If you haven’t noticed, there seems to be a ribbon for everything these days. I wear the pink ribbon (featured in the picture). It resides on the inside of my left wrist. It brings me comfort and sadness, depending on my mood.
There is a song called, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”, by Martina McBride. I hadn’t heard it when it first came out. The first time the song made its way through my car stereo, I was on my way to work. I literally had to pull over to the side of the road as the tears had blurred my vision beyond sight.
What could be in those lyrics that would cause such an emotional reaction? The first verse had the lines, “Cancer don’t discriminate or care if you’re just 38 with three kids who need you in their lives.”
It had only been a few weeks since the test results for my 37-year old (younger) sister, with three kids, came back: Stage 4 breast cancer. Prognosis: less than a year to live.
I was 3,000 miles away from my sister; clear across the country. What made this diagnosis even more difficult was we had recently rekindled our sisterhood after not speaking for 10 years. Some trivial fight about life decisions, caused a feud so great, we stopped speaking. I felt like we were being shorted. We had just made up. It wasn’t fair. Why her?
So, positive was the mind-set. My sister was positive, we were positive. She said she was going to be beat this. She even wanted to visit me when she was better. I was old enough to know better. Stage 4 is the worst stage and the least likely to recover from. After all, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer only 5 years prior. He made it three weeks before he passed. My mother and I privately spoke about the inevitable.
March of 2012, I returned to New York, after being away for over 10 years. I took my daughter and husband, who had never been. I wanted my daughter to meet her aunt as this would be her only chance. I was finally able to be of some help. I cooked and cleaned while I was there. It felt good being able to contribute to the home again.
Being away from the place you grew up for so long, makes running into people you knew awkward. They know why you have returned. They don’t know what to say to you. I
Luckily, my daughter was able to see and visit with her aunt before she became took a turn for the worse. We stayed a week and I did what I could to help out while I was there. Seems people were dropping off food before (and after) I was there. When someone in your family gets sick, you find out who is there for you.
I returned home to California a week later. Before I left, my sister and I hugged each other. Much longer than we ever had. No words were spoken, but we did say our final goodbyes; silently. My sister and I spoke almost daily after that, either by text or Facebook. Soon she lost the ability to control the right side of her body. Eventually, she lost the use of her legs. She had some underlying aspect to her cancer that was never able to be diagnosed.
Treatments were an hour away, based on her insurance. Her 16 year-old had to go to hospital in her prom dress so my sister was able to see her. Her four and five year old daughters really didn’t understand.
She eventually was moved from the hospital to a nursing home, where Hospice could monitor her. Hospice…now it was the final stages.
Two weeks later, June 12, 2012, she passed. It was just three months since I had been there. I returned to New York two days after I received the call saying my sister had passed. The battle with breast cancer was over.
This is why I wear the pink ribbon. It has more meaning to me than “just a cause” that needs donations to find a cure. I am still a bit jaded about losing her at such a young age. When people ask me to donate to “the cause”, I often refuse. Shocking, right? Not really. I encourage you to, “think before you pink” and look at where those donations are going. Many go to six-figure executive salaries and advertising. Money needs to go to families for transportation to/from treatment, for daycare for their children, for food, for everything that changes when the diagnosis comes in. Not to a company who organizes walks, in the name of someone who had breast cancer.