Friday, July 30, 2010

My sister's keeper

My world has just been flipped upside down in a month. It's so hard to type the words. It's this irrational thought that I have. Maybe if  I don't type them, then somehow it won't be true. It won't be my new reality. So I just have to say it. 

My sister has cancer.

I'm hurting. I'm hurting for my sister. I'm hurting for her pain that she's about to encounter. I'm hurting for my mom and what this must feel like to have this happen to your child. I'm hurting for my brother-in-law and how he's going to manage taking care of a sick wife, three girls, and an autistic son. I'm hurting for my nieces and hate that they're dealing with this at such a young age.

I got a call from her in the middle of June saying she found a lump when she was putting on deodorant one day and brushed against her breast. It was one of those "you better go and get that checked out" conversations. She was so diligent about getting it looked at right away. 
She went to have a mammogram and they knew right away it was cancerous. The weeks that followed consisted of test after test. The biopsy confirmed it. A mastectomy was to be scheduled soon and followed up with chemo a month later. I just wanted it out of her. The surgery couldn't be scheduled fast enough.

We made light of the situation as much as we could. "You're going to look so hot. You'll have a sassy wig with cute new perky boobs."

A glimmer of hope surfaced when we got back results of the CT scan. It looks like Stage 2 and it's contained. Relief…momentarily. They wanted to do a PET scan just to make sure these tiny spots on her lungs weren't anything. Panic began to creep in even more. We had to wait another week. We prayed and prayed. My goodness, did we ever pray. 

My motto has been be strong, be positive…for her. I would talk to her on the phone and one day on the phone, it just hit me. 

Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry. Be strong for her. The tears welled up so much my jaw began to ache. The harder I fought it, the more the tears came. And she heard it all, every blubbering sob. 

Then, last night our worst nightmare was confirmed. It's in her lungs…both of them. And the PET scan saw that it's actually in her lymph nodes. And just like that, she went from Stage 2 to Stage 4 in a week. Surgery is canceled. There's no time to wait, we need to do chemo right away. How did this get so serious, so fast?

I think I cried for hours yesterday. I've been a mess. 

I wish so much that I was one of those women that could take trials gracefully, but I just might be the most ungraceful person when it comes to life's challenges. I break into the ugly cry at the drop of a dime. I cuss. I yell at my children for no reason at all. I'm a wreck and there's nothing about me that's strong or graceful.

I just want to play fast-forward on the tape of my life and see that everything is going to be okay, and I made it and she made it. How do you go on with "regular" life when your life has been flipped upside down and this is all-consuming? 

Here's not what to do. DON'T google "My sister has cancer" because that will totally give you a panic attack. Bad idea, very bad idea.

Yesterday was a lot of questioning. How do I help? What does this mean? Do I call her everyday? Does she feel enough support from me? Am I being the best sister I can be?

Then I came across this quote and it's my new motto:

"Cancer is a word, not a sentence." 

I'm not going to let it be all-consuming. She's not just my sister with cancer. She's my "Hey come over and let's bake cookies with the kids" sister. She's my "Do you want to come watch Nolan play t-ball?" sister. She's my "The kids are driving me crazy, did this happen to you?" sister. She's so much more than cancer. It's a word and nothing more. 

I'm scared. Cancer is what happens to grandparents and strangers…not to my 39-year-old sister and mother of three girls. The fear is almost paralyzing. 

If I'm feeling scared, I can only imagine her anxiety and I started thinking how can I help her make it through that? Several of you have asked if there's any thing you can do and there is. I desperately need your help. I'm not one to beg for comments on my blog but I'm shamelessly begging for them now. I want to give her story after story about survival, about people who've made it. I don't care if it's your neighbor's dog's 2nd cousin removed. SHARE IT!  Not just breast cancer, any kind of cancer. 

I've heard from others who've gone through chemo that it's going to feel like they're killing her rather than helping her when she's going through chemo and radiation. I want those feelings of utter despair to be suppressed as much as possible with a book she can open with stories of survival and hope. 

So please send me your stories. Comment at the bottom of this post or if you want them private, send it to me directly. Please only share positive and uplifting stories/advice that can help and encourage her to fight for her life. 

And there's one more thing. Pray. Pray and pray and pray. I am such a firm believer in the power of prayer and what it can do. I will continue to keep everyone updated on how she's doing. I found such a great quote that reminds me to "Let Go and Let God". 

Every evening I turn my worries over to God.  He's going to be up all night anyway.  ~Mary C. Crowley

But for now, I'm going to go to have a fabulous weekend with my "let's go to Six Flags and scream like teenage girls on rollercoasters" sister.


  1. Oh girl, I am so sorry that you guys are going through this. My uncle has a form of cancer and it was stage four when they caught it, almost 2 years ago. He is in remission!

    I'll be praying for you, your sister and your family. Stay strong I know it is hard. Positive thoughts and and giving it all to God is how I got through it with my uncle. Today's medical technology is amazing!

  2. I love you girl and will be praying like crazy. Tonya is blessed to have you in her life to comfort, encourage, lift up and make her laugh.
    Believe that God is bigger than this and allow him to give you peace. She can beat this!



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