I am Thankful for My Father Figures

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!! This is my favorite time of the year — everyone sharing why they are thankful, the Christmas music in the stores, the smell of gingerbread cookies in my mother’s kitchen, and the generous, giving vibes floating around.

Here are a few of my father figures (and cousin) who have guided me through all my confused moments when I was in need of a dad.

Here are a few of my father figures (and cousin) who have guided me through all my confused moments when I was in need of a dad.

I’m so thankful for everything in my life, but I wanted to specifically thank all of my father figures and all of those who have been there for me through the thick and thin. I’m always looking for some advice and guidance, because ever since I lost my dad to cancer I have felt so lost. I always think, “am I doing this right?”

The great thing is that my dad died knowing I was being left in amazing hands to take care of me. He made sure that I had multiple father figures to take care of me, and give me some helpful daddy-advice whenever I was in a pickle.

It’s hard being in college without a dad because it feels like every single decision you make will determine your future. I am always so confused if I am involved in the right things, and if I’m taking the right classes, and if I’m even majoring in the major that’s for me. Thankfully I have amazing father figures to guide me through all my confused moments of life and will continue to guide me when I am in need of a daddy.

 

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My Biggest Fear

We all have fears in life — spiders, sharks, creepy men, etc. My biggest fear changed after I lost my dad to cancer when I was 18 years old. I wish I could say my biggest fear is something like spiders, but now my biggest fear is forgetting my dad.

My biggest fear is forgetting his voice. And his laugh. And his big smile. And the way he would say my name. And the way he used to play with our dog, Duke. And the way he used to say, “Good night, I love you” every single night, no matter how tired he was or no matter how late it got. And his generous and funny personality. And his weird cravings for the most random flavors of ice cream.

I now try to do everything I can in my power so that my fear doesn’t become a reality. I have an album saved on my computer of pictures of my dad. And, I often times look at these pictures. I think about my favorite memories with him and I always proceed by writing it down in a small journal. I also wrote down his favorite color, ice cream, type of car, and everything else I still remember. It’s now my Daddy Journal. I also have a few videos and recordings of his voice. These videos and recordings are my best friend when I am having a “Daddy Day”. A Daddy Day happens occasionally and it’s perfectly normal. It’s one of those days where I just can’t stop thinking about him and I miss him a little extra.

 

For those who have also lost a parent (or any family member) to cancer (or any disease):

If you also fear that you might forget the little details and big memories of your lost parent, then I highly suggest writing everything down and recording what you can. Although sometimes it might be heartbreaking to write these details down, it is one of the most comforting things to have when you look back at it on one of those Mommy or Daddy Days. Your parent would only want you to remember them in the most positive and delightful way, and not in a cancerous way.

Words

Talk in everlasting words
And dedicate them all to me
And I will give you all my life
I’m here if you should call to me

You think that I don’t even mean
A single word I say

It’s only words, and words are all I have
To take your heart away

These lyrics are part of “Words” by the Bee Gees. “Words” was one of the first songs my dad taught me to play on the guitar probably about 8 years ago. It is also the last song he ever played, which was just two days before he was admitted to the hospital.

These few lyrics mean the world to me. “Talk in everlasting words and dedicate them all to me” The reason I blog, the reason I get up every morning, the reason I try my hardest in school is for my dad. I dedicate my world to him. “You think that I don’t even mean a single word I say. It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away.” Words is what I use. It’s what I use to help people cope with cancer and it’s all I have.

Words are all I have to show the world that I would do anything to help those coping with cancer and words are all I have to tell the universe how much I really do love and miss my dad.

Happy Birthday, Mommy

I wanted to give a special birthday shout out to my beautiful and strong mother today! So, happy birthday to the woman who bent over back to take care of my dad during the lowest points of his life, who did everything in the world to keep this family intact and strong, and who has motivated me to follow my dreams and ambitions even without my dad in my life anymore. You are the strongest woman I know and I hope to be at least half the person you are today when I’m a mother. I love you so much!

Thank you for being the best mommy AND daddy!

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.

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!

What Do You Like To Read?

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 #5

Music!

Listening to music is beneficial. Having creative lyrics to listen to helps find yourself and explain those feelings in a way that you could not have put in words. Not only is listening to music helpful, but writing music is a great creative outlet to help cope with hard circumstances. Music lowers stress and anxiety levels. The stress hormone, cortisol decreases with music, leading to a more positive mood and outlook on life. Through research many psychologists have found music therapy helps build self-esteem, confidence, and cognitive functioning.

My dad and I loved playing guitar together. I will always cherish the memories of us sharing our enthusiasm for the instrument. Over the last few years, my guitar madness has diminished as school took over my life. The few times I still play the guitar, it calms my emotions down and brings back amazing memories of my dad. Playing an instrument is therapeutic- you get to forget what’s happening with your parent’s cancer and you focus on your music.

Music is a great escape from the real world. It lets your brain take an imaginative route away from your parent’s cancer.

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.

Friends

Most of your friends won’t understand what you’re going through. This is a unique situation and majority of kids and teenagers don’t know how to respond to your feelings.

All of your friends will be there in the beginning. Be prepared for people to stop showing that they care. Your friends will always care, but they just may not show it as much. It’s natural for your friends to carry on with their lives.

All of my friends were there for me right when my dad was diagnosed with cancer and when he passed away. As time went on, people stopped showing that they cared and got so involved in their petty problems. The harder part of finding out your parent has cancer is when the chemotherapy kicks in and you see the negative changes of the person who brought you into this world. Yes, the news is petrifying but you have all the support at that time. When it gets really tough, most people have forgotten what you’re going through. Losing a parent is probably one of the hardest things to overcome. At first you don’t realize what’s going on and it hasn’t hit you yet. That’s when every single person is there for you. But when it does hit you, only a few people will still be there. I’m thankful for the friends that still go out of their way to do nice things for me during such a hard time of my life as well those who cared about my dad’s health the full two years he was sick.  People will complain to you about trivial and insignificant problems in their life. If you experience this, don’t take it too hard- most of your friends won’t understand what’s going on in your parent’s body. In honest truth, it broke my heart when my friends were being unsupportive. I was shocked to see those who never even bothered reaching out to me.  I never really told anyone how much pain I was really in for the past two years, so maybe that was my fault. You do have the right to be mad or disappointed in your friends; you are going through something extremely hard and life changing and all the support helps.

Remember to communicate with your friends. If you need something, don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t like something they did, tell them. If they hurt your feelings or offended you in anyway, let them know. It’s a two way street with your friends, so make sure you are reaching out to them as well. Your friends also don’t know how to react to such horrific news so cut them some slack- not too much though.