My Trip Part One: I Got Out of My Comfort Zone

About seven-ish months after my dad passed away, I made a week long trip with my mom and my sister half way across the world to India where most of my father’s family resides. This trip was extremely emotional and moving, but I did not seem to get closure on my father’s death whatsoever. I mainly went to show my face and pay my respect to my dad’s parents.

I made the decision to go back to India by myself this past month. I made the decision to get out of my comfort zone, to receive closure with the cancerous tragedy, and also to finally deal with my negative feelings. One of the hardest parts was the fact that I didn’t have my mom and sister to walk me through this. Thankfully, I was staying with family members during my whole trip. Although I was staying with family, I still didn’t feel so comfortable at first. By the end of my trip, everything in India felt like home.

I didn’t have many expectations going into the trip; I wasn’t sure if I would actually get the closure I wanted. But, I got out of my comfort zone, went to a different country alone, and grew immensely as a person.

Everyday I did something new and everyday I learned something new. I had a new realization about my dad, my life, and cancer in general. By the end of my trip, I started to accept my dad’s death. I started to come to terms with the tragedy that occurred in my life. I analyzed many aspects during my trip. I thought about which friends were really there for me, I thought about how my grades in school suffered, and I thought about what my dad was going through. I always knew that he was in pain and he was scared of the future, but it was only when some of his friends started telling me the things he told them during his sick days that I really started to put myself in his shoes. The thoughts of my dad’s suffering brought me back a few steps, but the trip as a whole resulted in me taking giant leaps on this grieving process.

This experience has taught me the best way to grow as an individual is to leave your comfort zone. I am so beyond thankful I had the experience to travel and grow as a person while grieving in a healthy way.

Here is a picture of me with my dad's mother. We had unforgettable heart-to-hearts about my dad. She also lost her dad at a young age, and then her son at an old age. I have a ridiculous amount of respect for her and I am so thankful I got to bond with her for the first time in my life.

Here is a picture of me with my dad’s mother. We had unforgettable heart-to-hearts about my dad. She also lost her dad at a young age, and then her son at an old age. I have a ridiculous amount of respect for her and I am so thankful I got to bond with her for the first time in my life.

My Magical Week at Camp Kesem

Last week, I attended Camp Kesem as a counselor. My fellow counselors were raving about how  life changing this organization is, but only when the camp started, I experienced the magic of Kesem.

Camp Kesem is a non-profit organization that sends kids who have or have had a parent with cancer to an unforgettable summer camp. All of these kids have been touched by this terrible sickness in one way or another. Everyone has a cancer story at Camp Kesem, which creates indescribable bonds and lifelong relationships.

Kesem is just like any other summer camp with the go karts, creative arts and crafts, rock climbing, sports, thrilling zip lining, and so much more, except Camp Kesem offers a safe place for all the campers (and counselors) to share their cancer story and their feelings.

The head counselors grouped our 120 campers in units based on age. Each unit had a color to represent themselves. I was a counselor for the yellow unit, which was for 10-11 year old campers. The colors were a good way to gain spirit and add some competition to Kesem. Also, it was an opportunity for counselors to get little gifts for campers. For example, yellow unit counselors got their campers bandanas and socks. This gives an immediate bond between counselors and campers, and more importantly it’s just a little something that each camper can take home and keep as a memorabilia.

Every night before going to bed, each cabin (which were separated by our units) had a little chat. We called this Cabin Chat! It was a time for the campers to talk about anything from how their day went to how the day went when they found out their parent had cancer. The counselors asked light questions, like their favorite part of the day and proceeded to ask deeper and heavier questions about cancer. Of course the kids don’t have to answer any questions they don’t want to.

Head counselors also organized a Parent Memorial to remember those who have lost their life to cancer. There was a slideshow with the parents of counselors and campers who have passed and a time for each one to share a favorite memory with their parent and write them a letter. In between all of this, two counselors were chosen to speak and share their cancer story and I happened to be one of them.

Through the first few days of camp leading up to the ceremony, I was really nervous to tell my story. I kept thinking about what to say between all of our fun activities. To be totally honest, I was really scared I would say something that would hurt a camper’s feelings. I also wasn’t sure of how much of my story I should be telling. Should I be telling all these kids that I watched my dad die? Should I tell them about my hospital and Hospice experience? Should I tell them about the negative feelings that occurred during my dad’s sickness? Should I tell them how I cope? Should I tell them about my blog? Should I tell them about the positive lessons I have learned during a sad time? I had all of these questions plus thousands more running through my head. After the slideshow, it was my turn to speak. I stood up and looked around the circle. Everyone had this face on- it was like cancer just literally punched them in the stomach at that minute. So, I just started talking. I had no idea on how I was even going to start or end, but I just talked. I talked about when I found out my dad had cancer and how the chemotherapy just stopped working. I then talked about my blog and all of the things I do to help myself get through this hard time. I touched on the fact that this feeling will never leave, but the people here and those who also have a cancer story will always be here. Another counselor said something that really touched my heart. He explained that we never stop grieving over our parents, we just become stronger. This is completely true. I am never going to stop thinking about my dad. Right now, I think of my dad and cry but I know that one day I will think about him and smile. I can only hope that every child also going through this has a day where they think of their parent and they also smile.

Later that same evening, we had another emotional ceremony that all campers and counselors took apart in. We got white paper bags where everyone wrote their reason for being at Camp Kesem. The campers participated in a Trust Walk where they closed their eyes and held onto the backs of the camper in front of them quietly. The counselors led them into a dark room where all their bags were lit up from glow sticks and in the shape of a big heart. We all took a seat around the room and stayed silent. We then went in a circle and said why we were here. At this point, I was in complete tears listening to everyone’s story. Person after person saying how the c word has touched their life tore me apart. By the time everyone had a chance to talk, I would say most were crying. We spent the next hour just crying and hugging. As I took a step back to take in the moment, I had happy tears tingle down my cheeks. The room was full of support and love and every single person, no matter their age or cancer story felt it in their heart. It was truly a beautiful moment.

As the end of the week started to come, I was sad my magical week was almost over! I had such an amazing week and I truly cannot wait for the next three years. It was an honor to be surrounded by inspiring and supportive campers and counselors. Once again, I am so beyond thankful to be apart of Camp Kesem, helping those who have been touched by cancer (while helping myself) and I look forward to my future involvement.

Yellow Unit counselors

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Yellow Unit counselors

A picture with 2/5 of the counselors

A picture with 2/5 of the counselors

Counselors during meal time

Father’s Day

In honor of Father’s Day, my sister wrote a guest blog piece! Devika teaches American history and enjoys writing Yelp food reviews, playing water polo, and exploring new cities.  

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Today will be the second year that my sister and I won’t be celebrating Father’s Day the way we used to – trying to figure out the surprise gifts, who would take him golfing and what dinner plans would be. Unlike birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays, Father’s Day is the day where everyone at the same time celebrates their father. I’ve been walking around shops where I see all the Father’s Day gifts and goodies out and I see my friends posting pictures of them and their dads. My heart aches when I feel that I’m no longer a part of that club.

There are moments where I feel so jealous that I won’t have my father to see when I go home or even in the future at my wedding or when I have children, but then I remember him in his true form – a man of love, truth, grit, and incredible generosity. Like my sister has said so many times, he was someone who gave and gave, left a legacy where he went, and influenced those around him. When I lost him, I had three or four times as many father figures step into my life. I had friends and family reach out and wish me Happy Father’s Day so that together, we could celebrate my dad.

 In just a year, I’ve learned that grief comes and goes as it pleases but joy is always there; it’s a self-existing emotion that often hides itself in the cloud of grief but will come out to shine when summoned. Be the sun that brightens your day; find happiness in the thoughts that count. Thank you to my friends and family that texted and called; you’ve made my Father’s Day the warmest and most joyful that it could possibly be.

 Today, I’ll be calling not only my mother, but also all my pseudo-fathers. Share your joy with others and reach out to those around you. A kind note, text, e-mail, call, even Facebook comment goes a long way. Know that Father’s Day isn’t just to celebrate dads, but really those who’ve positively influenced and guided you.

 Of course, I won’t end this post without saying Happy Father’s Day to my dad – Rajiv Agarwal – whose memories are like stars in the sky, there in beautiful, abstract space, shining bright, and making me smile. 

I Cannot Bear Not to Help Cancer Patients

This past weekend, I went to the Farmer’s Market and I saw a booth for children fighting cancer. They had a great fundraiser going on. The organization was selling little bears to stitch and decorate. The donator had the choice of giving it to a child with cancer or they could pay a few extra dollars and keep the bear. The second option was more for the little kids who participated, but still all of the profits went to the cancerous children so it was a win-win situation!

Every time I see a cancer fundraiser, I cannot bear (pun intended) to not participate in it. I remember when my dad was in the hospital, some volunteers gifted him a small pillow they stitched. He actually used it every single day when he was in the hospital and when he was on Hospice. Eventually, we had an inside joke about it and now every time I think about it, I smile. Cancer patients honestly adore and appreciate the little crafts volunteers do. A small piece of fabric, some stuffing, a thread, a needle, and your time can go a very long way. I know that this bear will make a child’s heart very happy!

Here are some pictures from the activity.

The pieces of fabric my friend and I used to sew the bear and decorate it.

The pieces of fabric my friend and I used to sew the bear and decorate it.

Writing a message for the cancer patient.

Writing a message for the cancer patient.

Writing a message for the cancer patient.

Writing a message for the cancer patient.

Drawing the face on the bear.

Drawing the face on the bear.

Meet Hope!
The front of the bear.

The front of the bear.

On the back of the bear, I wrote a message for the child. I wrote, “This is Hope. She will help you! You are so beautiful and strong. You will make a strong recovery. The world is supporting you.”

The back of the bear.

The back of the bear.

Skin Cancer & Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Happy May! May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and Brain Tumor Awareness Month.

Here a few facts about Skin Cancer to raise awareness:

  • Skin Cancer is also called Melanoma
  • Symptoms are a change in a mole, an open wound that won’t heal, a cluster of bumps, and a mole larger than a pencil eraser
  • Skin Cancer is usually diagnosed through physical exams and skin biopsies
  • Surgery and chemotherapy are the most used methods to treat Skin Cancer
  • To prevent Skin Cancer, take care of your skin by knowing what products you apply on your skin and applying multiple layers of sunscreen every 2-3 hours

Here are a few facts about Brain Tumors to raise awareness:

  • Symptoms of a Brain Tumor includes: frequent headaches, feeling weak and dizzy, having seizures, double vision, unexplained vomitting, and difficulty walking
  • Brain Tumors are found through CT scans and MRI scans
  • Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy is used to shrink Brian Tumors and often times, multiple types of treatments are used

Always remember to apply layers of sunscreen multiple times a day and never to ignore anything unusual in your body. Cancer education is absolutely vital in society! Share this post with friends and family so together we can overtake the ‘C word’.

One Year Ago I Lost My Best Friend

I never actually thought this day would come. I was in such denial. I walked through the hospital doors and found  my dad’s room. The doctors told me what was going on. I watched everyone cry.  I took my dad home from the hospital to Hospice. I carried his bags to the car. I helped him from the wheelchair to the car. I watched the nurses cry when he left. I saw the pain in my dad’s face. I saw my dad on Hospice. I saw the Hospice workers explain the “Do Not Resuscitate Form” to my mom. I watched my mom sign it. I watched the nurse take my dad’s pulse for the last time, look at me and shake her head. I was there through it all, but I still never thought the day I would lose my best friend would actually come.

I watched it. I watched my dad die everyday. But one day, it actually happened. I think at first I was in complete shock. At 18 years old, I still didn’t understand what was going on in my life. I kept asking myself why was this happening to me. Why did I have to lose my dad- my best friend?

 

 

Relay for Life 2014

This past weekend, I was able to participate in Relay for Life at the university I am attending. Relay for Life is a 24-hour cancer walk held by American Cancer Society. Their goal is to fight back against cancer, celebrate those who have survived, and remember those who have lost their life to the awful disease while fundraising thousands of dollars.

Later on in the event, there is a ceremony called Luminaria. Luminaria is a time to remember and honor those who have passed away. The Luminaria ceremony was emotionally difficult for me. It was scary and weird to hear my dad’s name and see my dad’s picture during the ceremony. In the past years I have participated in Relay for Life, I never thought I would walk during the Luminaria lap in honor of my father.

I am so grateful my friends were right there next to me. They held me as we walked the Luminaria lap. It was so reassuring to know that I have a support system who empathizes with me, rather than sympathizes for me. Although it was a moment of deep mourning for my dad, I felt beyond thankful for those surrounding me and felt my heart fill with joy.

Relay for Life was such an amazing experience. I have mentioned this before, but just to reiterate, it is helpful to give back to the community. It’s a great way to cope with cancer. At events like this, you can share your story without being judged and have someone listen that knows what you have been through or are going through. I love volunteering through American Cancer Society (and the other organizations I am apart of). And to be completely honest, volunteering and helping people cope with cancer are some of the few things that get me through each day while grieving over my father. It brings a smile to my face knowing that I am changing someone’s life in one way or another.

Blogger and her Momma!

Blogger and her Momma!

Luminaria Bag!

Luminaria Bag!

Team Co-Captains of "We Cancervive"

Team Co-Captains of “We Cancervive”

Team Captains with President of Colleges Against Cancer

Team Captains with President of Colleges Against Cancer

Testicular Cancer Awareness Month

April is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month! Testicular Cancer occurs in a man’s testicles.

Here are a few facts about Testicular Cancer to raise awareness:

  • Testicular Cancer is found in men usually between 15 and 35 years of age
  • 1 in 250 males will be diagnosed with Testicular Cancer
  • Risk factors for Testicular Cancer include: family history, undescended testicles, and kidney and penile abnormalities
  • Testicular Cancer can be tested through biopsies, ultrasounds, and blood tests
  • Some symptoms that should not be ignored include: a testicle with a lump, a swollen testicle, pain in a testicle or the scrotum, enlargement of testicle, heavy feeling in the scrotum, and aches in the lower abdomen, back, or groin area
  • Radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery can treat Testicular Cancer

Please share this post with friends and family because with more people educated on cancer, less people will be diagnosed! Stay positive!

One Year Ago I Found Out My Dad Was Going to Die

April 16, 2013. My world started falling apart. I walked into the Good Samaritan Hospital and felt my heart drop. I knew this was not just the regular doctor visit. I found my way around the hospital and came up to my dad’s room. When I walked in he yelled, ‘Lulu Lulu!’ (This nickname will be explained in another blog post.) I was so happy to see him and he was so happy to see me.

He was not doing well. He was very sick at this point. I knew something was wrong, but I wouldn’t admit it to myself.

Our family friend who works in that hospital came in my dad’s room. She walked me down the hall to get me some ice cream (I always see kids get unlimited ice cream at hospitals, so I simply asked!). We walked down the hall into the kitchen on the oncology floor. College decisions were due in two weeks, so we started talking about my options. At this point, I honestly didn’t give it much thought because my dad was getting more sick by the day. She asked me what college I wanted to go and what college my parents wanted me to go to. I answered with the college I wanted to go to and explained to her how I should go where my parents want me to. The college my parents wanted me to go to was really close to home and had a great reputation. I told her that I want to be close to home especially because of my dad’s health. She said, “Go where you want to go to college because your dad won’t see you go to college. Samira, your father is dying.”

I cried in her shoulders for a few minutes, wiped my tears, got myself ice cream and got my dad ice cream. I walked down the hall with a fake smile on my face and came into my dad’s hospital room excited to eat ice cream with him. Only later did I realize that this was going to be the last time I ate ice cream with him.

Throughout the day, he never said anything about him dying. I heard my mom crying on the phone outside his room to multiple people but she never really told me anything either because she was too busy dealing with phone calls and doctors, and of course my father’s needs. One of our really good family friend took me to the library down the hall a few hours later. She sat me down and explained to me that this was real. She said that this is it. She said explained to me that the chemotherapy stopped working and there is nothing else the doctors could do. I asked her a few questions and she answered. We just sat there in silence for sometime. I cried for sometime. I walked back to the hospital room to find more of my family friends. Some of our other very good family friends sat in the car while I drove to her house to spend the night with her daughters, whom I consider my sisters.

I could barely drive because I was crying so hard. My head was pounding. I couldn’t think straight. I felt like throwing up. I stopped by at my house to feed my dog and pick up my stuff to spend the night at their house. My mom was living in the hospital with my dad and my sister was in the East Coast at this point.

I came to my family friend’s house and walked  into her room. We looked at each other and neither of us said a single world. I just started howling. I cried and I cried. I tried to throw up. Nothing came out because I didn’t eat anything the whole day. I drank some water and took some Advil. I fell asleep crying in my family friends arms.

 

Happy Birthday, Daddy

My dad was truly an amazing person. He was the life of every party, the captain of every team, the sunshine on a cloudy day, the tickle monster when in a grumpy mood. He made every guest and every relative feel so at home in his house. He was the most generous and selfless man I had ever met in my life. My dad never forgot anyone’s birthday or anniversary. He was a best friend to many people and always helping others. He never showed his pain while going through chemotherapy. He was always smiling, whether it was during the economic recession or the day he was admitted to the hospital he was making some sort of joke. He made his last joke within the last hour of his life. His last words were thank you.

So, thank you dad. Thank you for teaching me everything important in life. Whenever I would fail a test, you would actually laugh at me and say, “Let’s make a bet on you failing the next one.” Thank you for showing the importance of hope and positivity. Thank you for hiding your pain during the last month of your life to make it easier for your friends and family. Thank you for the being such a caring husband, brother, and son. Thank you for being the greatest dad any little girl could ever ask for.  Thank you for being my hero. Thank you for leaving your legacy, and I promise I will live by it now. And, Happy Birthday.

Happy birthday to the man who inspired this blog!

Happy birthday to the man who inspired this blog!

Colon Cancer & Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is Colon/Colorectal Cancer awareness month! Colon Cancer is cancer in the colon and Colorectal Cancer is cancer in the colon as well as the rectum.

Here are a few facts about Colon/Colorectal Cancer to raise awareness:

  • Colon/Colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in America
  • When it comes to cancer deaths, Colon/Colorectal cancer takes second place in America
  • 90% of Colon/Colorectal cancer patients are 50 years old or older
  • Colon/Colorectal cancer has a lot to do with family history- if your parent, sibling, child, etc. have had colon cancer, your risk increases by two to three times more
  • Prevent Colon/Colorectal Cancer with a healthy diet and regular check ups to the doctor, including a colonoscopy at the age 50 years
  • Some symptoms of Colon/Colorectal Cancer that should not be ignored include: changes in bowel movement, blood in stool, abdominal discomfort/pain/cramps, bloating, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Colon/Colorectal cancer can be diagnosed with a Colonoscopy or through CT scans
  • Colon/Colorectal cancer can be treated through chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery

About three years ago my father was diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer. Now that I see what cancer really does to a patient and to a family, I want to spread the knowledge and share with other the importance of going to the doctors when you feel sick. I would also like to emphasize to get a colonoscopy at age 50 with your yearly check up! This is so very important. Please do share this post, so that others can be educated on different types of cancers. Together, we can fight against cancer.

Coping Strategy #9

Art Therapy!

Something that always calms me down and gives me time to gather my thoughts is anything artsy or craftsy! I have learned that this really helps when coping with your parent’s cancer.

Recently, I started scrapbooking memories of my dad so I could hold on to them and cherish them forever. DIY (Do It Yourself) projects are also fun because you get to be as creative as you want and you save money! There are a ton of DIY projects that could help cancer patients too! For example, if your parent or loved on is going into surgery or is in the hospital, you can sew them a little pillow and blanket with a pattern that they would appreciate. They would also feel more ‘home-y’ and less ‘hospital-y’. Another great example is knitting beanies or something similar for patients who have lost their hair.

If you have a sick parent, grandparent, etc. I think it would be therapeutic to do an art project with them. This way, both parities can let out emotions while creating memories during a tough time. Studies show that art therapy helps a sick patient by reducing anxiety levels, improving social skills and communication, and controlling the pain in a better way.

Stay positive and keep spreading those smiles! For more DIY ideas for cancer patients, email copingwithcancerforkids@gmail.com!

I Wear Red for Your Heart and for My Heart

Heart disease is the number one killer in women. And unfortunately, heart attacks, heart failure, and other types of heart diseases are too common in both genders. Because it is so prevalent in many lives, it is so important to be educated on an unhealthy heart and to know what to do when an unfavorable situation comes upon you.

Recently, I was blessed to be able to help raise awareness about this deadly disease. Students wore red and gathered around at a specific time to get educated on a healthy heart, and to educate others!

Some Symptoms of Heart Disease:

Coronary Artery Disease, Heart Attack, Arrhythmias, Atrial Fibrillation, Heart Valve Disease, Heart Failure, Congenital Heart Disease, & Heart Muscle Disease:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Weakness/dizziness
  • Nausea and sweating
  • Discomfort and pain in the chest, back, jaws, or arm area
  • Fullness or heartburn feeling
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats
  • Weakness/dizziness/fatigue
  • Pounding/discomfort in chest

The Importance of Knowing CPR:

I personally think knowing CPR is extremely important. I strongly recommend everyone to get certified in this as soon as possible. Unfortunately, no one can predict the future. You might be sitting in a restaurant and the person behind you chokes or you might be sitting in your house when a loved one experiences a heart attack. By getting certified in CPR, you can save a life. You can make a difference. You can be a hero to a family.

Treatment:

There are many medications and surgeries doctors can do to help a bad heart. For example, doctors can put in a stent for weak hearts to help with the flow in arteries. Doctors can also perform bypass surgery when arteries are blocked.

Take Care of Your Heart:

It is extremely important to be going to the doctors for regular check ups. Also, never skip any medication a doctor has prescribed. Live a healthy lifestyle. Walk more and eat right. For more on a healthy lifestyle, check out: https://copingwithcancerforkids.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/how-and-why-to-be-healthy/

Keep a healthy heart, help others keep a healthy heart, and spread those beautiful smiles!

World Cancer Day

Happy World Cancer Day! This day is not only dedicated to spread general knowledge about cancer, but to factor out myths and misconceptions about this deadly disease.

Here are a few cancer myths:

  • Undergoing treatment means you cannot do your usual activities and live a normal life– Undergoing treatment means things will change in your life. There is a high change there will be new norms to adapt to. However, you can still do the usual activities and try to live a life that is as normal as possible under the circumstances.
  • Every cancer patient gets the same treatment– Treatment comes in different shapes and forms. Common treatments include chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. Not all cancers get the same chemotherapy drugs. Also, even if the cancer is the same as the next person the drugs still might be different. Radiation and surgery are applicable to only some patients depending on the stage of the cancer.
  • To prevent skin cancer, one just has to apply one layer of sunscreen in the beginning of the day– It is really important to apply multiple layers of sunscreen throughout the day. Applying one layer of sunscreen in the morning won’t be much of a benefit if you are outside throughout the day. Skin cancer symptoms start appearing years later. Skin cancer is cumulative and stays in the deep layers of the skin. It’s extremely important to reapply sunscreen of SPF 15 or more and protect your skin.
  • Household bug spray causes cancer– This statement has been proven false. Using these products occasionally cause no harm and there is no relationship with cancer diagnoses.
  • There is a higher chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer when living in a polluted place, rather than being a smoker– Being a smoker causes a higher chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer than those living in a polluted place. Smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer.
  • Some injuries cause cancer– One might go to the doctor for an injury and during the same time, the doctor finds a tumor of some sort. This does not mean an injury is the reason for the tumor. Also, if there was a bad injury earlier in life and cancer detection later on there is no way that the cause of the cancer was because of that previous injury.
  • Electronic devices cause brain cancer– Although many people believe this, there is no consistent finding that allows scientists and doctors to believe electronic devices cause brain cancer. Ionizing radiation may cause one’s DNA to change, leading to cancer. However, with smaller electronic devices there are no DNA changes.
  • Lifestyle changes won’t affect the chance of being diagnosed with cancer– A lot of things play the part of the reason of a cancer diagnosis. Often times, one could be lifestyle. An excessive amount of anything is bad for you. Too much alcohol can damage your liver. Too much smoking can damage your lungs. I believe everything is okay in moderation. It is important to limit yourself to the things you know that cause cancer. An important thing to have in your lifestyle to avoid cancer is of course exercise. Your lifestyle does play a role in the chances of being diagnosed with cancer. This is why it is vital for yourself to take care. It is important to eat right, exercise a healthy amount, and go to the doctors on a regular basis while getting the necessary tests.

The Ugly Truth About Chemotherapy

The weight loss. The fatigue. The nausea. The metallic taste. The hair loss. The appetite changes. The pain threshold changes. The mouth and throat sores. The numbness in the hands and feet. The swelling. And many, many more.

How do you watch your parent go through these side effects (sometimes more, sometimes less)? How do you sit there at work and know the pain that your parent is going through or gone through? How do you study in school knowing how much your parent is suffering or suffered? How do you smile while cancer is ripping your life apart?

I remember the first time I took my father to chemotherapy. At the time, I was just 16 years old. It was his third round of chemotherapy. A few hours into the session, something went wrong with the patient sitting across my dad and all the doctors ran in and closed the curtain. I saw that he was shaking uncontrollably and he practically turned purple. I could not handle it. I kept thinking to myself that the same thing would happen to my dad. I couldn’t breathe. I started shaking. I was beyond terrified. I felt like I was going to faint. At the time, my dad fell asleep. (I’m happy he was napping at the time because I would hate for him to see me like that.) I somehow found the energy to walk to the elevator and go down to the parking lot for some fresh air. I called my mom crying my eyes out. I kept saying, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” I let all my feelings and tears out. It took me a few minutes, but I pulled myself together and walked up the stairs to my dad. He just woke up from his nap. I acted like nothing was wrong and started a pleasant chess game with him. He won, as usual.

Each time your parent (or loved one) goes to chemotherapy a piece of your heart dies. It feels like the cancer punched you so incredibly hard and literally reached into you and cut out a piece of your heart.

I wish there was something I could do to ease you from this pain. Unfortunately, it’s just part of the cancer. If you cannot handle it, then I suggest leaving the room. Do not bring down your parent. They need your support. Give them the motivation to fight this disease. Fight this disease with your parent and never quit. Do everything in your power to help your parent become a survivor. Take them to chemotherapy. Put up with their mood swings. Give them the food they need to help with the nauseous feeling. Take care of your parents. Always take care of yourself too! Cancer is always going to be a distraction in school and work but try your best and that’s all anyone can ask for.

As awful as all of this feels at the moment, it’s better than having your parent gone. There were many times where I mentally had a difficult time taking care of my dad, but now that’s all I want to do.

National Cervical Cancer Screening Month

January is National Cervical Cancer Screening Month! Cancer-fighting organizations stress the importance of screenings for Cervical Cancer during this time.

Here are a few facts about Cervical Cancer to raise awareness:

  • Cervical Cancer is the second most common type of cancer found in women.
  • Cervical Cancer is one of the most treatable cancers.
  • About 12,000 women will be diagnosed with Cervical Cancer per year.
  • About half of the patients are between the ages of 35 and 55.
  • Cervical Cancer can be diagnosed through the Papanicolaou (Pap) test.
  • Doctors suggest getting the first Pap test at the age of 21 and the last one at the age of 70 with about three year intervals.
  • Cervical Cancer be treated through surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Always share these facts about Cervical Cancer to spread awareness and stop the battle against cancer. Sharing this post could save someone’s life! You would be saving a whole circle of family and friends from a roller coaster of emotions.

How and Why to Be Healthy

In today’s world it is so important to be healthy. Doctors, scientists, researchers, and engineers all collaborate to make our medicine topnotch. The helpers for our body are doing their part. These advances in technology have done their share, leaving the rest to us. Now, it’s our turn to treat our body the way it should be treated.

How?

Step 1: Know the Fact and Statistics

  • 1 in every 4 deaths are due to Heart Disease in America
  • 49% of Americans have either diabetes, high blood pressure, or smoke, all key risks for heart disease
  • Every 34 seconds an American has a heart attack
  • 8.3% of the American population has diabetes
  • 41% of Americans will be diagnosed with some stage and type of cancer

Don’t let your body become a part of one of those percentages.

Step 2: Keep Healthy Snacks

Try to keep healthy snacks in your backpack or purse during the day. For example, you could keep a granola bar or fruit. This will give you enough energy to last in-between meals. Sugary snacks (like chocolate) will do that too, but it isn’t a healthy choice.

Step 3: Healthy Grocery Shopping

Make a list of healthy ingredients. Go online and find some recipes you’ll enjoy. You know your taste buds the best. When going down the aisle, try to avoid picking up things like candy and chocolate. Instead, pick a replacement. Maybe instead of getting your weekly dose of chocolate you could pick up raspberries! However, if you really do need that weekly dose, you could try to have a dessert that involves fruits and sweets. For example, I recently made a delicious dessert. It’s called “Caramel Apple Dessert Salad”. It consists of cut apples in the shape of a cube, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, heath bits, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and pecans  (optional). It tastes delicious, and it’s not too bad for you! You can’t feel too guilty about eating it since there are apples. Apples reduce cholesterol,  detox your liver, and boost your immune system, and all while protecting against Alzheimer’s diseases and Parkinson’s disease! Try filling strawberries with Nutella or cheesecake filling. That way, your sweet craving will be satisfied while gaining essential vitamins and nutrients! Strawberries also boost short-term memory, lower cardiovascular disease, and strengthen bones! You could buy celery sticks and dip them in peanut butter! Celery is one of the healthiest snacks. Celery is a great fiber supplement, and even helps with arthritis and spleen and liver diseases.

Step 4: Drink Water

Water, water, water! Water helps balance other fluids in the body, helps control calories, energizes your muscles, keeps your hair strong, keeps your skin healthier, maintains your bowel functions, increases cognitive function, and helps maintain strong and sturdy joints! Water is an essential part of your diet! Make sure to drink about 8 cups a day. Avoid soda and other drinks with a lot of sugar. If you are having a lot of juice, try added 1/4 or 1/2 a cup of water! Soda increases your chance of obesity, increases your risk for diabetes, increases your risk of having a  heart attack and stroke, and of course contributes to the decay of teeth enamel.

Step 5: Set Goals

Setting goals will motivate you. No one ever wants to disappoint himself or herself; that is one of the worst feelings. Set goals for yourself that you know that you will be able to be successful in. You are the only person who knows your body, your stamina, and your metabolism. Try monthly goals at first. For example, this coming month set a goal on running at least twice a week. While doing that monthly goal, also set weekly goals. For example, your weekly goal could be purchasing healthier groceries. Try daily goals, like talking a walk everyday or doing sit-ups in the morning.

Step 6: Have a Friend/Family Member to Start With- Have a Motivation

When starting this new lifestyle, try finding a gym-buddy! Maybe go grocery shopping with someone, so when you reach for the ‘Flaming Hot Cheetos’ and powdered doughnuts someone will stop you! By starting this chapter of your life with someone, both parties will be motivated. It’s a win-win situation. The positive reinforcement and encouragement will also make your ability and will power to change your lifestyle in a positive and healthy way. Try providing incentives for each other.

Step 7: Exercise

Exercise just simply makes you feel better. If you’re not much of a gym-goer you still have many options! For example, there’s yoga, which is a great alternative. Yoga balances out stress hormones, strengthens your cardiovascular system, and speeds up your metabolism. It might even be better than going to the gym! Yoga also strengthens your cardiovascular and muscular system as well as your posture. The great thing about yoga is that anyone can do it! Exercise gives you the time to reclaim your emotional stability as well as your mental and physical health. The key is to deep breaths while coordinating those breaths 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. You could even take a walk around your neighborhood or around your office building during your lunch hours. There are a lot of options and you can get very creative!

(https://copingwithcancerforkids.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/coping-strategy-2/

Step 8: Relax

Relax. If you’re having a busy day, and it’s convenient to pick up fast food, so be it. I understand that McDonalds and frozen meals have programmed themselves to taste better, even if that means the food is ten times unhealthier. Having fast food once in a while is totally okay.  Don’t deprive yourself of things you love. Take everything step by step and do something for yourself. Don’t kill yourself over a healthy lifestyle. If you want to get dessert every other weekend, then do it! Do what makes you happy. Always be kind to yourself.

Step 9: Get Enough Sleep

Sleep plays a huge role in one’s metabolism. 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. By getting the full 8-10 hours of sleep each night, your irritability and mood swings decrease. You will wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.

(https://copingwithcancerforkids.wordpress.com/2013/07/23/coping-strategy-3-sleep-2/)

Step 10:  Be Healthy Around Family/Friends- Be a Motivation

Make yourself become a motivation to someone! Be a healthy role model. Everyone wants a healthy lifestyle, it’s just about being able to start it and keep up with it. Show everyone that you did it. Inspire someone. Tell your friends, “If I can do it, so can you!” Be a motivation not just towards your friends, but family, colleagues, and everyone in your circle!

Why? 

In my situation, cancer, diabetes, and heart problems are running through my blood.  I want to be able to live a comfortable life, not worrying about my health and risks constantly. By starting now, I hope to achieve that. I know a lot of people are in my situation. Genetics has a play in diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and many other scary and deadly diseases. However, by taking the right steps, you can always have a leg up and be one step ahead of the never-ending race.

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! I know that this post is about 8 days overdue and I apologize.

With a sick or lost parent, there is always something to do. And with those things to do comes potential improvements. Here are some ideas that might help you get through this cancer-stricken year!

New Year’s Resolutions for cancer patients:

  • Gain healthy weight- I know that with chemotherapy and the stress of cancer it is natural to lose weight. But remember, you must be strong for your next round of chemotherapy! Try to gain healthy weight. For example, try having Full-Fat Greek Yogurt with lots of fruits as many times a week as possible.
  • Tell your family what’s going on- Your family is there to help you and they genuinely want to. Don’t hide your diagnosis and doctor’s appointments from anyone.
  • Ask your doctor- If you don’t understand what your doctor is saying or if you want more details, just ask. I know many cancer patients don’t know how to ask certain questions about their diagnosis and prognosis, but always remember that oncologists want to help you. Also, don’t feel bad to get a second opinion.

New Year’s Resolutions for those coping with a loved one’s cancer:

  • Do something for yourself- Treat yourself to something nice every now and then because you deserve it. Cancer is beyond hard to deal with. Without giving yourself a break, you will start to resent your situation.
  • Take care of yourself- I know how busy you are taking care of your sick loved one, but don’t forget to take care of yourself! Eat right and exercise well. Stay healthy for your parent(s)!
  • Volunteer- Being able to volunteer with cancer organizations is so fulfilling. I highly recommend it to those coping with this deadly disease.

To both groups:

  • Join a support group- Join a support group and ask for help. You will meet many others who are in a similar situation. You will feel less alone, you will be able to vent in a healthy way, you will meet people who finish your ______. (sentences)
  • Talk about your feelings- Tell your family how you feel and how much you love each other. This life is too short for you not to say, “I love you.” every single day.
  • Save someone- You know what cancer does to a family. You have seen the ups and downs of it. Save someone and make sure they get their screenings and tests when required.
  • Be positive- Don’t fret over things that are not in your control. People are going to say insulting things about cancer. People are going to insult the way you are coping with your cancer story. Walk away because you don’t need anymore negativity in your life. Surround yourself with positivity and do the best you can do while coping with cancer.

The Holidays

The holidays with a sick parent or a recently deceased parent is undoubtably challenging. In my opinion it is one of the hardest times throughout the year.

Cancer Christmas Tree

Here are some tips that will help you get through this time:

  • Start a new tradition- Because of cancer, you and your family might not be able to do everything you used to before the cancer. Start a new tradition. Maybe you could make cancer ribbons and hang them on your Christmas tree!
  • Be a giver- After my experience with cancer, I have become so thankful and grateful for the smallest things in life- thankful and grateful for things most teenagers won’t even realize we are blessed to have.
  • Do something for yourself- It is the holiday season! Just because you are dealing with this obstacle, does not mean you are not allowed to have fun and celebrate the holidays.
  • Tell your family/friends if you do not feel like participating in certain things- Even though you should be having fun and celebrating everything, it is totally understandable if you don’t feel like it. Remember, no one expects anything. If you are not in the mood to go do something, then don’t. This time of the year is hard with a sick parent or a deceased parent and most people understand that.
  • Don’t expect much- In whatever situation you might be in, it is natural for cancer and everything that comes with cancer to dictate many family decisions. Do not expect too much out of your sick or healthy parent. They are trying their best to please you during this hard time!
  • Set goals- With New Years coming up, I suggest setting goals. Set goals about cancer. Maybe your goal will be taking your parent to a certain number of chemotherapies or maybe it will be honoring a parent who passed away from cancer in a new and creative way. My cancer related goal is to help a certain number of kids and teenagers who are having trouble coping with their parent’s cancer.
  • Spend time with your family- After having cancer play such a big part in your life, I am sure you understand how important it is to spend time with your family. So, spend as much time with your family as you possibly can!
  • Keep the holiday spirit- Cancer does not define you or your family. Make sure to have fun and still keep the holiday spirit going, despite these stumbles.

Happy Holidays! I hope everyone has a great holiday season while coping with cancer the best one could!