “Thank god for family,” one of my Thai friends said to me this week.

When Dad was first taken to ICU, mum panicked. The terror in her voice was piercing. She was frightened of him dying. I could feel her clutching at any piece of hope that he would come back home healed. She didn’t want to be alone. She wasn’t ready for this. She told me she felt, numb, anxious, vulnerable and scared. I know these emotions, I feel them regularly living alone with my cancer. It hurt me to know she was going through this.

They are a couple who’ve been together more than 50 years. She is old school. Married in her 20s. They did everything together. She has no friends or hobbies outside of their relationship. He is her whole world. How do you restart a new life at 76? It’s hard for people half her age who can navigate the modern world with ease.

But over the last week, as awful and traumatic as it has been for her to see Dad with tubes coming out of him. I have witnessed a shift in her perspective. The initial knee-jerk panic has turned to a form of resolve. There is acceptance in her voice and she too wants him to be trauma free. She is ready to let him go, if that is best for him. She knows she will be supported and that we will try our best to help her adjust.

I am proud of her. She over came covid and has managed to soldier on carrying her heartache but visiting him every day with the faithful loyalty of someone who married for love.

I am so very grateful to the hospital staff at King’s College in London. They have and continue to be brilliant. It is the hospital I was born at, and the one my father will more than likely die in.