"The disease came with a vengeance and shocked his system totally. It took eight weeks from diagnosis; in a flash he was gone."
Where do you even start when the one person who has been there for you throughout your young life is taken away from you before your eyes? For teenager Kaela Stubenvoll, cancer claimed her beloved father. For you it may be the loss of a sibling, a cherished pet, or a close friend. Grief doesn't discriminate. What does matter is the path you choose and the journey you take from the darkest place to your future, brighter self.
Written by Kaela for other teenagers-or anyone grieving a great loss-this book contains anecdotes, advice, and personal poems as she reveals her grief, truth discovered, lessons learned, and how she ultimately triumphs. "Reality has been a lot harder than any dream, and through this twisted humor that became my life, this journey is perfectly imperfect."
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.19(d)|
Read an Excerpt
My Journey: A Look into the Life of a Grieving Teenager
By Kaela Stubenvoll
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Kaela Stubenvoll
All rights reserved.
Death used to just be within my television screen or on the pages of novels I read, never once did it cross my mind that all the devastation it brings could unfold right before my eyes.
The days pass by and death lurks in the shadows, silently hidden by your denial and strength, which slowly as the days go by, turns into weakness and guilt.
Everything in life becomes a lesson, some of which you are taught and others you have to learn for yourself. You are taught about your future and your past and how to deal with both. Through all the lessons and the tough mistakes, eventually you learn to let the one guide you to the other. Just like the day and night, the darkness faced with light and the past will slowly melt into the future.
The harder parts of this learning process are taking what you have mistaken and what you have gained from every experience and creating your very own lessons. Customized to yourself, your personality and the things you want to gain from this life. These mistake-inspired lessons lead you to a greater understanding in your life; you slowly learn that you are a stronger person than you ever thought you were. You learn things about yourself no other person could ever teach you. The greatness you radiate is not just a matter of what you learn, but how you handle those around you as well as, how you understand the world surrounding you too. Still in tune and in balance with yourself you learn to cope with it all. You slowly learn that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
In the fullness of time, you start to understand the things around you and slowly, a comfort takes over and you feel prepared for what life may throw at you. You learn to turn your happiness into unforgettable memories and your hardships turn to scars. What has hurt you, you steer clear of and what went well you try to duplicate and mold into the circumstances you are faced with everyday.
The sad truth of this all, is that turning your hardships into scars is a lot harder than is seems and pain takes over a lot quicker than happiness. It flashes passed you at a time you are never truly prepared for. The scars that form in the devastation are not always something you can plan for either. There isn't a rule in life one where you can allocate a part of your soul to the afflictions associated with this pain.
If there was a rule as such, I wish I had gotten the manual and fully prepared myself for the suffering I was soon to endure. Like a shock to the system, a brutal light before your eyes, which blinds you to all other emotion and sorrow surrounding you.
That is death.
We are conditioned to believe in a never-ending cycle, an eternal lifetime. Except, nobody prepares you for the pain, anger or frustration, which comes along with death and the finality it brings along. You are never taught how to react, how to handle yourself and most importantly, how to ever remain strong. I truly believe death is a lot harder for the ones it leaves behind.
My days were spent thinking of the future, a future without my father. The harder I thought about every milestone I was still yet to face, I could not fathom my father not being there. I could not actually believe that my future would be missing such a predominate part of my childhood. The days of looking toward the future for answers about his absence consumed me. I did not want to believe that my adulthood would be something I would experience without him.
I could see the pain in his eyes and the hurt he knew he would be leaving behind. I could feel him slipping away from reality and I just knew he was preparing himself. Preparing for an unearthly journey I could not even comprehend. The only way I could ever complete the journey with him was staying here. I was a passenger of this voyage, left in the wreckage of his travels.
Eventually, the tears were the only things that could put my restless soul to sleep at night. Often I woke in the night, fearing that when morning came he would already be gone. Often checking his chest for the rise and fall of his lungs, his already weak lungs.
I used to feel so guilty when I slept soundly and peacefully, where I could breathe easily and dream sweetly, of a life, one with him still in it. The anger then followed, I was wasting precious time resting my head on comfort and dreams, while I should have been with him. Wrapped up in his warmth trying not to compress his already fragile body. Feeling the sharpness of his bones through his feeble exterior, which protected an interior of just tumors and malicious cancer cells.
Death is a plague of sadness and destruction. It brings with it no light, only darkness. Slowly, the mind forces positivity and eventually these thoughts push through, creating holes in a seemingly superior darkness. With that, brings light and the brightness of better days. In the end, you learn to grow around your pain. It slowly eases but never diminishes, for the pain of death can only ever dull. You become something greater in the process of death.CHAPTER 2
The Big C
"Cancer, malignant tumor, is a group of diseases involving abnormal cell growth with the potential to invade or spread to other parts of the body. It caused about 8.2 million, or 14.6% of deaths in 2014." – Wikipedia, Lung Cancer.
The disease came with vengeance and shocked his system totally. It took eight weeks from diagnosis, in a flash, and he was gone. The smooth criminal slowly captivated his soul, as I like to call this devilish disease. The hardest part of all was the doctors, or the professionals, as they liked to be called, after numerous scans and intensive testing they were unable to find what would indeed kill my father ...
Things started getting a bit strange when we were on our first trip to the United States. My father complained about a sore back and chest, discarding it just as a pain from all his girls' heavy shopping bags and luggage.
Our trip lasted a little bit less than a month and included a cruise to the Caribbean, an exciting visit to the iconic City of New York, Washington D. C and Florida.
While in Florida, a day before our cruise left on it's 10 day voyage, my dad, sister and I lay on the couch in the hotel room and watched "The Last Song" together. It was one of the few movies we'd watched together in a while and one where we watched from start to finish. The plot includes a rebellious teenage daughter who has to spend the summer with her father. Little did she know, he was actually suffering from the silent killer – lung cancer. After their relationship was rekindled, he passed away shortly after.
We each shed a little tear as the closing credits rolled onto the screen, an emotional song to end off this amazing movie that had pushed all the right buttons. My mom walked into the room after completing the tedious task of packing and couldn't understand how we had all been moved to tears, my Austrian father included. After our trip ended, we flew back to our home in Accra. It was lovely to be home with our four dogs and be able to sleep in our own beds. It was summer vacation, three months of a much-needed break but most of our friends from school were still gallivanting around the world. We spent our days at home together around the pool basking in the tropical heat and enjoying our time together as a family.
Little did any of us realize that this could actually be the last of these incredible family adventures.
My father wasn't feeling well and found it hard to breathe. He was admitted into a local hospital, one of the best, and they concluded that he only had a lung infection. A minor infection yet one the hospital could not treat in Ghana as they did not have the correct equipment. After a lot of late night conversing between my parents and one of our friends who worked with the ambulance team, they decided it was best for him to be evacuated out of the country.
As quickly as it started, our sweat was absorbed by the agony and the rosy cheeks were flushed of any color with the news that we were to go back to South Africa.
The monstrous red ambulance came flying through our gates with huge red lights flashing. He was put onto a stretcher, kissed each of us and was taken away. My mom, sister, driver, security guard, house lady, gardener and I stood by the door and watched. We each shed a small tear because we all knew the outcome could never be a positive one.
We ran up to our rooms, packed speedily, throwing clothes into a bag without even thinking. We ran down the stairs, grabbed our passports while the driver loaded our bags. My mom quickly told our house lady, Josephine, what she needed to do and she put her hand on my moms shoulder and said she shouldn't worry about a thing. She would turn off all the air-conditioners and feed the dogs, a process she knew all too well. We were each embraced by her and sent on our way. As we walked out the front door, the gush of hot air made my already dazed head feel dizzy. We quickly ran to our long-time security guard, Mohammed, and each gave him a big hug. Then, we each jumped into the car and off we went to the airport with our trusted driver, Yao. He is just an incredible human being and he soon became a part of the family.
We got to the airport in record time; also taking into account the crazy traffic Accra was known for, this was quite an accomplishment! We hopped out the car, each hugged our special Yao and off we went. We boarded our flight a few hours later. As we sat down in our seats, three on the left of the aircraft, we each spotted bright red lights flickering in the distance. A huge sigh of relief was taken, as we all knew that daddy was safe. Or so we thought, no one could ever have imagined what terrible demons and fast growing and spreading cells were taking over his body.
He was seated a few aisles ahead of ours in business class, accompanied by a doctor who enjoyed the flight tremendously, as she knocked herself out with a sleeping pill!
When we arrived in Johannesburg, my mom, sister and I lived in a hotel for the first few weeks. My father was in a hospital in Sunninghill. On one of our visits to his hospital room, we walked in on him during his physiotherapy session; the doctor seemed to be beating the mucus out of his chest in a manner that seemed inhumane and quite torturous. I was disgusted and had to wait outside his room, as I was about to pull the doctor off of my father. How dare he? Smacking his hollowed hands on my father's flat back already aware the pain he was in.
To witness what looked a lot like violence and hearing the loud claps as his hand came in contact with my father's back, this was the start. The gateway into this nightmare, a sensory overload and a horror story I never thought I would ever have to live through.
Even with young children who's faces show absolute confusion, hospital staff are heartless, not allowing us a quick kiss or a small hug due to the restriction of visitation hours.
During one of our many adventures waiting for visiting hours to start, the three of us found a magnificent Italian restaurant close to the hospital. The restaurant is called Luca's, it is the best Italian meal in the whole of Johannesburg!
We were only allowed to have him out for a few hours as the doctor was already bending rules. We enjoyed an awesome family lunch together, it seemed like many expansive years had passed and this adventure was one to cherish. He was pale and weak but had a smile the whole way through lunch, sitting in the shadow of a towering tree, the sun shone on his face. He kept saying it was so nice to be out with his three favorite girls and that we were the light of his life. He repeatedly said that we would be fine; we were strong enough to handle whatever came our way. All of which, each of us thought was a strange thing to say and we each disregarded it.
His hair was greasy and later asked my mom to wash it as soon as we got back to the hospital.
When he was finally discharged from hospital, we decided we had to go home to our house in Port Elizabeth. Off we went to the airport and rented a huge van. Which was spacious enough for my sister and I if we needed to sleep, as the journey we were about to embark on was almost 12 hours long! My father seemed to refuse any help with sharing the driving and he continued on all alone.
We finally got back to our beautiful home, after a two-day road trip. It might sound crazy but flying was not a good idea with his decreasing condition. We enjoyed being home in our own house with our trusty nanny, Mabel, who had always looked out for us and absolutely loved my father. Seeing my father as weak as he was had torn her up inside and often she couldn't get too close to him. Her eyes were constantly filled with tears.
After much discussion when possible, we decided we needed to bring our furry pets home too because there didn't seem to be a future for us returning to Ghana anytime soon. Unfortunately, our little sausage dog, Jasper, had a rare virus in his system and it wasn't advised for him to fly because as soon as he would get to South Africa they would pick it up and have no other option than to put him down. We found a wonderful family to look after him until he was well enough to come home, which he never did, because his truly loving nature stole the hearts of his new family.
Our two Golden Retrievers and our Maltese Poodle made the long and expensive flight home and were absolutely ecstatic to see us all again. They were so glad to be in our lives again!
One of our Retrievers, Spirit, was a wild one and loved running around indoors, and loved creating havoc. This included the numerous races he had through the house; the noise of the wooden floor against his nails must have made it all the more exciting for him.
My father used to sit in the bar in his huge brown leather recliner and make us close the sliding door as Spirit used to annoy him. My father only had love for that crazy dog and I believe that this was his way of saying goodbye, by shutting everyone and everything he loved and who loved him out. I guess to him, it seemed like the most reasonable answer because he would rather hurt us then than have us broken hearted when he completed his final journey.
For eight weeks he battled non-stop. This broke my heart.
After his breathing hollowed, the next possible answer just seemed to be getting an oxygen machine. Which sat next to his side of the bed or followed him wherever he needed it. When it came time for him to bath, he lugged the machine with him because the exercise of getting in and out of the bath knocked the wind out of him. When he was dressed, the machine followed him to an egg-like white chair as he sat and battled to tie his shoes. Everyday the same thing happened, leaving him completely breathless and weak but he refused any help or to stay in his pajamas the whole day.
After his first set of chemotherapy, he refused to do it ever again. He said he felt weaker and wasn't going to live his last days feeling weak and vulnerable. On a mission, my mother researched all types of alternative treatments for a case like his. The best on the list was a Clinic of Natural Medicine in New Mexico, he would have been okay to get there but the flight back would have killed him instantly. This is due to the fact that at such a high altitude, cancer cells actually burst due to their improper makeup. Our next best bet was a couple in the hills of Port Elizabeth, who inhabit a land far away from the city due to the fact that if they were found out, the authorities would put an end to their life-saving remedies. His dosage included rubs, creams, drops, salts and a healthy eating plan. The creams were applied to the affected areas; his chest and lower back and the drops were put into steaming hot water as he leaned over it to open up his lungs. His eating plan included eating a lot of steamed foods, no mushrooms or peanuts and absolutely no sugar whatsoever! As I later found out, this is because cancer cells feed off sugar; this leads to their growth and spreading, inhabiting and annihilating the healthier cells.
Excerpted from My Journey: A Look into the Life of a Grieving Teenager by Kaela Stubenvoll. Copyright © 2015 Kaela Stubenvoll. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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