Monday, October 5, 2009

A Survivor

Yesterday morning was the annual "Walk/Run for the Cure" Cancer event.  This is the first year that I have participated and it seemed quite a natural and obvious thing to do given my younger sister's diagnosis in March of this year.  Geoff, Matthew and I joined Elizabeth (Lib) and her family, as well as a few dozen others of her supporters in the walk that counted thousands of participants. 

As we were driving to the starting point of the walk, I was feeling very emotional about Lib.  Lately, perhaps particularly since her most recent/last chemo session, I've been feeling easily overwhelmed by emotions as I contemplate what she's gone through, what we've all gone through, to get to this point.  I've wondered how much I've actually processed what's happened to her/me/us.  I remember vividly that frantic Friday phonecall from her telling me that she had invasive breast cancer and to come and get her - it felt like my whole world shifted on its axis in that moment. I'm not sure that it has been completely righted yet.  About two or three days after her surgery, I remember being on my way to the hospital to relieve my brother-in-law's vigil and I had to pull over to the side of the road to catch my breath and wipe my eyes enough to see out the windshield - I was crying and almost hyperventilating, to the extent that I needed to cancel my visit for that day and go home and lie down.  My tears that afternoon were the last I have shed about her diagnosis, until these last couple of weeks.

In the stress and tumult of the past almost-seven months since her diagnosis, it's almost like I've blocked out some of the emotional pain connected with my sister having cancer.  Part of this reaction, I think, is because there are simply times that one has to put aside emotion in order to get anything done or to be supportive of another person; if ever there were a time not to fall apart, I think that a sibling diagnosed with cancer would be one of them. It's perhaps the adrenaline that gets one through times like these.  Am I starting to experience the 'crash' that inevitably happens after the rush has passed?  Perhaps.  What I can say with greater certainty is that as a result of this shutting down of emotions to get through the past seven months, I've actually become a bit emotionally numb towards Lib in the past number of months.  This may, in fact, feel like a lessening of compassion from her perspective, I'm not sure.  But this would, I believe, be a misinterpretation of what's happened. 

What I am beginning to recognize of late, however, is that there are things here that I need to deal with, grapple with, come to terms with.  It was that need surfacing yesterday as we made our way to the beginning point of the walk and it was everything I could do to stop my tears from flowing.  I felt an overwhelming love for my sister at that moment and was so grateful that she is alive.  

I was proud to walk with Lib yesterday and have a feeling that this was the first of many such October walks.  I was also proud of her for completing the walk just weeks after her last chemotherapy appointment.  I thought she looked frankly beautiful in her pink-turbaned bald head as she walked alongside her family and friends and made it the whole five kilometres.

Now that I am assured that she has made it through the nastiest of the nasty, perhaps I can relax and do what it takes to process the knowledge that she is now cancer free...she is a breast cancer survivor.  Thank God.


  1. Thanks for letting me be one of the first group of people to read your blog! When I read all the things you've already taught Matthew, I was impressed, and thought that I'd like to have you be my teacher--he's learning things I don't even know.

    I also found your blog about the walk meaningful.

  2. Thanks on all fronts, Joanne.

    Re: Matthew learning things you/we don't know - let's see if HE remembers it a few decades from now!