Monday, September 14, 2015

Things that are hard to talk about ....

Hello everyone,

I have previously, written about never judging a book by it's cover. Well, here I am ready to open many of the pages in my book that are behind my cover. If you saw me first glance, I would look like an average teenager with average problems, which is true. Just like you, I have struggles. Some that I don't really like to talk about. However, when I started this blog I wanted to have an honest open book sort of mindset with you all. That means I should open some of me, so that maybe you can relate and feel less alone because at one point no matter what we all feel alone. So let's not beat around the bush anymore.

When I was in my sophomore year of high school, my grandfather had been going to the hospital more than often. They kept looking at the scans of his lungs and diagnosing him with pneumonia. We didn't see it was a deeper problem because in both trips to the ER, they kept saying he had pneumonia. Things got worse and in that summer, my family decided it was best that we consult a lung specialist. I was there on that trip, and as instructed, I waited in the waiting room. I didn't think it was anything serious, I mean it couldn't be. However as my family walked out of the waiting room that day they had glum expressions on their faces. I wasn't told anything, we came in the same car and it was only silence on the way back. Of all the things in the world, it could've been the last thing in this world I thought it was actually was his diagnosis.

Before we go there, I would like to take it back to 2 years before this. Yes, it's a rather important piece of the story. My grandfather suffered a heart attack, my aunt called my mother and the next thing I knew I grabbed a book and ran out the door. I sat in a chair attempting to read but all I felt was this nervousness. My mother was in the room that had just a curtain as my grandfather was wheeled in. I didn't know that behind that curtain my grandfather was having a heart attack. The doctor acted quickly and gave him a shot that allowed his blood to flow through the clots ( excuse me for not having the proper terminology, I am not an expert in this). My grandfather committed to quit smoking, which was amazing for all of us.

So back to where we were, the last thing in the world I ever thought it could be was cancer. Truth was it was cancer. It was so bad they needed him In surgery quickly. So how did I find out? Well I'm getting teary eyed as I type this. I went in the car one day and there was a folder for cancer treatment. My mom at first tried to cover it up but finally she told me and I began to cry into a pillow. Truth is, things haven't been easy with my grandpa. My family isn't conventional, we never were and we never can be and as much as some of you have conventional families with your grandparents still married and your parents still together. Some of us don't have that. My grandparents divorced 25 years ago. So for the first 10 years of my life I have no recollection of my grandfather, partly because I lived far away in New Jersey. So then we moved but that proved to be complicated, I didn't see my grandpa very often.

After the heart attack everyone seemed to become closer, and visits were every week. We all learned in our own way to value my grandfather. People changed, and my grandfather did.  I can't complain about him as a grandfather. He is an amazing person with a rough upbringing and he had learned the value of hard work and labor at a young age. He is strong and through his strength he has taught me to be strong.

After the surgery, we were all hopeful. The cancer was gone, we could go back to not living in a hospital or in doctors waitings room fearing the worst but hoping for the best. We can finally breathe as a family. After several months, we found out the cancer came back. So here's what happens next, he was in no health to undergo another surgery so of course chemo was his next option. Chemo is literally the worst thing, and despite being just his granddaughter I had to was involved in the process because I was mature enough to. My heart would literally break each time I saw a nurse injecting him with chemo..Those chemicals had awful side effects on him, it's like literally injecting poison into your body. His hair was going away, he looked weak.

I didn't turn to friends, it was so much easier to say that on Friday i wasn't at chemo with my grandpa but rather just doing something else. As humans I don't think we were truly programmed or even taught how to handle when your friend tells you that a family member is battling cancer or anything for that matter. I mean people just can't empathize if they haven't experienced it. It's like at times we have this " better her/him than me" mentality and we undermine peoples problems what people don't understand is that that's what leaves us lonely, that's what makes us all truly feel as if we have absolutely no one. Because even as a family member of my grandfather I can't sit here and tell you those chemicals were in my body because they weren't. My little cousin was just born, my grandfather was probably thinking of how he wouldn't be a part of her life or what was he going to leave behind. He wasn't just okay with it. The funny thing about cancer is you can have it and not feel any different at all but it's the mental games that it plays on you.

Perhaps I have surrounded myself with the wrong friends, or maybe it's myself. At times I would pretend as if it wasn't there but if anything it was always there. It was always in his body, cancer would sometimes rob or give us all more time. The best comparison to having a family member with cancer that I can think of is a racquetball court, the court is the persons body, the cancer is the ball and the people fighting it alongside that person are the family and friends. We constantly hit the cancer with our rackets against the wall and it comes back and each time it does we hope we can hit it back before it hits the other side of the wall. The players just hope they can combat the ball and keep it away. No matter how many times you hit the ball constantly at some point it hits the other side, this discouragement sweeps through you and you don't know what to do. No matter the words you say to that person you love, who's a piece of your family nothing fixes it. It's not like you have a magical remote that allows you to transport yourself back in time and tell your loved ones to not smoke.

This past winter break the worst happened. My mother was experiencing fatigue and they found her to be anemic in a check up. She was in the hospital the week before winter break. Knowing it was my finals week, she assured me she was fine. She just needed testing.  I just got home from winter break when her boyfriend urged her to tell me. I thought when I broke down for my grandpa that was the worst but your own mother having to tell you she has cancer. I paced back and forth, I offered to shave my head with her, to drop out of college to stay with her, to care for her, just as she had done for me. She looked at me and said "No, the one thing I want you to do is study. I want you to keep studying. I worked hard so you could study. What am I going to do with you bald sitting here waiting on me?" We both cried but laughed at the same time. It was one of the hardest days in my life. She raised me on her own and to be honest with you I can't imagine my life without her. I love her more than anyone in this world and she had finally found happiness it just wasn't fair. Around the same time a doctor told my grandfather he had two months to live. This was hard, because two people I love, cherish and adore were facing this disease. I isolated myself. I didn't want to go out rather less be with any of my friends. All I wanted to do was watch TV, and sulk and I would begin to cry at random times because it was too painful not to think about. My grandfather was placed on a experimental drug with a new doctor around that time and the side effects weren't as bad and he seemed to be doing better. My mother refused to tell him that it was cancer. He was fighting his own battle and the last thing my mother wanted to do was make him weak to what she was going through.

I wasn't supposed to go to my mothers appointments, I didn't really get to go. The only solution was surgery. It was going to remove a huge part of her colon and honestly speaking I couldn't imagine what was next. God is so good, on the days I felt most alone, I know He was there. I know he was with me. We all attended my mothers iron transfusions and we all stood by, they lasted hours but she just needed it. It was either my blood or iron transfusions and I offered several times, however my mom didn't want that.

 My friends birthday was around the same time as my mom's diagnosis. I didn't want to go, she told me she understood if I didn't want to show up. She is one of my best friends in the world. Her name is Samantha. She didn't know what was going on because A) I didn't want to talk about it. B) Saying it, makes it real and I was not just easily accepting it. C) I didn't want my friends to feel any different around me. The thing was my mother urged me to go. Despite everything, she still hated seeing me sulking in the couch watching episodes of The Office. I went, and this is the crazy thing that happened. I got late to the party because I was helping my mothers boyfriend buy a gift for my own mothers birthday. It was honestly sad that her diagnosis came around the same time as her birthday. I walked in, late as usual. As soon as I get to my best friends living room everyone was sitting down but some of my good friends literally got up and ran to hug me. They didn't know, I didn't tell anyone. I knew for a fact this was a sign from God, it was his way of giving me a hug through them. It was his way of saying: You're not alone, I'm holding your hand and your mothers hand through this. It was one day, when I woke up early in the morning I heard my mother talking to one of her friends and she said to him: I have to stay strong for my daughter, and my father. After I hung up I told her, she had already been strong enough for me, that right now it was her turn to take both my grandfathers strength and my strength and be strong for the both of us. We both cried. We both cried a lot.

I prayed a lot and I did finally gather the courage to tell some of my most closest friends. They were as supportive as they could be. My mothers birthday did come around and it was one of the best ones yet. We had her friend over and my little cousins as well as my uncle and aunt and her boyfriend. We all just for a moment, forgot about it. It was like any family gathering. We took photos, cut a cake and my mom had gotten gifts from everyone. I actually painted her a canvas. Here's the one thing my mother wanted the most: To travel for Christmas. So we did, we all packed our bags and left. We headed to Tennessee. We went to Graceland and Beale Street. We had ribs, laughter and an outstanding time under Christmas lights. In those moments it was easy to forget, because regardless of everything my mother treated me no differently than usual. My mother did her best to forget about it, so we could all enjoy ourselves. That's her, this is a scenario to describe her. She is selfless. I aspire to be just as selfless as she is. Soon we migrated to Louisiana. Bourbon street is amazing. I highly recommend that anyone goes. Our hotel overlooked the city and it was so beautiful. Everything was so beautiful. My mom and I explored together, alongside her partner and it was the best feeling ever. We all just stayed so strong. One day my mother suggested we go to church and of course I wanted to go too. It was a beautiful Cathedral called St. Louis Cathedral. As I knelt down, I had this conversation with God and it drove me to tears and it was simply asking him for strength to help her. I was overwhelmed by his presence. It was like he was listening, we had this strong connection. I can't describe the feeling but he was assuring me again that I wasn't alone. I just laid it all in front of him. I shared with him my fears, I shared with him everything I was feeling. I knelt down before Him and I knew he would answer me. I didn't have any doubt.

My mom got an ear infection. It postponed the surgery a week back.  Which made me feel scared,What if the tumor grew? What if the infection grows and she can't get surgery? What if the doctor has to push it back again?. I knew I would be missing the first week of school. I honestly had no interest in anything school related. My mother was sick, I needed to be there for her. The day before her surgery I blasted music in my ears and talked to God. The music eased my nerves. I only slept 2 hours that night, if even. I woke up with my mom's voice telling me it was time. The surgery was at 6 am. At the hospital I was greeted by my uncle. They put my mom in her hospital gear and we had the opportunity to talk to her before she underwent the surgery.

Another hard moment for me.

I had to find the words to say. I needed to assure her everything was going to be okay. I needed to actually be strong for her. I needed God, more than ever. I walked in passing all the curtains who probably held someone else's mother, father, daughter, son, uncle etc... Then I reached her curtain and there she was in her blue hospital gown. For the first time in my life, I saw my mother scared. It was always the other way around when I look back at it. I was always scared, she was always there. Now the roles reversed and I needed to be there. She held my hand as tight as she could. I told her I loved her and that everything would be okay, because I felt it. I felt that God through my sleepless night was telling me it would be okay. A tear rolled down her cheek and I soon had to leave because my uncle needed to talk to her next. I stayed in the waiting room with my pillow. We waited and to distract me Omar, my moms boyfriend encouraged me to order books, then my uncle took me to the cafeteria and we talked. Everyone was just counting down the minutes. Soon the surgeon assured us she would be okay. The surgery was successful.

Another moment in my life where I could finally breathe.

 I soon fell asleep, out of all the nerves I finally could relax. The first day out of surgery, literally that night my mother was already walking. The nurse encouraged her to continue and everyday she grew stronger. I slept by her for a night. My uncle brought back homemade soup and we all shared a family dinner in the hospital. The thing I admire most about my family, is despite all the bad we have this ability to laugh. My mom was even laughing. It was a hard time, but yet we were all still so joyful that we got through it. Rather than dwelling, we were just glad.

So if you read all this, here's how it impacted my life. I grew to be more thankful. I am not perfect by any means and sometimes my mom and I have our tiny arguments. I thank God for them, as funny as it may sound. I thank Jesus, God,  and the Holy Spirit. I thank them, because that means she is well. It means that she will always be my mom. I am so lucky. I am thankful for my grandpa. I am thankful for our visits, our laughter, and his stories about his friends and his stories about my uncle and mom. I enjoy when he talks about my little cousins and how his face lights up each time he sees them. I enjoy being able to tell them I love them both at the end of every conversation. I am beyond blessed, in prayer I pray for those who have to go through what my grandfather and mother went through. I pray for the young children battling this disease. I pray for the families. It drives me to tears, because just knowing a fraction of it , was difficult. My grandfather continues to battle and I will always continue to support and love him in his battle, because through Gods grace I will always be his biggest ally and not just for him but for cancer patients in general. I am growing my hair to create a wig for children in need. On October 16th, I will be going "bald" ( wearing a bald cap because I am growing out my hair) for children at BASE camp. If you would like to sponsor me, please check out this link below. I can do all things through Christ and I feel that I was called to use my experience to continue to raise funds and impact the lives of those who fight cancer.  I have volunteered in Relay for Life and I will always look for the opportunity to be an advocate for all those who face cancer, for those who battled and for those who continue to fight it today.

Psalms 183:3 On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased

Thank you all so much for reading!