My [Unbiological] Sisterhood

What is Pi Beta Phi?

Pi Beta Phi is a women’s fraternity that holds 6 core values (integrity, lifelong commitment, honor and respect, personal and intellectual growth, philanthropic service, and sincere friendship) and aims to promote friendship, develop women of intellect and integrity, cultivate leadership, and promote social responsibility. 

In the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I went through recruitment for Greek life, and received an invitation to join Pi Beta Phi. 

So I only didn’t just join Pi Beta Phi because I wanted support for my cancer story I was struggling to cope with, but also support for normal college experiences that I didn’t get my freshmen year, because I honestly wasn’t mentally ready to go back to school. I didn’t know how to talk to people about, well, anything a part from cancer. I also didn’t know how to answer questions like, ‘how was your summer?’. None of those surface level conversations made any sense to me.

Sophomore year, I went into college with an open mind and positive attitude. Ever since freshmen year, I knew I wanted to be a part of a sorority. So, my sophomore year (when I was more mentally ready) I rushed Pi Beta Phi, the same sorority my sister was apart of during her college experience.

I was in complete shock when I saw true sisterhood traits in all of the members immediately after receiving a bid. When I posted “The Cancer Story” on my blog, the article immediately blew up. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting a lot of support from my sorority sisters since I had just joined, but oh, was I very wrong. I immediately saw my fellow sisters sharing it on social media, commenting on the post, and more. And the support from this new chapter of my life felt so awesome. Later in the year, I was chosen to speak at Relay for Life. Once again I wasn’t expecting much of a turnout from them, but I was wrong. I looked into the crowd and saw so many beautiful and familiar faces from Pi Beta Phi. I then realized I only didn’t join just to make friends and have a better social life at school, but also gained an amazing sisterhood.

Later in the year, I went to a national conference for Pi Beta Phi where the politics and business of this organization was discussed and taught. I shared my story at one of the leadership workshops, which happened to be about resiliency and bouncing back from adversity. After I voiced my opinion and story, I saw applauding hands and teared eyes. I then understood that I don’t only have a sisterhood I can always rely on at my school, but also nation wide.

I will admit that with other organizations I am apart of, it is sometimes easier to connect to people on a much deeper level immediately, but in my sorority there are people who have been affected by cancer and have faced different types of adversity, and it’s always so awesome to share stories and inspire one another. Moreover, it’s a heart-warming feeling knowing that I have been an inspiration to those who have never been affected, and hopefully never will be. I’m so glad I joined this amazing sisterhood, and I can’t wait for our chapter to grow this upcoming Fall!

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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.

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.

What Do You Like To Read?

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!

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 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.

Cancer Does Not Mean Death

Throughout my blog, I have mentioned the death of my father. However, I would like to make it very clear to my readers that cancer does not mean death. Cancer survival rates depend on many things such as the diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, and so much more. I strongly believe cancer survival rates shoot up with positivity, hope, and faith within the whole circle of family and close friends. I also believe the reason my dad did so incredibly well during his first year and a half of chemotherapies was because of the positivity not only that he had, but every single one of our close friends and family members had.

When my dad was diagnosed with cancer, death crossed my mind multiple times. It’s like you’re always living in fear. It’s also completely normal to have these thoughts. You always think that you’ll come home from school one day and your parents will sit you down and tell you that the treatments aren’t working as well as they should be. I always tried not to think about it and stay in high spirits through the thick and thin. If it started creeping through my head, I would start thinking about how my dad was such an amazing person and an amazing person like that doesn’t deserve death at a young age. But then again, no one deserves death at any age.

Try not to think about the future so much. Focus on the present. Do everything you can to help your parent get through this. Even if it’s the smallest deed, like just sitting there with them during a chemotherapy session while they fall asleep would help them immensely. Being happy around a sick person helps an infinite amount, trust me.

Sometimes we have to put ourselves in our parent’s shoes. Of course my dad never wanted to see me cry. He never wanted me to think that his cancer was stopping my life. He hid his pain from his loved ones around him, especially myself, my mom, and my sister. He didn’t want to be a burden. No sick person does. So, be elated around them. It’s truly a win-win situation and it will help their prognosis. Fight the cancer with your parents and spread the positivity within your circle- don’t let death be associated with your cancer story.

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!

Internal Locus of Control vs. External Locus of Control

Internal Locus of Control- Internal Locus of Control means if something happens in your life you feel like you can change the situation or influence it. You feel like you have more control over the hardships in your life. For example, if your parent was diagnosed with cancer you would take them to chemotherapies, be positive around them, and do research on cancer (exactly what I did.)

External Locus of Control- External Locus of Control basically means you feel like whatever has happened in your life has happened because of your fate or destiny. You feel like there is nothing you can do about it. So if your parent was diagnosed with cancer, you feel like this is your destiny and that your life is going to suck now and you cannot do a single thing about it.

Remember, if your parent has cancer you are not the only one going through it. There are millions of kids who have been in your shoes (myself included). Your family is also experiencing the same struggles you are. Some cases might be worse, some might be better but there will always be someone in your proximity to understand your pain and struggles. I suggest taking advantage of those who truly understand how hard this is and showing your support to those in a similar situation. If you know someone at your school with a parent who has cancer that you rarely talk to, try reaching out to them and discuss your problems and offer them your support. I have done this many times and it’s definitely paid off. I know some people may be shy or some just don’t like sharing their parents diagnosis/prognosis, but it never hurts to try!

If you feel like your life sucks and you cannot go any further in life because your parent’s cancer feels like a barricade, you are mistaken. Don’t get me wrong, I felt like that for a very long time. Sometimes I still feel like that. Thoughts of what could’ve been cross my mind all the time. Life is unfair and hard at times. But remember what you go through will make you a stronger person after the obstacles of cancer. Try not to think about the past so much or what could’ve been. Focus on the present and future. If you are unhappy with something in, change it. You control your life and your happiness.