I used to be carefree, a tad vain, and very one-sided. I had all the makings of a typical teenage girl. I was unaware at the time that my life was about to change forever.
I was in the seventh grade when the news of my father's cancer diagnosis hit my family like a bus. Of course, being only thirteen at the time, my naivety clouded my judgement when it came to how serious the situation actually was. It has been a very difficult five years since that life altering moment and I have learned more about life in these hard times than school has ever taught me. The risk of losing everything in such a short amount of time is horrifying and it’s possible to fall into a sense of hopelessness. Although, while it is easy to look at all the things I’ve lost--and I have lost a lot--let me share what I’ve gained.
Throughout my life, I have been extremely blessed: two loving parents, a roof over my head, food to feed my family, and clothes that keep me warm. Despite the fact that my daily routine and life was changing around me, those four things remained constant. Toward the beginning of my father’s diagnosis, my family spent a lot of time jumping from hospital to hospital, trying to find a cure for the cancer.
During these times while my father was unable to care for himself, my mother had to be his anchor. A majority of the time, she was so busy taking care of him, that my siblings and I were expected to care for ourselves. Suddenly, I found myself doing the chores my mother was unable to attend to. It started off small: make dinner, do the dishes every night, feed the dogs, etc. Until one day I found myself acting as a full-time mom, driving my younger brother and I to school, picking him up and making sure he was where he needed to be on time. I would constantly clean the house so the germs couldn’t make my father worse and so the clutter wouldn’t stress out my mother. That was the point in my life where I had to shift from a child to an adult, whether I was ready to or not.
My family needed me. I had to learn to be strong on my own for myself, and for my younger brother. Watching all my friends go out every night and have fun without me was difficult, especially when I had to work so hard for my family. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. Why my dad? Why now? It took me almost four years to realize that some things I cannot control. My emotions used to get the best of me, and at times I felt extremely lost. In the last five years, I have experienced things that kids my age should never have to go through. But now, looking back on everything I’ve had to overcome, I’m a completely different person.This transition from childhood to adulthood marked a very significant time in my life. Pancreatic and colon cancer changed me in ways I never would have imagined. Despite all the obstacles thrown my way, I can now say that I am proud of how I have grown as a person. Acting as “mother of the house” taught me how to take care of others and expect nothing in return. Driving my brother to school and places he needed to be taught me the importance of punctuality. Arriving on time matters.
My responsibilities at home should not affect my mood at work. Learning to separate my personal life with my life at work showed me that there is a time and place for everything. Knowing how to act in certain settings helped me understand maturity and discipline. Above all else, I learned independence, something I never would have learned on my own. How my credentials look on paper would not coincide with who I am as a person, without this part of information. My father’s diagnosis is a huge part of who I am today.