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What It’s Like to Lose a Parent

I was 13 when my dad was diagnosed with brain cancer and I was 14 when he died. I shudder after writing that because it still feels like yesterday, but also a million years ago at the same time.

The symptoms started during the summer of 2012. The one that I remember most clearly was the weakness in his left hand. It would just slouch. I never understood why it did that. Doctors decided that he needed an MRI of his brain to determine if it was something neurological. After receiving an MRI, the doctors found a tumor. As a result, he would later need to get a craniotomy. 

During these times, my sister and I didn’t know that there was a tumor. We didn’t know why he needed a craniotomy, but we didn’t think it was cancer. I later found out that my dad wanted to hide the fact that he had a tumor from me and my sister to protect us. The morning of his surgery, I kissed him on the cheek goodbye, not knowing that the dad I was saying goodbye to would not be the same person after his surgery. The worst part hadn’t even started.

After his surgery he was completely different. Although the surgeons removed a majority of his tumor, my dad had Stage IV Glioblastoma, the most malignant type of brain cancer. It was growing at an unfathomable speed. You see, where the tumor in his brain was located affected his mood and cognitive skills. He became more angry and impatient, he couldn’t walk, and it was at that point where, instead of his left hand being weak, the entire left side of his body was paralyzed. We had caregivers round-the-clock who would take care of him, but I remember my mom contributing the most to his basic needs. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. 

He was sick for ten months until cancer took my dad away from us. August 14th, 2013 was when he died. I was working at a summer camp. Even before I answered the phone call, I knew. My mom had been preparing us for months. It has been almost five years since he passed away and I am still in the grieving process. It still feels surreal. I look back on what my family went through and I still don’t know how we survived it. But there is no point in asking questions, because it happened. I choose not to dwell on the past. Instead, I’ve taken this traumatic experience as an opportunity for growth. It forced me to mature at such an early age and taught me to put things into perspective.

To anyone reading this who has or knows someone who has lost a parent: I can’t tell you when it’ll get better. I can’t tell you how you’ll grieve. Just know that time heals all wounds. I still miss my dad every day, but time and therapy has made it a lot easier to live with. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional. I promise, talking it out really does help.

And remember, I know our lives can get incredibly hectic, but always remind your parents how much you love them. I would do anything to tell my dad one more time.

Emily Garber

Muhlenberg '21

Muhlenberg College Content Editor
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