The Unsent Card

sisters

I have finally thrown away the card I bought for the birthday my little sister never celebrated.

For years after she died of breast cancer in her 30s, I would occasionally come across the card where it was tucked deep in my underwear drawer, and I would open it.

I would think of summers together, sharing a bedroom, confidences, conflicts, loyalty, hilarity, love. Tears would prick, and I would miss her terribly. Then I would regain my composure and close the drawer.

In thousands of similar moments across the 15 years since her death, the ability to maintain composure has been a precious tool – a barrier against loss of control, a denial of grief, a technique for staying strong.

I’ve been perfecting composure since the call I made to a women’s cancer hotline when my sister was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer a few weeks after the birth of her third child.

Our mother had died of breast cancer, also contracted before the age of 40, and my sister’s was at least Stage III. I wanted dispassionate information about what we would face.

The hotline volunteer was silent for a good 10 seconds, and then she said:

“How strong are you? You need to be strong for me to tell you the truth.”

Oh I am strong, but not nearly as strong as my sister – seven years my junior, a juggernaut, born with a tenacity that overwhelmed others but enabled her to accomplish just about everything she chose to do.

I have never seen a person fight so hard.

Her remarkable husband, her 8-year-old daughter and two sons, (newborn, 3 and 5 when she was diagnosed) and all her friends, surrounded her with the love that spreads against this despicable disease in millions of families every day. I could do nothing but stay in control, to be as strong as possible for her in the three years that my sister fought.

It was this month 15 years ago that my sister died, and it is in March that my own birthday falls. It was last weekend that my niece paid tribute to her mother in her university’s Relay for Life, as she has done almost every year of her young life.

This is a particularly difficult time of year, but it is a reminder that we all need to fight.

There is no greater demonstration of love than to fight side by side with the loved ones, friends and  colleagues who battle against the horrific consequences of this disease, and often lose.

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This video is very powerful: Melissa Etheridge sings I Run for Life

 

Daily Prompt: Fight

 

Image Credit: Leah Mariani, on SaatchiArt

 

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19 thoughts on “The Unsent Card

  1. I’m very sorry for your loss. I pray that one day soon, a cure for this horrid disease will be found, and I pray that God fills that painful spot within you, that misses your sister, with His love and His comfort. I feel certain that your sister would have been very proud of you and honored by this post that you shared. I pray also that God uses this post to comfort and encourage others to continue in their fight against this terrible disease.

    God bless you,
    Cheryl

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  2. I found myself missing my aunt this morning, she passed from brain cancer a few years ago. I’m so sorry for the loss for you, your family – and your sister who had to leave too soon.♥
    Laurie

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    1. Thank you so much for your comments. It really is such a difficult disease for so many millions of people, but the fundraising runs are a a good thing and another way for people like my niece to honor those who didn’t make it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry for your loss. That phone call must have been a terrible jolt! We lost a niece to uterine cancer, too, diagnosed when she was 12 (a really unfair situation) and I often think of her — such a live wire. And other family members as well.

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27, but mine was an almost completely confined lump. Went through surgery & chemo, have been healthy ever since — and thankful for every day of life. Three years ago I was diagnosed with chronic leukemia and have been dealing with that now. (My birthday’s this month, too: Easter Sunday!)

    I wrote a poem about surviving breast cancer and posted it on my blog, trying to point out that all kinds of cancer are horrible. http://christinegoodnough.com/2015/09/16/breast-cancer-survivor-musings/

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