Dealing with the loss of a parent

Amy Kreeger

There’s some point in all of our lives when we say goodbye to our parents for the last time. If you’re lucky, this experience occurs after many years of sharing good times-and bad times-with them.

That point happened to me in eighth grade.

My father started having stomach pains; ones that made him so he couldn’t sleep in the same bed with my mom. Mom took him to numerous doctors and no one had any idea on what was really wrong with him. One doctor said it was his gall bladder, so he had surgery to have it removed.

But he wasn’t feeling any better, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I sort of knew what was going on, and I wanted to run from it.

After months of testing, they finally found out what was wrong with him. Pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is pretty rare. Only 3 percent of all new cancer cases are pancreatic cancer, according to a 2010 study by the American Cancer Society. But out of the many different kinds of cancer that exist, it is particularly deadly. According to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 94 percent of pancreatic patients die within five years of diagnosis and only six percent survive more than five years. Unfortunately, my dad was one of the 94 percent.

Months went by and his pain progressed, and I kept drifting away. I started hanging out with the wrong kids. I didn’t cry much, and when I did I made sure that no one could hear all the pain I was going through.

I went into the school year dressing normal for about a month or two, but then started to cut class and wear black all the time. The only thing my classmates saw was some nerd-gone-goth chick and they harassed her about it.

My dad was in a hospital bed upstairs in my mom’s room. His bones got weaker, his skin shriveled and his weight dropped. I knew the time was coming. I had to face it, and I did, when I watched him take his last breath on May 6, 2003 at 8:32 p.m.

I started to cry but stopped, because I thought I needed to be strong for my family. But I felt like I was dying inside; my heart shattered into a million pieces.

Since that day life has been a struggle. There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not think of him. He fought pancreatic cancer for a year-and-a-half, which is something since the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network says that 75 percent of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.

In the beginning, I used his death was an excuse to self-destruct: doing drugs, smoking cigarettes and having meaningless relationships while clutching on to anyone who seemed to care.

There were very few people I counted on. I thought it was me against the world, and felt very alone with my mother and family dealing with their own pain. The school social worker, Mrs. Frantzen, was my main support. She was there from the time my dad was diagnosed to several years after he died.

This made achieving in school and maintaining friends a lot easier to do. I went almost every day into her office when I was in middle school and still make time to see her to this day. One thing I did learn from this is that I can always count on one person: me. I felt so alone, but something pushed me forward and kept me going.

Months passed before it finally set in and realized that life wasn’t over. I slowly started to heal, but it will never be the same. There are still days I think about the things he will never get to see, and wonder how I will make it through, but I do. You have to.