What’s Harder: Finding Out Your Parent Will Die or Your Parent Actually Dying?

Two years ago when I found out my dad was going to die, it never really hit me what was actually going on. But that week or so in the hospital hearing conversations about his not-so long future and listening to people try to prepare me for the worst, was exhausting and beyond difficult. Hearing those words over and over again…”Samira, your father is going to die… Samira, you don’t have much time with your dad, go spend time with him… Samira, be happy around your dad — he doesn’t have much time… Samira, get this for your dad… Samira, get that for your dad…Samira, do this for your dad…Samira, do that for your dad…”

I had no choice but to hold myself together for my family, specifically for my dying father and crying mother. I had to be the adult and I had to be put together. I had to coordinate meals and visiting hours. I had to somehow balance my last semester of high school while living in the hospital. I had to deal with the girls gossiping about me at high school. I had to deal with doctors either treating me like an 8 year old or a 38 year old, but never an 18 year old. But how do you deal with an 18 year old in a situation like this? And how does an 18 year old deal with this?

The thing was that my dad was so much more than just a dad to me. He was my best friend — a person I saw as my hero and role model, but also a friend I could confide to. We shared a special bond that was so magical and indescribable.

From what I’ve seen (through personal experience) a cancer death usually consists of a timeline like this: the patient starts at the hospital because of dehydration or something along those lines and he/she maybe tries one more chemotherapy session or something, and then the waiting game starts — Hospice care (either at home or in a facility).

I never know what’s harder to cope with – finding out your parent will die, or your parent actually dying. I think the day my dad passed away I was in an incredible amount of denial, and some of that denial still lingers on today. The day I found out my dad was going to pass consisted of more shock. I’m not sure which is harder, all I know is that both are unbelievably hard. Moreover, watching your parent in Hospice and die everyday is a whole different set of emotions for another blog post, another time. All of it is a series of unfortunate events. You would think that nothing is worse than loosing your parent at an age like this, but finding out about the upcoming death is arguably worse for some.

You can learn more about my story here: https://copingwithcancer.org/2014/04/16/one-year-ago-i-found-out-my-dad-was-going-to-die/.

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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.

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.