My sister has cancer.
Actually, I don’t even know if that is strictly true.
I know she had a lumpectomy last month – they cut out ‘the lump’, they removed three breast nodes.
I remember the excitement and huge relief of hearing the good news that the “cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes”.
At that point, it seemed like ‘all’ that would need to happen was rest and recuperation from the operation, followed by a course of radiation and hormone tablets.
Not at all pleasant of course, but as we were all very aware, it could have been considerably worse.
Then came the devastating update.
“Um, actually, we have some more pathology results, and yes well the thing is, they are showing you have a factor which increases your likelihood of secondary cancer occurring”.
So after having been initially assured chemotherapy would not be necessary, all of a sudden it is on the table. A full course of 6 doses – starting today, around about the time that I write this.
[ Wow that is hard to fathom. My sister is having chemotherapy. My sister is about to have chemotherapy. She is having it now.]
Which brings me back to my starting thought.
Does she actually ‘have’ cancer still, or has it been cut out?
Of course, this is just semantics and makes no difference to what she is going through, or those around her.
I feel like I am on something of a journey of my own, and I wonder if this is how most people feel when someone they love goes through this.
By admitting I feel this way, I do not mean in any way to diminish what my sister goes through. I can only write from my point of view, and try not to defer to what my naturopath describes as my “default emotion of guilt”.
For me there are all kinds of complex emotions going on.
To begin with, I would have to admit to being a little overwhelmed by how deeply this has affected me.
I have only known of the existence of my sister since I was about 18, and met her a year or so later.
I remember when I first received letters from my baby sister (the youngest of a family of 7 into which I was adopted, I had always secretly longed for a baby sister) being amazed at how well she wrote for a 13-year-old.
I remember thinking how much she sounded like me.
Over the many years since, she has been a constant in my life. Coming to visit me and stay on the couch at one of the uni share houses I lived in (aka ‘den of iniquity’) while she was still in high school, but managing to keep up when we took her out partying.
Or flying over to Perth where we had just moved as newlyweds, and were living barely above the poverty line. She came and brightened up our little flat and then we went camping together in the SouthWest.
The details of which are a story for another day. Suffice to say it was lucky we were two young blondes when it came to needing assistance getting the tent up.
As an Aunty to the rugrats, in truth she was a little absent in the early years as she unashamedly would announce “I don’t do nappies!”.
But as they grew out of nappies and into little peeps, she has been a regular in their lives at their important events like school plays and basketball grand finals.
We consider ourselves lucky, because we have a friendship as well as our sisterhood.
We actually choose to spend time together.
And I (finally) listened when she told me she thought I really would benefit from yoga. A year later, feeling signficantly less arthritis pain as a result of falling in love with yoga, I am eternally grateful to her for her insistence.
So what has suprised me is that I have been rocked to realise exactly how much I love her. How much I want to be there for her. How much I need my sister in my / our lives.
I know it is cliched, but it feels truer than ever today.
Cherish those you love, hold them close – and don’t forget to tell them you love them.
Goodluck, I love you DJB.