The Official "Buzz" of the Baccalaureate School for Global Education
As you may know, once you reach the 10th grade in BSGE, you have to do a personal project. For my project, I chose the topic of colon cancer. I chose this topic because my dad died from colon cancer 3 years ago. Also, colon cancer is a serious issue that isn’t as addressed as often the other types of cancer. Part of my project is to have a series of articles in the BaccRag talking about colon cancer and my experiences with it, so keep reading!
In December 2004, right after I turned 11 in October, my dad starting feeling different than he usually did. He started feeling nauseous, weak, tired, and sometimes even dizzy. When my parents decided to go to the doctor, the doctors ran many different exams on my dad because they couldn’t find what was wrong with him. After a few weeks, my dad’s symptoms got worse and he even started losing blood. He was hospitalized for a week in order for the doctors to run more tests. The doctors thought my dad had anemia, which is a disease where your blood has a lower number of red blood cells than normal. In January of 2005, however, the doctors performed one more colonoscopy on my dad, and that’s when they found the tumor in his colon. He was diagnosed with colon cancer, and it took them almost over a month to find the tumor because it was hidden behind the colon. The doctors scheduled my dad for surgery in March of 2005. I found out about all of this by overhearing my mom on the phone telling a relative about what was going on. I was still young, so my mom was waiting for the right time to tell me. I knew that my dad was sick and going into surgery, but I wasn’t sure about what.
During the surgery, surgeons took out at least 20 inches of my dad’s colon, as well as lymph nodes, which are little organs that contain a lot of different cells. The most I remember about the surgery was when he showed me where they cut him open, which grossed me out a bit because he still had the staples and stitches on the cut. The surgery was successful, but afterwards the doctors informed my mom that the cancer was at Stage 4, its highest degree, and it already spread to the liver. About 6 weeks after the surgery, the doctors scheduled my dad for chemotherapy. He would have to go into the hospital for 4 days every other week. At this point, I knew what was going on with my dad. I was a little scared, but also a little confused. I didn’t know why it was happening to him, and I wasn’t even sure how it was happening. All I knew was that the chemotherapy he was getting would help the cancer go away. I visited him in the hospital a few times when he was there, so I became used to seeing him pale, throwing up, and losing weight. My mom stayed at the hospital with him for however long he had to be there.
While my dad was experiencing the side effects of chemotherapy, results showed the doctors that it was working. That summer, he came with me and my aunt to Italy. He stayed for a week or two, and then had to come back to the United States for more chemo. He told us that he would come back at the end of the month to pick us up. He never ended up coming because by the end of August, the doctors found that his cancer got more aggressive, and the pains he had were unbearable. I was a little upset and scared, because my aunt didn’t speak English so it was basically up to me to get us on the right plane going to the right country. When we did get home around the beginning of September, I saw my dad completely different. He lost so much hair and weight, and his appetite completely changed. Doctors put him on morphine, which is the strongest pain killer anyone can take. My dad started spending a lot more time in the hospital, which means I saw a lot less of him. My little sister (who at the time was 5) and I spent a lot of time at my uncle’s house because my mom wasn’t home to watch us and we were too young to stay at the hospital with her. We spent our last Christmas with our dad at home, but on New Years Eve we stayed at our uncle’s house and I had to wish him a “Happy Birthday” and “Happy New Years” over the phone.
On Sunday, January 8th, 2006, I was playing with my cousins in their basement when I heard my aunt tell my uncle that my older sister had just flew up to New York from college. My sister went to college in Georgia, so she never flew up unless it was a holiday or an emergency. I immediately sensed something was wrong. My aunt came downstairs and told my little sister and me to get ready because we had to go home. At home, I saw all my uncles and aunts waiting in my kitchen. I still didn’t know what was going on. I went into my room, and I was followed by my mom, older sister, and 3 older brothers. It was then when my mom told me that my dad died that day. I didn’t know how to react at first, because I guess I was expecting her to say it. Within an hour, my house flooded with family members crying and coming up to me and hugging me. I still wasn’t emotional at this point because I was in shock. There were at least 50 people in our house, and I didn’t feel like being with everyone so I tried getting away by going to a bedroom and laying down to watch T.V. I remember walking into every room in my house and seeing it occupied with people on their phones crying and telling others about their bad news. I had no choice but to stay with everyone.
I missed the whole week of school that week. There was a wake on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the funeral was on Thursday. The ceremony was held in Astoria, where my dad grew up. There were so many people at the funeral that the police had to escort at least 100 cars from the church to the cemetery. I cried for the first time at the funeral. It was also the first time where my brothers and sisters and mom all cried together. I remember that day feeling really long, and all I wanted to do was go home and forget about it all.
Having my family and friends there with me made the healing process a lot easier. After my dad died, my siblings and I have been a lot closer than we ever were. Despite work and school, we still make time once a week to spend the day together. My friends have been supportive since the day I told them about his death. My dad’s death really opened my eyes about cancer and how we should take care of ourselves to help prevent it.