It’ll never happen to me. I see it on the news all the time but they’re just strangers. I hear about it but never really paid much attention to it. Those were all things I’d said before about cancer. It was like watching a movie on war in Iraq, it seems so surreal and fictional because it’s a world away, it’s not our neighborhood that is being bombed. It’s not us that’s doing the shooting, the killing, the dying. Unfortunately the soldiers coming home in body bags is very real and so is cancer. It’s an ugly, messy, dirty disease. My little sister was diagnosed with Non-Hodgekins Lymphoma last week after months of illness.
It’s weird how much you notice something when it’s right there in front of your face. It’s not just in front of me now though. It’s screaming at me aggressively, dangerously close. I try to flinch and move away but I can’t, I’m stuck in this spot, this position and I can’t move. It’s like my feet are encased in solid cement and there is a heavy fog around me. I can feel it lurking just beyond my reach, snarling and growling, but I can’t see it and I’m helpless against it. I was scared and angry, emotionally drained. I can’t even begin to imagine how she must feel.
She’s the strongest person I know. She’s travelled around the world by herself and with friends and family and been to places I could only wish to visit one day in the far future. She talks about countries and experiences that are so foreign to me as if they were the neighborhood grocery store, with such familiarity and enthusiasm (yes she talks about food with the same excitement). Her career as a teacher drains her on a daily basis. She uses her talents and unending patience to teach special needs children and comes home with stories of her work days that would make my very worst days at the office seem like a tropical vacation on the isles of Hawaii, sipping on MaiTais and watching hula girls in grass skirts. She has 3 degrees and is almost finished her Masters program at UBC and aspires to become a student councilor, selflessly devoting her career to helping kids find their way in life. Even now, in the face of one of the most deadliest diseases in the world, she still smiles and jokes around, her soul full of spirit and the very example of a brave soldier. I admire her so much.
She’ll get better, she will. Her first treatment of chemotherapy was yesterday and she’ll have to undergo 5 more over the next several months. She’ll be weak and her immune system will be Hiroshima’d, but she’ll be strong again, well again. She’s too strong of a person to let a little thing like cancer bring her down. It’ll never happen to me, I once thought. I never expected it to happen to my sister, my family, someone so close to me. I’d donated to cancer funds before, ran in the Underwear Affair to help raise money for cancer research, but always was just doing those things for faceless strangers. As much as I don’t want it, I now have a face to run for, a name to put on my “I’m doing this for…” tag. My sister and I were reading a book on cancer last week and it stated 1 in 576000 will be struck by lightning, 1 in 67 people will die from a car accident and 1 in 3 will have cancer. Well, now I guess she doesn’t have to worry about being struck by lightning or dying in a car accident. She’s already paid her dues to the odds and she’ll beat it, all the while with a smile on her face and friends and family by her side.