Twelves days after my 20th birthday, my mother died with a cancerous brain tumor after only a short illness. So even though it was 24 years later when my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was devastated.
My sister, 9 years older than I, had filled my mother’s shoes as best she could. She held our family of 4 boys and 3 girls together. She hosted holidays at her home and kept in touch with us all even when we didn’t keep in touch with each other. You know the way a mom does. She was there for me when I got married, when I had my two children and when I went through the divorce. My sister was always taking care of me.
Immediately I starting questioning God. I am a Christian and believe that God does everything for a reason. So I wanted to know right away what in the world He was up to. Why would he allow my sister to have cancer after losing my mother to this horrible disease. And immediately my sister started in on me to get a mammogram. Being a single parent of two college aged children, doctor visits where a luxury that I could not afford even with insurance. I was never sick so I didn’t even have a doctor, so my sister encouraged me to contact her doctor for a physical and a mammogram.
At age 45, and my first mammogram ever, I had breast cancer. When I got the call from the doctor to come in to his office I already knew what he was going to say. My children insisted on going with me and I insisted that they stay in the waiting room while I met with the doctor. He assured me that all would be well because it was small and it had been found early.
After a few tears, I collected myself and when out to face my children in the waiting room, I wasn’t even sure I could tell them without crying, but I needed to be strong for them or so I thought. I did it, I told them it was cancer and I didn’t cry and then we rushed on to church just like we did every other Wednesday night.
The next few weeks were filled with doctor appointments, surgeon and oncologist. At the follow up visit after my surgery, the doctor informed me of the type of cancer and told me that even though it was small and I had no lymph node involvement, that this cancer was fast growing and that in 2 to 3 years he would have not been able to help me with surgery. This was it! The answer to my prayer. I had asked God why and this was it. My sister had cancer to save my life.
She was talking care of me still. We went through chemo and radiation together. I helped her pick out her wig and she helped me pick out mine. During the summer of 2001 we helped each other survive. Together we learned first had what it meant to have the support of someone else who knew what you were going through and with the love of a sister.
Today, we are cancer-free, and with the help of some other cancer survivors, we started a cancer support group for women. The name of our group is SIS, Sisters In Survival. We do volunteer work through the local American Cancer Society, Reach to Recovery and Relay for Life. God not only answered my question that day, but showed me a new ministry for my life. If you had asked me back when I was going through the treatments I would have no doubt told you that having cancer was a curse, but now? What can I say , I am blessed!