Today is Tuesday and for many of us out there in this great and vast stretch of the world, it is a day like any other day. We will live it like any other day. We will get up, go to work, go to school, pick up our children sit with them while they do their homework, wipe their noses, make dinner, tuck our family into bed and go to sleep. Perhaps it is a day marked by little joys or grandiose hopes. We may be laughing in the park, playing a game, completing a long anticipated project, giving birth, dancing and loving and filling up life with all of our dreams. For some of us, this day may be vastly different than others. It may be day of brokenness or pain. Some of us may lose our jobs, grieve in sickness and in death, trip ourselves up in despair and darkness.
For me, for the most part it is a day like any other day. I am up. I am writing. I will soon be waking the boys and sending them off to school; I will go about my day from one scenario to the next: Living and Breathing.
For my middle sister, however, it is a day filled with anicipation and dread, today marks the second of the three surgeries she is to have. Seven months before our mother was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), my sister Mara was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. For us as a family, for her especially, it was shocking and awful. Mara is only in her early 30's. She is a single mom, who, until her diagnosis was living her life like any other day. Working hard at a job she loved, making ends meet, raising her daughter, and loving her friends and family. Cancer was the furthest thing from her mind, the farthest thing from any of our thoughts. Now, she stands, almost a year and a half since the doctors' first whispered cancer, scared but ready to undergo the second part of her mastectomy and the first half of her reconstruction. My sister is strong, she has lived through chemotherapy, radiation, surgery...and then the illness and subsequent death of our mom.
Here are a few questions I posed to her that she so graciously put up with and responded to...
Mara, what is the scariest thing about cancer?
The scariest thing about cancer is the “not knowing." Not knowing what to expect because everyone’s body is different. Not knowing if I’m going to live. Not knowing if the chemo is going to work. Wondering if the cancer has spread or if it’s going to come back. I was diagnosed at a young age. I still have a lot more life to live and who wants to be thinking about cancer all of the time??
What is your biggest worry about surgery?
My biggest worry is whether or not I’ll wake up. I’m not worried about the pain. I can deal with the pain.
What do you hope for the future?
I hope for happiness and some normality after all this is over. It’s hard not to be paranoid now for the rest of my life wondering whether or not the cancer is going to come back. Headaches turn into brain cancer thoughts. Stomach aches turn into stomach cancer thoughts. My joint and back pain turns into bone cancer thoughts.
What would you tell others who are going through a similar experience?
Just take it day by day. Talk about your feelings, keep a journal. The power of prayer is amazing [or meditation or Reiki or what ever makes the most sense for you to connect with something greater than you]. Also a positive attitude and good support system can get you through some of the hardest and darkest times. Cancer isn’t fair, fun, easy, or kind, but it is SURVIVABLE!!!
Are big sisters annoying?
Of course, but that’s what they are supposed to do. I am my big sister’s keeper.
I love her. I love that Mara. I love that sister of mine. I hope that she knows how much we are with her today as she embarks on this next stage of her journey. That we are with her in heart and mind and spirit. So today, as you go about your day like any other day, stop and feel the wind on your face, or the tight squeeze of your child's hand or the warm nose of your dog or the cold that bites through your gloves. Just stop and for 5 seconds love what you have and love what is lost and love what is broken. Hold it all in as you take in a deep breathe. Exhale. Then keep on going, keep on going and living and breathing, go about your day, like any other day, because Living and Loving is the best antidotes to the troubles and mishaps and tragedies that trip up this world.