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.

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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!

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.

 

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!

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.

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!

The Pros

When you first find out that you have a sick parent or relative at such a young age, your first thoughts are probably not the best. You might be scared your parent’s life will be coming to an early end. You might be mad at doctors for the diagnosis and even your parent for getting sick. You might feel lonely because most people don’t understand what you are going through and the extent of your pain.

One day you will start looking at the bright side of things. Here are just a few things I discovered when my dad was fighting cancer:

  • I started understanding what sick people are actually going through. Minor or major illness, my respect for cancer patients is extremely high.
  • When I was 16 years old, often times I had to act and think like a 36 year old. I matured to a degree that some adults are not even at yet.
  • My family and family friends really came together at tough times. It’s sad that the time I saw my family most was during a hard time, but I am so thankful for the support. Now, I know I can go to my family or family friends for anything.

One day you will come across some of these realizations, and maybe even more. Try to look at the bright side of every situation and spread the positivity among your family and friends.

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!

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!

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

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.

Kids who Have a Parent with Cancer

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

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

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

and the scariest of them all

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

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

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