Saturday, August 27, 2016

My sister has cancer

Apparently, my sister has incredibly lumpy breasts.

It's not something we've talked about much over the years. She is six years my younger. She was 12 when I went to college, 16 when I got married, in college when I became a mom. My 6th kid was 6 months old when she had her first nicu baby (3 of her 4 daughters spent significant time in the hospital). I remember sitting behind a curtain in the hospital with her, pumping together, she - so her tiny girl could have mama milk in spite of her cleft lip and palate, so important as she recovered from major surgery on her miniature heart; me - so my normal, healthy, fat chunk boy could still have my milk when I flew home.

Even then, I'm pretty sure we didn't discuss her fibrous boobs.

But here we are, a dozen years later, and one pesky lump out of her extensive lump collection is turning our worlds upside down.

For me it has been a week or so of being pretty sure it was cancer but not completely sure, and now we are sure that it is but don't know much else. How big? How many? How fast? How aggressive? Spreading? Lymph nodes? What does it mean? Surgery yes, but how much? Genetic? Hormonal? Will she lose her boobs? Will I lose my sister?

These are the questions that have been hogging most of my conscious thought. Answers will come as tests are completed and results are read. Today I will tell my middle kids. I will tell them not to be afraid. There may be a time for weeping. And I will weep now for her grief, for the agony of the process, for the surgery, the chemo, the suspense, the loss of the illusion that all is well (true story, she lost that illusion long ago).

But I am not going to grieve things I fear. I'm not going to borrow tomorrow's trouble. Today has trouble of its own.

That's all my brain talking. At the same time, my heart has an ache that doesn't go away. Suspense isn't something I handle well. There is a big something I don't know. And that is its own kind of hard.

So if you pray, please pray. And if you know me and I behave strangely, forget things, start blubbing in a conversation about laundry detergent, text furiously during a class about improving your students' essay writing, please forgive me, handle with care. Know that some portion of my already distracted heart is very, very busy, loving my sister.