I am really missing my sister tonight. Today, Kristen's (my nephew's wife) brother passed away from cancer. J.D. was only 13. Life is full of questions, and that is one I ponder over and over .... why? J.D. had a wonderful life, a wonderful family, a wonderful community. Now that life is gone, and a family and community are hurting. What good comes from J.D.'s death? What good came from Joannie's death? In both cases it came to a point where we had to pray for their release because we did not want their suffering to continue. It was unfair for us to do otherwise. But that doesn't mean we accepted their death; their separation from us. We ache, and that ache does not diminish with time. I know people try to tell you it does. But it doesn't. We accept death with parents ... we understand that timing. But not a sibling, and not at such a young age such as 13. It wasn't an accident ... it was Cancer! It wasn't someone's foolish mistake ... it was Cancer. And long after they have left us, that cancer can enter our hearts and reside for years. I know ... it still lives in mine. I am not talking about the cancer I lived with and survived. I am talking about a cancer caused by hurt, by loss.
I think I have grown, moved on, whatever word or phrase you chose. But then days like today come along, days like J.D. ... and I realize that cancer is still there ... that it still resides in a corner of my heart. And when days like today come along .... it awakens.
I remember those last days with Joannie, the boys and I said our goodbyes to Joannie on Saturday before her death and went home. I often wondered what my siblings thought of me leaving like that. It wasn't my character ... but they all thought I needed to go home and get ready for Josh's graduation that next weekend.
The truth of the matter is ..... on Tuesday, May 31st I went in and had a lump removed from my breast. I had convinced myself that it would either be calcium deposits from caffeine like I had 15 years ago - or that it would be benign. I was wrong. It was cancerous, but it was small and I have been on tamoxifen and did not have to deal with chemo. I didn't intend to keep it a secret - but I was waiting for the right time to share it.
At that time, Joannie was dying and we all knew it, then two days later - she did. We were all busy - there was Josh's graduation and open house, then Joannie's viewing and service. Giving the eulogy was a very difficult thing to get through - but I was honored to give it on behalf of the siblings. Each of us had the right to grieve and putting my ordeal on them was not fair. What I had to deal with was nothing compared to Joannie, or even Patty. They are the hero's that showed me how to handle the past years. You take what life gives you and you make the most of it. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength - and I am thankful for the upbringing I had where I learned to 'believe'. I do believe and my faith has carried me through many battles. I knew this was another one I could get through.
There had been plenty of times I planned to share my 'news'. When the girls were together with Mom that first year in Nashville for Sept. 14th - I wanted to tell them, but I couldn't. When we were in Orlando the following Feb. - again I wanted to - but couldn't. Throughout this process - I hadn't said anything to the boys either. The reality of what cancer will do to people - and watching it take Aunt Joannie was difficult for them - and I didn't want to cause any unnecessary fear. My intention was to tell them ... eventually. I thought when it was right to say something - first it would be the boys, then Mom and our sisters, then the rest of my siblings.
When I celebrated my first year of clean health, it was a silent celebration. That was when I decided to share my experience with the boys. Of course they were scared, upset (actually pissed might be a better word!), worried, but ultimately relieved.
We all have our battles in life. Some we win, some we lose. I am not the first in our family to struggle with cancer .... but I have been able to be strengthened by the example I saw first in Joannie and then in Patty. I also felt my battle in no way compared to theirs. What a fight Joannie gave - ultimately cancer won, but what a fight she gave it. I was proud to be her sister. Patty battled breast cancer and because of technology and medication she was able to triumph over it - but it was her demeanor and faith that gave me courage. She continued to live and work despite her battle. She was my role model and again - I am proud to be her sister. I am embarrassed to compare my battle with theirs ... for in no way is there a likeness. What they had to fight through with the chemo and multiple rounds of radiation; I was blessed not to have experienced. I am thankful for that.
That cancer is gone …but another has appeared/returned. This cancer is called fear. Who will be next? Surely another loved one will fall prey to cancer. Who will it be?
Please God; not Josh, JT, Collin, Monika, Lizz …… I pray not. I hope not. But I fear so. My list is much longer than those mentioned. More family and dear, needed friends. I pray not. I hope not. But yes Lord, I do fear so.