It was never a post I’d expected to write and this is hardly what I’d imagined as a post to mark my blog’s 7th anniversary (March 17th), and with apologies to my regular readers, some of this will be a bit of a repetition of circumstances previously written.
I know most of us never dream we’d write or live through the events I’d laid out. We know terrible things happen, but generally we feel safe that they happen to other people – over there. There is simply any place that helps us hold onto the fantasy that any distance from them is a protective cover for the rest of us.
When I got the call in January that my sister in Arizona was found on her bedroom floor unable to stand or speak properly and the concern revolved around possible strokes, in short order, I went into numb mode. That place where we don’t know what to feel, or maybe there’s too much feeling and there’s an *overwhelmed* switch that’s automatically tripped. We’d just been unwinding the numbing shock of the loss of one of our children only 20 days earlier. Maybe it was just continued numbness.
Some hours into news like this, we realize we must act and then thinking revs up again. What’s needed? Who will do what? When do we do whatever it is we figure we need to do? How can we support her kids? How will we do any of it? Then there are the really hidden thoughts, like, nope, I don’t want to be doing anything. This isn’t happening. This can’t even be real.
But, it is real, and very shortly after, we learned the real issue was a brain tumor. A very nasty, aggressive beast of a tumor. The scans showed it nearly covered a quarter of her brain, literally pushing it to one side. She had emergency surgery within 48 hours of being found on her floor and they were able to take out 99% of it. The surgeon said if she hadn’t made in when she did, it was unlikely she’d have lived another day or two. God, real, is a bitch.
Her cancer is never going away though. That’s a hell of a new normal to adjust to. They hope to help us keep her for up to 18 more months with heavy-duty radiation and chemo over several weeks. The days seem to fly by faster than ever. I avoid morbid activities like looking at calendars and counting back. I’m not always successful.
A rising sense of panic pushes me back to the questions about action. The more recent events of her world make sense now. Like, why did she suddenly quit her job and lose her health insurance and benefits? She couldn’t remember. It didn’t make sense to her either while she attempted to retrace her steps before the surgery. She couldn’t remember anything from 3 months prior. They have no idea how long ago that thing invaded her head.
We clearly had some heavy-duty work to do to sort how she will live until the end of this new normal inevitably. There was no way we could manage this on our own; we put out calls for help. That’s another exercise in faith and hope. When catastrophe strikes and you realize how bound you are in immediate helplessness, fear introduces itself in yet another incarnation. Who would even answer that call? Would anyone and if they did, would it be enough?
It turned out I wasn’t as alone as I’d feared. Friends responded with a generosity I couldn’t have imagined; even from a few that I’d never dreamed would be able to help. Yes, your $5 mattered, just as much as the gifts of $100 or more. I was on a plane within 3 days to get to her. They helped me get to her and hold her. They helped me get to look into her eyes and tell her, I love you. … It’s too hard to describe what all that feels like.
Those caring superheroes helped me get to the myriad mounds of paperwork needed to apply for assistance from myriad areas with their myriad requirements. Let me tell you, I don’t know how any of these agencies expect a patient to manage this. There was no way my sister had the ability to read through all the materials, let alone sort, fill-out and acquire the necessary documentation. Getting to that work alone was a huge step. After that, we’d had most medical and home expenses taken care of until at least the end of April.
How do you describe how much that means? I don’t know how to tell people just how much of a difference, how much of an impact their gifts create. I don’t think it’s possible to thank them at par value, I’m just so grateful that they accept my pitiful attempts anyway.
It was so hard to leave her. I wish it could be me that’s driving her to appointments, or shopping for her groceries, or just sitting next to her while we zone out in sister land in front of Netflix. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful for the services that we got to help her with that much, but I think you know what I mean.
I don’t know what the next steps will be, and we do know the calls for help will continue, for as long as it takes, but we’re taking it one day at a time. These are the experiences that crystalize that notion for us. Day by day, minute by minute. I can only pray that we’ll receive what we need and that we see the beauty there is to see and feel the grace we’re meant to, while we can. One day at a time.
Kininiskimotin, all my relations.