Friends

Most of your friends won’t understand what you’re going through. This is a unique situation and majority of kids and teenagers don’t know how to respond to your feelings.

All of your friends will be there in the beginning. Be prepared for people to stop showing that they care. Your friends will always care, but they just may not show it as much. It’s natural for your friends to carry on with their lives.

All of my friends were there for me right when my dad was diagnosed with cancer and when he passed away. As time went on, people stopped showing that they cared and got so involved in their petty problems. The harder part of finding out your parent has cancer is when the chemotherapy kicks in and you see the negative changes of the person who brought you into this world. Yes, the news is petrifying but you have all the support at that time. When it gets really tough, most people have forgotten what you’re going through. Losing a parent is probably one of the hardest things to overcome. At first you don’t realize what’s going on and it hasn’t hit you yet. That’s when every single person is there for you. But when it does hit you, only a few people will still be there. I’m thankful for the friends that still go out of their way to do nice things for me during such a hard time of my life as well those who cared about my dad’s health the full two years he was sick.  People will complain to you about trivial and insignificant problems in their life. If you experience this, don’t take it too hard- most of your friends won’t understand what’s going on in your parent’s body. In honest truth, it broke my heart when my friends were being unsupportive. I was shocked to see those who never even bothered reaching out to me.  I never really told anyone how much pain I was really in for the past two years, so maybe that was my fault. You do have the right to be mad or disappointed in your friends; you are going through something extremely hard and life changing and all the support helps.

Remember to communicate with your friends. If you need something, don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t like something they did, tell them. If they hurt your feelings or offended you in anyway, let them know. It’s a two way street with your friends, so make sure you are reaching out to them as well. Your friends also don’t know how to react to such horrific news so cut them some slack- not too much though.

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Internal Locus of Control vs. External Locus of Control

Internal Locus of Control- Internal Locus of Control means if something happens in your life you feel like you can change the situation or influence it. You feel like you have more control over the hardships in your life. For example, if your parent was diagnosed with cancer you would take them to chemotherapies, be positive around them, and do research on cancer (exactly what I did.)

External Locus of Control- External Locus of Control basically means you feel like whatever has happened in your life has happened because of your fate or destiny. You feel like there is nothing you can do about it. So if your parent was diagnosed with cancer, you feel like this is your destiny and that your life is going to suck now and you cannot do a single thing about it.

Remember, if your parent has cancer you are not the only one going through it. There are millions of kids who have been in your shoes (myself included). Your family is also experiencing the same struggles you are. Some cases might be worse, some might be better but there will always be someone in your proximity to understand your pain and struggles. I suggest taking advantage of those who truly understand how hard this is and showing your support to those in a similar situation. If you know someone at your school with a parent who has cancer that you rarely talk to, try reaching out to them and discuss your problems and offer them your support. I have done this many times and it’s definitely paid off. I know some people may be shy or some just don’t like sharing their parents diagnosis/prognosis, but it never hurts to try!

If you feel like your life sucks and you cannot go any further in life because your parent’s cancer feels like a barricade, you are mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I felt like that for a very long time. Sometimes I still feel like that. Thoughts of what could’ve been cross my mind all the time. Life is unfair and hard at times. But remember what you go through will make you a stronger person after the obstacles of cancer. Try not to think about the past so much or what could’ve been. Focus on the present and future. If you are unhappy with something in, change it. You control your life and your happiness.

Coping Strategy #3

Sleep!

Sleeping is an essential part of the human body’s daily routine. We often forget how important our sleep is because most of us are too busy thinking about a bigger problem- our parent’s cancer.

  • Infants should get about 14 hours of sleep.
  • Children and teenagers should get about 9-10 hours of sleep.
  • Adults should get about 8 hours of sleep.

Getting the right amount of sleep makes learning new things and memorizing much easier. It also helps stabilize your metabolism and blood pressure. Your irritability and mood swings significantly decrease. Sleep keeps your cardiovascular system and immune system healthy as well.

When you find out your parent has cancer (or there was a change in the chemotherapy, chemotherapies aren’t working, your parents’ life is coming to an end, etc.) it is natural to feel unbelievably tired. The day I found out my dad was dying I cried so much and my head was throbbing a ridiculous amount. I fell asleep really quickly but I had a very hard time staying asleep. I probably woke up every single hour. I ended up waking up every hour when my dad was on Hospice Care. I also woke up multiple times when my dad was sick and an excessive amount the few days after a chemotherapy cycle. I still wake up every single hour while coping with my father’s death. I feel so tired during the day and I am always lacking energy now. All I want to do is sit around and have a pretend conversation about my dad.

But then, I had a realization. I seriously needed to get my life together. I started trying a lot of things to make me tired during the day and relaxed at night leading to a good nights’ sleep.

I started having tea after dinner to help me relax. (Obviously the tea is decaffeinated) I still have my tea and I love it! I usually have the Chamomile tea (Sleep Time Tea) from Trader Joe’s or the decaffeinated tea from the brand, “Mighty Leaf”. Mighty Leaf has delicious flavors like Organic African Nectar, my favorite! The two weeks after my dad passed away consisted of spending time with family and listening to everyone give their condolences (which is very tiring). I started going back to school which was also very draining for me because I had so much make up work. Going to school also took out all of the energy in my body to fake my smile and pretend I was okay considering not a single person understood my pain. Summer came around and there were enough house errands and family members to see to exhaust me. The days I had nothing to do, I found a hobby, like practicing an instrument or exercising.

Sleeping the full 8-10 hours is part of being healthy and being kind to your body. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night and all you think about is your sick parent, take some time for yourself before you go to bed. Have a bubble bath. Maybe try some delicious tea. You could even do yoga or journal!

Remember you have the right to feel the way you feel. Having a parent with cancer is one of the hardest things to overcome. Don’t let your worries and concerns affect your sleep. It’s important to wake up refreshed (and be ready to deal with the new day’s emotions). It’s  vital to keep your body healthy when trying to make your parent’s body healthy. Never forget about yourself and your needs.

Hard Times do not Excuse Poor Decisions

Everyone faces adversity. Every single person. There are different extremes though. One person’s adversity might be not getting into their dream college of UC Berkley or Stanford and another’s might be something more real, like losing a parent to cancer. (On a totally different note- not getting into your dream school is not the end of the world. It should be a motivation to work harder in the future. Also, you can go to any school and succeed. There are always options of transferring, graduate school, etc.)

Going through a rough patch in your life is no excuse for poor decisions. I personally know many people who have had a parent with cancer (the parents are fine now) and the kids went down the wrong path of life. They stopped caring about school, relationships with friends and family, and started caring too much about drugs and alcohol.  Once  you are down that path, it is very difficult to turn around and make the right life decisions. But, it’s definitely possible. One could take the help of family or friends or even seek for professional help, like a life coach or therapist. Group therapy also helps a lot; you get to sit with a group of people who are relatively going through a similar predicament or phase of life, which then makes it easier to open up about your feelings and your hardships in life. It’s also a great way to save money!

Coping Strategy #2

Yoga!

Yoga is an activity that has become popular only recently worldwide. From Hinduism to Buddhism to Jainism, yoga spread across the globe. Yoga is used for meditation and to find peace within oneself. It was first practiced in ancient India to portray ritual discipline. In india there are three types of yoga:

-Karma Yoga: The yoga of action

-Bhakti Yoga: The yoga of devotion

-Jnana Yoga: The yoga of knowledge

Yoga is known to be a holistic healer and the key to balance out stress hormones. It also strengthens your cardiovascular and muscular system as well as your posture. The great thing about yoga is that anyone can do it! The exercise gives you the time reclaim your emotional stability as well as your mental and physical health. The key is to breath deep (and full) breathes while coordinating those breathes with the motions of your body. There are many different types of yoga positions. Some require sitting, some reuire standing, some require flexibility and some don’t. You can do yoga anywhere- you can take a class at a gym or you can do it in your own backyard looking over a view.

Here are a few websites to help get you starter:

http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-682/Yoga-Poses-for-Beginners-Howto-Tips-Benefits-            Images-Videos.html

http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaposes/An_Index_of_Yoga_Poses.htm

http://www.myyogaonline.com/poses

Remember to go slow when you begin, practice with an instructor, and warm up properly!

Coping Strategy #1

Journal!

Journaling (or keeping a diary) really does help anybody with any kind of problem. No matter how old you are too! Many people don’t feel comfortable talking to others about their problems so this is a proactive way to cope with your feelings while respecting your privacy of keeping it to yourself. Journaling really does help manage stress and heal negative feelings. Once you have one idea going it is easy to keep on writing! Journaling also decreases the risk of asthma and arthritis, while improving cognitive function and the immune system! Drawing pictures in a journal also significantly helps. Take a quick five minutes out of your day to journal! One could even do five minutes of journaling every few days and it will still help manage your stress and cope with your feelings. 

Kids who Have a Parent with Cancer

As a parent, one of the hardest things to do is tell your kids you have cancer. No parent would ever anticipate this coming…who would think about something so scary in their spare time; “Hey. if I get cancer one day, how would I tell my beloved kids?” A parent can’t wait too long to tell their kids something is wrong, no matter what age, kids pick up on things like this quickly.

I vividly remember the day my dad told me he had cancer. It was May 22, 2011. I thought it was going to be a regular day with Sunday brunch, study sessions, and movies with my family but then one word changed my whole life: cancer. Feelings of fear and uncertainty began to overshadow my dreams and aspirations in my academic and personal life. I then had so many thoughts and questions running through my mind.

Who’s my dad’s doctor? Is he a good doctor? Where did he go to school? Is the doctor even a ‘he’? What stage is the cancer? Where exactly is it? Am I going to be able live my life normally? Is my academic life going to be jeopardized? When does the chemotherapy start?

and the scariest of them all

Am I going to be okay? Are my mom and sister going to be okay? Is my own father [the man who taught me how to talk, walk, swim, bike, tie a shoelace, play guitar, solve physics and calculus problems; the man who taught me the meaning of life], going to be okay?

At times, we forget that the “C word” is hard for everybody in the family- not just the patient, not just the spouse, not just the older sibling, not just the younger sibling, but every single person. No matter what kind of cancer or what stage the cancer has progressed to, it is one of the scariest diseases for all countries across the globe.

As a kid, one of the hardest things to do is hear that your parent has cancer and you cannot do a single thing about it. At least in my case as a high school student I couldn’t cure my dad, no matter how many things I tried. I felt so helpless. However, as much as I could have done, I did with no doubt in my mind. Everything from finding healthy diets to learning how to use an oxygen tank required 200% of my energy and every inch of hope I had.

What is Cancer?

Many kids who have a parent or sibling diagnosed with cancer don’t really understand what it means- they just know it’s bad news. They see parents crying, doctors fighting, and relatives flying in.

Cancer is an abnormal cell growth in a part of a body (or parts of a body) that are growing rapidly. Cancer can be found in any part of your body, even in your blood. However, there are ways to treat cancer- like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery.