Coping Strategy #6

Go to Sleep Happy!

Like I mentioned in blog posts before, sleep is very important! Everyone just  performs better at daily tasks with their full amount of sleep. I think it’s really important to go to sleep happy (or as happy as you can be under the circumstances). Before you go to sleep, think of atleast three things you’re thankful for. I recently started doing this and it’s been helping me.

If someone made you unhappy that day, try to let it go or even confront them to get it off your chest. Finish all your goals for the day to feel accomplished and ready for the next day.

Go to sleep in a positive mood. Don’t fret over the little things. Be thankful for what you have. Sweet dreams!

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Getting Through the Day

Sometimes when I wake up in the morning I feel like laying in bed all day and just looking at pictures of my dad and crying.  And sometimes during the day I feel like crawling into bed and doing the exact same thing.

Here are just a few things that get me through the day:

1. Knowing my dad is watching over me- I know that whatever I’m doing is making my dad happy. He wouldn’t want me to completely stop my life and sit home and sulk. As much as I would like to do that, it’s important for me to grieve in a healthy way.
2. Connecting my dad to every part of my day- I love celebrating my dad’s life and bragging to everyone on how cool and loveable he was. If I was in a conversation with someone I feel comfortable with, there’s a high chance I’ll bring up my dad and an amazing memory to go with the conversation. Talking about him with the right people makes me feel better, but not all teenagers are comfortable with that.
3. Doing it all for my dad- In my eyes, everything I do I do it for my dad. He’s my motivation in life. From the smallest goals to the largest tasks, I see my dad at the end of every destination.

Take everything step by step and day by day. Appreciate the little things in life. And of course, always keep your family as your number one priority.

Coping Strategy #5

Music!

Listening to music is beneficial. Having creative lyrics to listen to helps find yourself and explain those feelings in a way that you could not have put in words. Not only is listening to music helpful, but writing music is a great creative outlet to help cope with hard circumstances. Music lowers stress and anxiety levels. The stress hormone, cortisol decreases with music, leading to a more positive mood and outlook on life. Through research many psychologists have found music therapy helps build self-esteem, confidence, and cognitive functioning.

My dad and I loved playing guitar together. I will always cherish the memories of us sharing our enthusiasm for the instrument. Over the last few years, my guitar madness has diminished as school took over my life. The few times I still play the guitar, it calms my emotions down and brings back amazing memories of my dad. Playing an instrument is therapeutic- you get to forget what’s happening with your parent’s cancer and you focus on your music.

Music is a great escape from the real world. It lets your brain take an imaginative route away from your parent’s cancer.

The Comparing of Grandparents

When you tell people you have a sick parent at the age of 12-18 years most people don’t know how to react, especially your friends that are the same age as you. Many of them will compare your parent’s diagnosis /prognosis to their grandparent’s because that’s how cancer touched their heart. I personally had a lot of problems with this. Although my heart truly goes out to anyone touched by cancer when their grandparent was the victim, often times children have a closer bond to their parents than their grandparents. Your friends are going to tell you, “I know what you’re going through. My grandpa/grandma had cancer.” They don’t know what you’re going through. You do not have to depend on your grandparents as much as your parents. You do not have the same bond with parents as your grandparents. (Unless you live with your grandparents, then I would understand how that is relatable.)

If your friends are telling you they know how you feel because of their grandparents sickness, just let them think that. This is not anything to worry about. They are just trying to help you and support you. You are going to come across many people who don’t understand you. Majority of your acquaintances  won’t even come close to knowing your pain, but know that everyone is trying to help you get through this. Don’t fuss over the small comments that make you upset. Instead, be thankful that people are trying to support you.

Do Something for Yourself

During the time my dad was sick, I was so busy taking care of him, I stopped taking care of myself. I realized I needed to start doing something for myself before I go crazy.

Having a sick parent is a lot to deal with, especially as a teenager. You already have other problems like, focusing on the SAT’s, relationship scandals, friend drama, and so much more. No matter what struggles you are overcoming it is important to do something for yourself. Take at least half an hour of your day to do something that makes you happy, genuinely happy. You could start a new hobby, learn a language, exercise, anything. You could go for a bike ride in your neighborhood or start an art project. Breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and general exercise all help you relax. If you don’t have time to start a new hobby or do something for yourself, definitely do something that will help you relax. Try not to think about your cancerous stricken parent for half an hour of your day. Take your mind off the stress cancer brings. As hard as it is to forget something that big, you have to remember you have your whole life ahead of you and this is just the beginning of all the curve balls life will throw at you. It’s important to learn how to cope with these curve balls by doing something for yourself!

Life Changing Moments

After my dad accepted his life was coming to an end, he was fighting just to see my sister and I graduate. He told his oncologist to do whatever it takes to keep him alive until June 20, 2013 (the day of my graduation). Four days after my dad passed away my sister graduated from The George Washington University. Five weeks after he passed away I graduated high school. It was one of the hardest days of those 5 weeks. As I was walking across the stage receiving my diploma, the superintendent of the school district shook my hand and said, “Your dad is so proud of you.” Walking down from the stage tears started falling from my eyes. Despite the high number of family members and friends that came to see me graduate, the only person I really wanted there was my father. At that moment, it hit me. I’m not going to have my dad at my college graduation, my wedding, the birth of my children, and so much more. I also realized he will always be with me-my dad will be in my heart even if he’s not physically there.

If you are in the sad situation where your parent’s life is coming to an end or you lost a parent due to cancer at a young age, know that your parent wanted to be at every single life changing moment. Whether it’s your first day of preschool or your first day of your new job, make sure to keep your parent in your heart. It’s going to be hard doing so many things without them, but it will have to become a new norm. Appreciate your loved ones while you can and make as many memories as possible because you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I hope you find a way to get through events of your life while dealing with the hardships of the “C word”.

Giving Back to the Community

Cancer is a scary word. It’s even scarier when it’s in your life and effecting your parent in the most negative way possible. One month after my dad was diagnosed with fourth stage cancer, I started a Relay for Life team for the youth of my city. I educated others on cancer (specifically Colon) and healthy diets as well as fundraised for American Cancer Society. Years later, I am still involved and always will be.

To cope with having a sick parent, it may help to give back to the community. Get involved in community walks, like Relay for Life. One could even start a club or team at their school. There is so much someone could do to help change the life of cancer patients and their families. You could volunteer at a hospital, sell your art work and donate the money to a cancer research lab, or just spread the word about the importance of doctor visits and screenings.

To get involved with Relay for Life visit:

http://www.relayforlife.org/?gclid=CJT3hYux7rgCFRDZQgod4BcASg

Coping Strategy #4

Pet Therapy!

During such a hard time in your life it’s important to have your escape and your “me time”. Something that may help you is pet therapy. It helps your emotional, social, and cognitive functioning while releasing stress. Remember that your family is going through a whole lot of pain and stress, so it is important to support them as much as possible.

In my family, it was time for me to gain an indefinite amount of independence and control my emotions to help my family in every possible way. I always felt like I had to hide the emotions the “C word” caused because I thought it was more important if I were my parents’ support system. Only in the past few weeks I realized I had the right to feel the way I do. I started doing things for myself. Sometimes I just randomly go to the dog park (without my dog, because he’s so big I can’t handle him) and watch the dogs play because it makes me happy. Sometimes I just sit next to my big, furry four-legged friend and my worries go away. Sometimes (more like all the time) I look at pictures of my dog because he’s so cute and no matter how sad or mad or angry or frustrated I am with the world, he’ll always bring a smile to my face.

Pet therapy not only helps us kids with a parent with cancer, but it helps our sick parent too. My dog, Duke and my dad were best friends. My dad called Duke his son and made jokes referring to how he liked my dog better than his two daughters. I strongly believe during the two years my father was sick, one of the things that kept him motivated to fight the cancer was Duke. Duke had a positive effect on my dad that no one will forget. Dogs sense when something is wrong. Usually when my dad walked in through the front door, Duke would greet him by jumping on him and licking his face. During the last three months of my dad’s life, Duke knew my dad couldn’t handle his jumps anymore. When my dad was in Hospice Care, Duke would calmly sit next to him and not bother a single soul. (Duke is about 115 pounds and one of the most jumpy, friendly, rambunctious dogs ever. For him to just sit is rare.) I wish I could thank Duke for everything he’s done for my dad.

The Hypnotist

About two weeks after my dad passed away I had no choice but to finally attend school. In my AP Psychology class we had a hypnotist come in and educate our class on various things in the field and even hypnotize someone to forget their biggest fear. The first day she lectured us she brought up how she could ‘cure’ cancer by hypnotizing the patient. She showed us a book about how hypnotization cures cancer. I found it quite inconsiderate. My eyes automatically were full of tears. Fortunately I had my best friend sitting right next to me. She asked me if I was okay and I just nodded. Unfortunately we were sitting in the front row. It took everything in me to not jump out of my seat and hit her. She started saying insulting things like, “Those who have cancer can’t handle the stresses of life. Us healthy people fight off our abnormal cells. Only the weak get cancer.” She kept going on and on. By this time, tears were running down my face. I simply got up and left the room. Everyone in my class saw me crying and leave. My teacher followed me out and hugged me. She apologized for the hypnotist’s crude behavior and explained that she’s never mentioned cancer before. I went to the bathroom, wiped my tears and faked my smile until school was over.

Thankfully the hypnotist was only there for about 4 days. On her last day lecturing us she asked the class to each write 1-2 sentences on what we’ve learned. I wrote her a full page letter about the negative feelings she caused during such a hard time. It was as if  a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I realized I had the right to be offended, especially when it comes to such a touchy subject.

I’m not saying I’m against hypnosis for cancer patients. You should definitely tell your parents to try it if they want! I’m just against people with a negative outlook when it comes to cancer. Cancer can come upon anyone, not just ‘the weak’. School gets really hard when cancer has touched your heart and all your peers speak of it in a rude manner. They’ll never realize their manner until cancer touches their heart, but let’s pray that won’t happen.

If someone offends you on the subject of cancer, let them know your feelings. It’s more painful to bottle up bitter feelings that will make you more emotional when your life is already a roller coaster of pain.