Dear readers, I do hope you had a wonderful Holiday season! Mine was full and fullfilling all at once! We had many visitors and beautiful family moments.
The greatest visit with the most treasured time was when my sister from Texas came in town, and all four of us sisters were together…. You see, we sisters have a strong bond for many reasons, but the past few years have brought us through a crisis of tragic weight. My oldest sister (the one from Texas) was diagnosed with stage three-breast cancer, May of 2009. After months of chemo and radiation, a double mastectomy and full hysterectomy……she is cancer free and in waiting. Waiting to see if it spread through her lymph nodes that were attacked as well. Her passion for life with the will of an ox has kept her pushing through with dignity and fire. She was tested for the BRCA genetic mutation and ended up having the BRCA1 marker. She then, with the deepest of desperation, pushed for her beloved sisters to get tested.
I was the first to get tested. I had BRCA1. Just a few months later (December 4th 2009) I had a double mastectomy with full reconstruction and a full hysterectomy to boot. As mind-numbing and traumatic as it came to be, I felt no regrets nor did I feel any sort of self pity for my situation. How could I when my sister was the one with the cancer? How could I when she was in such danger and going through such a living hell? I was the lucky one. She gave me the right to change and prevent my future probability of having the same outcome. I wanted to save my life. She didn’t have that choice. I did. It was simple. Get rid of the risk. What a blessing she gave me to have that information and that option. It was her gift to me…..and to my other two sisters.
While I was going through this new and difficult season of my life, my one sister who is living in the same town as I am was in a different coping world, full of denial and fear. She wanted no part of it. I continued on with my surgery prep appointments and plans for the change and painful recovery. As my youngest sister went to get tested, we all waited in fear of her results. She was safe. No mutation was found. We all rejoiced! Pressure got to my resistant sister and she got tested…..she had it. She found out the day of my surgery that she had the mutation as well. Our family was stirred and scared. She set on the same course as I did using my breast surgeons and going through the exact same surgery just a few months later….
So here we are…one year later, all together. It was the first time in years all of us sisters had been in the same room with our mother. My one sister with the cancer looked well! Her chest was a different story. She was mutilated…and in pain, with her port still in for any further need of chemo. She is still on strong medicine and waiting for yet another round of tests at the end of the month to look for the monster that struck her. Had it gone elsewhere? She will be looking for the rest of her life.
We went to a pub for dinner and we ordered yummy burgers. My sister (the one with the cancer) comments on the fried mushrooms and how good those would be, but we decide not to get them. After we order, she still lingered on the mushrooms. We said how tempting they were, but I didn’t really want to spend the money. Then she exclaimed…”oh hell, lets live a little! Lets get them!” At that moment, she could have asked for the sun and the moon and I would have gone to heaven and back to get them for her. Just hearing those words from her struck me to the bone. “Yes, lets live a little!” I replied. We got the mushrooms and then I paid for her meal. Such a small thing, but it stretched for miles in my soul. I fought the little voice in my head saying, “there is a chance this may be our last night out together”. I looked around the table at us all and my heart went to my throat.
I then say, “If I may speak for us all….” And of course I got the resounding dynamic of us girls: “NO you can’t SPEAK for anyone but yourself!” My mother rebuked and the others chimed in. After I fought them off, I looked at my sister and spoke. “There have been more tears, love, and prayers than there could ever be for you in the last year, dear sister”. It was quiet. Nodding from all. Her eyes welled. This was real and horrifying and God only knows my sisters fate. We were at a pub eating and talking and laughing and doing our “thing”. I was so grateful for that time together. So grateful my oldest sister is with us now. Praying I can say that for years to come. Praying…..
The next day we took a TON of pictures together and laughed to tears with all our goofy looks and I couldn’t get enough of the camera! They all made fun of me and my quirky self, taking shot after shot of our sisterhood. I don’t think they got it. I was trying to capture the gift. This precious gift that was given to us. I think I did. Now I keep looking at the pictures laughing and realizing how much joy we share when we are together in our own unique and crazy world. For one “photo-op”, we all lied on the floor with our heads touching like a flower and my husband took the picture of our faces close up. It was the best idea of my youngest sister! We laughed hysterically and then by accident my other sister bumped my sister’s port and chest and she screamed in pain. We looked at all the pictures in a row after our “photo shoot” and you see us all laughing so hard in one shot and the next shot is my sister’s face in so much pain and all of us sisters looking toward her with fear. How extraordinary it is to have those shots. How reflective of our story.
Quite an extraordinary story it is….
Of strength and courage she walks
Into the darkness of the unknown.
Of strength and courage she waits
Wondering if her days will be counted.
Of strength and courage she lives
Despite the pain and fear.
Of strength and courage she laughs
And in this moment, she finds joy.
Tracy Chapin Maher says
I read this and felt tears well up in my own eyes. I can only imagine the four C’s being together… what a journey you have all been on since I met you, what – 35 years ago (could it be?!?)!
I am so glad you shared these moments with them E-mail me a picture of all of you with your mom if you have a chance. I think the last time I saw her was in ’85. And please give them all my love and a hug too whenever you see them.
I love you to pieces,
Thanks so much BF! Love you right back….always. 🙂