by Jessica Miller
“Long Drives, Kenny Rogers and Hot Cups of Coffee” were the special times I remember sharing with my grandfather. “Insightful Wisdom, Charismatic Smile and a Hearty Laugh” are what I miss the most each day.
I can remember as if it were just yesterday, sitting in the hospital room listening to the doctor tell my grandfather that he has “Stage Four Lung Cancer”. Not only did my mom and I begin to cry but, the doctor became teary-eyed as well. This was six-months after a previous doctor told my grandfather that his nodule in his lung was benign. All I remember thinking as I stood witnessing this event occur right in front of me was “is this really happening?”
I was your typical junior in high school who had my head buried in books and my mind consumed with what Institution I wanted to attend. Knowing that I wanted to pursue a career in Corporate Law fighting the big deals, it never crossed my mind that I would change avenues completely with a goal of becoming a Clinical Psychologist.
Nothing will ever prepare you for seeing someone you love so deeply go from dancing in the kitchen while making a sandwich for lunch, displaying goofy faces while working out on the elliptical and running up and down the sidewalk, cheering you on at swim meets to drastically losing weight from the initial 210 to 120 pounds, being completely pessimistic and not wanting his granddaughter to visit him. As a girl who idolized my grandfather as not only a role model but a father figure, it broke my heart witnessing him try to beat this deadly disease that had consumed him
Each day, I prayed for some sort of miracle to occur in hopes that my papa would not have to suffer and that the Chemotherapy could assist in creating positive outcomes. However, my prayers were not enough because not only did the Chemotherapy not work but, there were no alternative treatments that could fight this cancer off. The cancer had spread rapidly throughout his body.
The date was May 29, 2018, this was the last day I would see my grandfather. Visiting with him in the afternoon, I was able to tell him I loved him and gave him a kiss; however, this would be harder for my mom than I had imagined. My mom was his primary caregiver while trying to balance being a single mother and her job. No support whatsoever came from my grandmother who was verbally abusive to him and believed that he was “selfish” by putting on this act of thinking he was dying. My mom went to every doctor’s appointment, every chemo-treatment, came every night when it was time for his medication and was there that night to see her father actively pass away right in her arms. After hearing stories from my mom, it is not as peaceful as the movies portray.
Never experiencing a person pass away right in front of you, my mom began suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with the belief that she was dying of cancer, a stroke or a heart attack. These were all the things my grandfather had suffered from. I immediately stepped into the position that was once my mom’s primary role by driving her to daily night visits to the Emergency Room, skipping school to stay home because of the fear that had overcome her, researching different ways to cope with anxiety and convincing doctors that medication was not the answer. I became extremely familiar with what Psychology entails and soon saw in myself that I started developing panic attacks. I feared that I was dying or that something was wrong with me. The heaviness in the chest, the spinning of the room, and the crying that comes about uncontrollably. I truly believed, as well as my mom, that I was crazy. I believed no one could possibly understand what I was going through. This made me want to become passionate in helping others conquer the anxiety that is within them.
My name is Jessica. I am 19 years old. I suffer from anxiety. I want individuals out there to know that you are not crazy, you are not weak and you are definitely not alone! The purpose of my writing was at first to be cathartic in helping navigate my anxiety; however, it changed after realizing the amount of individuals who are suffering now from anxiety due to these unprecedented times with this pandemic. I want anyone who is suffering from anxiety to know I am here as a friend to be supportive, share my story, listen to your story and help with being able to conquer the anxiety that is within all of us.