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?

 

 

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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!

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.

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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.

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!

National Lung & Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month

November is National Lung Cancer Awareness Month and National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month! During November, cancer organizations put on events to help fight these diseases and raise funds for research.

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

  • When it comes to cancer deaths, Lung Cancer takes the lead.
  • More men than women are diagnosed with Lung Cancer every year.
  • Active smoking is responsible for 90% of Lung Cancer patients.
  • If one is exposed to second hand smoke on a daily basis, their risk for Lung Cancer increases from anywhere between 20-30%.
  • Those who work with cancer causing agents, such as asbestos, arsenic, and radon, are also at a higher risk of being diagnosed with Lung Cancer.
  • Lung Cancer is often diagnosed through a lung biopsy, sputum cytology, bronchoscopy, mediastinoscopy, thoracentesis, CT scan, or PET scan.
  • Like most cancers, Lung Cancer can be treated though surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

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

  • Unfortunately, Pancreatic Cancer has a low survival rate compared to other types of cancer.
  • Family history of this disease, smoking on a regular basis, consuming alcohol on a regular basis, having a poor diet and having diabetes are major risk factors for this deadly disease.
  • Pancreatic Cancer is usually diagnosed through a physical exam, biopsy, ultrasound, MRI, or an X-Ray.
  • Pancreatic Cancer can be treated through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and gastroenterology.

Share these facts about Lung & Pancreatic Cancer with your friends and family to spread awareness and to help prevent these diseases. These types of cancer are extremely deadly, painful, and scary. It is so important that everyone is well-informed about the major facts. Always remember to support all types of cancer throughout the whole year! We are all in this fight together.

Looking at Before and After Pictures

One of the hardest things while coping with this awful sickness is looking back at pictures from the time your parent did not have cancer and immediately noticing the changes that the disease has brought on. It’s hard seeing that transition of your own parent from a healthy and active person to a cancer-stricken patient.

When I look at recent pictures of my dad, I see the cancer in him. I see the wrinkles that came in the last two years; I see the defined cheek bones and sunken-in eyes due to the weight loss; I see the peeling hands and feet from the chemotherapy; I see the cancer. To protect myself from more pain, I try not to look at those.

It’s especially hard because if you lost your parent (or loved one) to cancer, your most recent and vivid memories are petrifying. You remember the weakness, the throwing up, the change of temper, and all the other chemotherapy affects.  As difficult as it is, it is so important to remember your loved one in a healthy form. It’s going to be a struggle rewinding to a couple years ago, but it will be a healthier way of grieving (or dealing with this new change in your life). Always remember that cancer doesn’t define a person. Stay positive and spread smiles!

Coping Strategy #7

Therapy!

Having a sick parent is tough. It’s also frustrating, sad, chaotic at times, depressing, scary and much more. It’s hard to cope with all of those feelings, while living a life. It’s also a challenge to keep those feelings separate from your school and social life.

I highly suggest talking to someone. It’s too unhealthy to keep all those negative feelings bottled up. Therapy is a great option to let it all out. Saying your feelings outloud to a specialist will help you feel better and more secure. I’m also sure that your parent’s oncologist knows of programs you can join or someone to talk to. You could also talk to your school counselor or any teacher. For that matter, you could talk to any adult that is willing to just listen! Talk to your friends if you don’t feel comfortable talking to an adult. Just talk to someone! You will feel better afterwards.

If your parent is in the hospital or under Hospice Care, they will have social workers for you! If they haven’t already reached out to you, give them a call and see what they can offer to you. Some insurances also cover a few free therapy sessions, so check that out as well.

Therapy can be time-consuming and challenging at times, but the outcome is worth it. Remember to do your research about the therapists near you if you plan on seeking that help! Stay positive!

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.

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.