The Power of Feeling Understood
Jorge is a 17-year-old high school senior from Westchester County, NY, who was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma bone cancer in October 2021. Now, he is waiting for word on his college applications to study civil engineering after being inspired by what he observed at his father Jorge’s masonry job. He is grateful for the support from his father, mother Lillia, and his younger brother Adrian and older brother Daniel. He shares his experience with Friends of Karen below.
“When I was told I had cancer, I felt like my head could not make sense of it. My ears would hear the diagnosis and everything the doctor was saying, but my head couldn’t comprehend it.
Then I had to go through treatment, which meant I was in the hospital every day. I was tired and weak. I had no strength to get out of bed. My parents were always there for me. If it wasn’t my mom, it was my dad. If they couldn’t be there my older brother Daniel would.
Before I was diagnosed, I was really active. I played soccer, ran track, skateboarded, and hung out with friends. Because the cancer was in my leg, I knew I couldn’t walk properly anymore. I had doctors telling me that I wouldn’t be able to run again or play sports. Then, I had a physical therapist tell me I would be able to run, so I focused on what I could do. Daniel pushed me to get outside and pass the soccer ball whenever I could, which helped a lot.
There were so many feelings. I felt annoyed, frustrated, upset, and then understood and hopeful. Thankfully, the hospital social worker told us about Friends of Karen, and then I had a sibling support specialist to talk to, first Naomi and then Jane.
It was really nice to talk to someone outside of my family and to hear other opinions. My parents are great and good problem solvers, but sometimes I was afraid that if I told them something it would stress them out. I just needed someone to talk to and to listen to me. I needed to talk about the fear of my tumor spreading to my lungs.
I was glad I had Naomi. We did art together, and painting allowed me to focus on something other than being sick and feeling nauseous. It made a real difference. I started reading a lot more and journaling, which allowed me to feel productive. I felt mentally better after doing it. I also joined Friends of Karen’s ill children’s online support group, and I liked talking to other kids who went through what I was going through. I didn’t have to explain everything because they understood.
It was also nice that Friends of Karen sent us art supplies and got me a guitar, which was so helpful for me when I was really sick. Then we got presents at Christmas and for our birthdays. My little brother Adrian loved it, and I still remember how excited he was when he opened his gifts. Our social worker Jackie also worked with my parents to make sure they had help to pay for groceries and for travel to my treatment.
I am thankful that Naomi, Jane and Jackie helped and that they understood the medical side of everything. I didn’t have to explain to them what was happening, they got it. Without them, I would have been more isolated. Naomi pushed me to do more and told me to call friends and do activities instead of staying inside. I’m glad they knew the right way to give me that little push I needed.”