647 Days

647 Days

Father Daughter | Feisworld

I can’t believe it is going to be the 7th Anniversary since my father’s passing on December 6th, 2009.

I have been thinking about him a lot lately and remembered an essay I wrote in 2010, when I was applying to business schools in Boston (MIT Sloan and HBS to be exact).

Nope, I didn’t get into either one of those school and I was not interested in throwing $150K at the other options. In retrospect, it was a lot of time and energy invested in the GMAT, putting together essays that I wouldn’t publish anywhere. Right?

Because nobody wants to publish some 300-word count, ‘tell us about an experience when you felt you overcame some obstacles and you were proud…’

Well, let me change that. I have a blog now and I run a podcast asking some 80+ people to pour their hearts out, and tell their stories like they’ve never been told before.

Hello world, here’s a very short essay about my dad. There are many more to come, I hope.

Dad came out of his surgery four hours earlier than expected. “We cannot treat your father anymore. It is too late. Maybe three months…” The doctor shook his head and walked away with hands behind his back. Doctor Ma was one of the best-known doctors in the field of esophageal cancer and the very best doctor we could find. There I was, standing in his office with my father’s CT scan, feeling hopeless for the first time in my life.

My supervisor had just put my name through for the next round of promotion; I was in the middle of preparing to apply to business school. Everything changed in an instant and I knew right then that my father needed me. I came back to Boston, quickly applied for a Leave of Absence and headed home to Beijing.

Different scenarios and speeches went through my head but I could not think of a way to deliver the dreadful news to my father. It would not take long before he discovered that he was abandoned by the previous hospital. I needed to come up with a solution in a field that is unfamiliar to me, and in a place I have not lived in for over eight years.

I turned to Google and started researching other esophageal cancer experts in Beijing. To my surprise, I discovered Dr. Wang who had studied at Harvard Medical School and treated numerous patients with success. It must have been fate that put me through to a call to Dr. Wang and scheduled an appointment the next day.

Waiting outside Dr. Wang’s office were desperate families and friends. One woman went in before I did and she started sobbing the moment the door opened. “Dr. Wang, please save my husband!” she cried. My chest tightened and my palms started to sweat. How could I explain my case to ask for Dr Wang’s help? My father had stage three cancer and was already rejected from a very prestigious hospital.

Then I saw a magical image in front of my eyes. It was the poster child from the American Cancer Society with that beautiful, hopeful and confident smile. As I walked in, I smiled. Dr. Wang looked curious and then he smiled back with a sense of calmness and relief.

Dr. Wang and I inevitably chatted about Boston and the Red Sox. He also mentioned practicing medicine at Dana Farber. My father was admitted to his hospital shortly after. Three months after the treatment, we saw dramatic improvement.

My father passed away nearly two years later, 647 days to be exact. During that precious time, I counted my blessings and my time spent with him each day. We talked more than we ever did in nearly fifteen years; he went back to his home in Canton to say goodbye to his siblings. One of China’s best calligraphers, he struggled to complete the last collection of artworks. My father is now resting in peace overlooking one of the most beautiful places in China, Guilin.

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