One of the most emotionally arduous periods of my life was the year my father – Ian Kinsman Trout (1949-2011) – died. When my beloved Aunt Sue passed away in August 2022, it was incredibly heartbreaking. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2020 and gave me plenty of time (two and a half years) to prepare. I was able to spend time with her before she died. My father on the other hand wasn’t so lucky. He was formally diagnosed with stomach cancer in February 2011 and passed away the same year, in early August.
I still remember that night when my brother and I found out about his diagnosis. We just had dinner at a Thai restaurant and decided to pay Dad a visit, as his house was close-by. When we came inside, we saw him resting in his chair, covered in a blanket and he didn’t look good. He sat us down and told us. I remember him humourously quipping that he had “caught it from Phil” – Phil was our other aunt’s husband who at that time had also been diagnosed with cancer; he is now in remission.
They discovered Dad had cancer when he came to the hospital after breaking his leg. Apparently, he had gotten up too quickly, and as a result, had snapped a bone in his leg. As they were running tests and doing the scans, they found the cancer had spread throughout his body. Because this, for the rest of his life, he was required to use a wheelchair.
Everything afterwards that night was a complete blur for me. Out of nowhere, I had been emotionally sucker-punched. I don’t remember how I felt or what I thought – I guess I must have been too dizzy to even think straight.
As the weeks went by, my siblings and I did everything we could to spend as much time with him. I visited him and watched all of the old classic movies – the same ones I had watched growing up with him and his favourite films, such as Jason and the Argonauts, The Life of Brian and Robin and Marian. We basically watched all if the classic stop-motion Ray Harryhausen movies.
One night, a few months into his treatment, when all my siblings and I where at his place, he sat us down around him and informed us that, because of the chemo, the doctors believed that he could last another two years.
I felt a small sense of relief. It may not have been as good as a full remission, but let’s face it, we all knew that was never going to be on the table. Another two years would have been perfect – I would have been able to spend more time with him, and prepare myself more for his inevitable death.
Unfortunately, it was all short lived. A few weeks later, my father had come down with an infection, which caused the cancer to spread more rapidly across his body, diminishing the time he had left to live from two years to a matter of a few weeks.
When my brother and I visited him, as he slept in his hospital bed, we didn’t think much of it at the time, as we didn’t comprehend the severity of it. However, that very quickly changed when my mother entered the room looking very serious and solemn.
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out. I was in front of the computer doing my usual thing. Not mincing words, she told me how the infection had compromised his immune system and that he now only had about a week left.
The news shook me to the core. I was devastated beyond belief. It felt as if a giant bird, with razor-sharp talons had pierced through my stomach and grabbed hold of my intestines, violently squeezing them without mercy. I remember bursting with tears.
He was initially given one week to live, but luckily, he was able to last two.
During his last few days, I made it a priority to say my last words to him. I told him how much I loved him and cherished him, and how I was proud to be his son.
He couldn’t speak or move, all he could do was hold on for dear life, but his body was deteriorating.
One of the most emotionally painful experiences I ever experienced was the last night I ever saw him alive. He was nonverbal and wheezing as he struggled to breath. My siblings and I sat around his deathbed, teary eyed as we watched our father breathing his last breathes, feeling completely powerless to help him.
A day later, on August 3rd, 2011, my father had finally succumbed. He was finally at peace.
Looking back on my father and how he lived most of his life, it’s sadly not surprising he only lived to 62, which is considerably below the average Australian life expectancy of 82. He was hardly anyone’s idea of a healthy man. He never exercised, hardly ever went to the doctor for check-ups and ate whatever he wanted, which was barely ever healthy.
He lived a very sedentary lifestyle, a lifestyle he undoubtedly developed after decades of being a games developer, since the early 80s. He would spend hours sitting in front of the computer every day, and would drink 10 to 15 cans of diet coke a day – and no, that isn’t an exaggeration. As a young man he was a pack-a-day smoker until he quit.
Around the time I was born, he had a brief throat-cancer scare that was resolved quickly with an immediate operation. As the years went by, he would later have a triple by-pass operation and multiple strokes, and a year before he died, he had developed diabetes.
Learning From my Father’s Mistakes
Looking back on the way he lived, my brother and I wonder how he was able to live for so long; and can’t help but wonder if he would still be with us today if he had put in just a minimum of effort into looking after himself. It was this fact that initially raced through my mind after I got my body scan results back in 2016.
In 2016, at the insistence of my brother, I got a body-scan and was informed by a physician, who evaluated the results, that I was in great danger of potential future strokes and heart-attacks if I didn’t start taking better care of myself.
As I remembered my father’s terrible health, it dawned on me how much I was emulating him to a tee. Just like him, I too was living a sedentary life, spending hours upon hours – almost the entire day – in front of the computer screen, drinking nothing but soft-drinks, creating a soda can landfill beside the computer desk. Unless I wanted to join my father in an early grave, something had to change, and that something was how I took my health for granted. Since then, I have made changes and great strides to improving my overall health and to become considerably less sedentary than I was before.
I guess, in a way, my father has become a role model for me in the sense of knowing exactly how not to live. As much as I love and cherish him, my father was no example for me on how to take care of one’s health, and knowing him the way I do, he probably would agree.
Sometimes I wish someone had taken him to get a body-scan at some point in his life and give him the urgent wake-up call that I received. He would probably be still with us today.