Living with a parent who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness can be one of the hardest challenges a child can deal with. Knowing that there is treatment but no cure is often hard to accept. You never think it can happen to you, you always hear of it happening to someone else’s family. So when you are faced with this reality a natural feeling is to go into denial. I know from firsthand experience watching someone you love suffer and put up the fight of their live breaks your heart and change your life forever. When my father was diagnosed with stage four colorectal cancer on January 25, 2008, the phone call I received while I was away at college replays in my head as if it was yesterday. All I wanted to do was help my father but I felt helpless. My father was the most important male figure in my life he was always the strongest, toughest hard working person you would ever meet. My dad never gave up and fought until his last dying breath. He is my hero and my idol. Throughout his year battle I never heard him complain about the excruciating pain he was in. He still woke up each day with a smile on his face. His illness took a backseat to his family. He was always worried about taking care of his family before anything else. Cancer did not run in my family so when the news came my family was in shock. It felt like it was a bad dream. How could something like this really be happening and no one saw it coming.
My family life changed with my mother becoming a second nurse taking care of my father 24 hours a day. Some days my father would be fine and you would never be able to tell he was even sick, and other days my heart broke to see someone so amazing go through such a terrible illness that did not deserve this. Some people who are ill deal with different emotions which can affect a family’s well being including depression, and fear of not knowing what’s going to come next. Families may also start to feel helpless, and unable to have someone to turn to because their parents may be preoccupied. In my situation that was never an issue. My parents were always there including my dad who was dealing with a lot at the time.
Family life can change when a family dependant on two incomes will start to become a financial strains. Sacrifices will be expected of everyone. This can come as a bit of a shock to the children since the family finances are usually the sole concern of the adults. Kids and teens are rarely aware of how much it takes to maintain a family and don’t fully understand the changes that have to be made.
Living the past year in a nightmare I learned to become more independent and more thankful for the life I have. Watching my father go through several stages is something I will never forget. Coming from a close knit family, without my father things will never be the same. My father was told on New Year’s Eve 2008 that the treatment was not helping and he only had a few months left. Little did we know that nine days later my father would be placed in intensive care and pass away on January 9, 2009. Life won’t be the same without him but remaining strong and close to family can help in the grieving process.
While standing in the intensive care unit with my sisters, brother and my mom while my dad passed away before our eyes, I knew what Billy Joel said in his song was correct — “only the good die young.”