It always starts the same way…a phone call, a finding, “We’re hopeful that…”
Cancer has been my constant companion for more than 10 years now. It tapped my husband first and took me to my knees as the hours, days, weeks passed. He survived but at a series of terrible prices which I will share over the coming weeks and months.
Four years ago, my oldest brother was diagnosed with a malignant cytoma in his brain. The Cyber-Knife showed a sister tumor and they sewed him up. He died in two months.
Last May, my brother Bob had a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by a large, malignant tumor in his brain. He died in two weeks.
Today, right now, my older and dearer sister is battling for her life, a 25 centimeter ovarian tumor taking over her abdomen and her every conscious moment. She is in an ICU, on a vent and still has another surgery to go.
With each of them, I have suspended my life, shut it down to the 10 foot by 12 foot white prison cell called a hospital room. Watching, caring, calling out what I see and demanding attention when it was needed. Day after day, and in many cases all through the night, I have lived with them, breathed for them, watched them, prayed for them and advocated, always advocated for them.
Everything else fades away and life narrows to the hospital bed, the pinpoint that demands all your attention. You are tired to the bone and still you stay, you watch, you help, you cry. You ache in your joints and in your heart and still, you stay, soothing, calming, trying to reassure. You forget what day it is, when you last ate, what a hot cup of tea tastes like, what it’s like to lie down in a bed to sleep instead of a chair and still, you stay.
That’s what it means to be in love…with cancer.
Heading back to the hospital to hold her hand, tell her where she is, what is happening and what will happen next. I will write more about this, about the nurses who are heroes every day and about the good, the bad and the ugly of health care and hospitals.