I guess I could only hold my silence for so long. In September I wrote what I thought would be my final blog post, one last entry before letting go of the demons my sisters illness brought with it and ridding my life of this disease. What a naive thought. As the months pass I continue to see close friends and families lives affected by this horrible disease, and my hatred only grows stronger. Why the lives of so many truly amazing individuals are so unfairly cut short is something I have never been able to wrap my head around. I could sit around forever questioning the whys and debating the what ifs, but what good would that do? No one put it better than my own mother in her final entry of Margo’s blog, “I remind the girls daily we will not waste our energy asking why this tragedy had to happen to Margo or to our family, (that question will never have an acceptable answer), we were not given a choice about Margo’s illness or the outcome but we do have a choice as to what we will do with our pain…we can let it tear us apart or we can let it bring out greatness, I know what Margo is cheering for”. The truth is she’s right. There is and never will be an acceptable answer. For this reason I have waged a personal war against cancer, a war I don’t ever plan on forfeiting. As the stubborn, determined, tough as nails person my sister always knew me as I know she would expect nothing less of me.
The first time cancer affected my life I was merely a twinkle in my parents eyes. My dad lost his father to lung cancer, and I was denied the opportunity of ever knowing the man that shaped him into one of the hardest working, protective, and loving people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. My dad and I have always shared a special bond, my mom so often points out how eerily similar the two of us are (both inside and out). From our green eyes and bushy eyebrows to our unmatched loyalty and stubbornness, we truly are two peas in a pod. My number one fan since the day I first kicked a soccer ball, he has been there through it all. I pretended to hate his signature “yo five” he enthusiastically yelled from the sidelines during my stubborn too cool for school teenage years, but grew to love it as it turned into “one five” in high school and eventually “two three” in college. Truthfully, he is my absolute best friend and I both admire and appreciate all that he has done to provide my sisters and I with a comfortable life. So much of who I am today is because of the way my dad raised me, and I can only assume that his dad provided the same guidance and support for him throughout his youth. All though I never had the privilege of knowing my grandfather, I am fairly certain he was just as admirable as my own dad.
I first realized what a serious and evil disease cancer was when I was in middle school. My sisters and I spent our summers at the country club and participating on the swim team. Katie was both our neighbor and a fellow swimmer. Her mom, Mrs. McGurk, was a single mom who worked full time. Katie spent almost every day of the summer with us either at the pool or our house. We all grew so close that it was if she was one us. My fair skinned, freckled, blue eyed sisters and I bare little resemblance. People often even assumed Katie was their sister and I was the family friend! Mrs. McGurk was the kindest most loving person. She proved to be quite the match for breast cancer the first time around and entered remission. However, I so vividly remember when it decided to wage war on her body a second time. We were all on our way back from the beach when my mom had to pull over as Mrs. McGurk got sick. Cancer proved to be too much to beat a second time around, and she ultimately lost her battle. Katie was with my family at my aunt and uncles beach house when my mom got the call, it was time to say goodbye. It was during the car ride home that I think I first realized both the power and unfairness of cancer. The only sound to be heard was the heartache leaving Katie’s body in the form of tears. A child, losing her mom long before she should have. It was the first funeral I ever attended, and the first time death really became a reality for me. The hardest part about it all? Hardly recognizing the body in the casket. The aged and exhausted body I saw that day exhibited the power and cruelness of this disease. Katies loss was ultimately our gain. She has become a fourth sister to me and without a doubt a member of our family.
Even with these experiences I never could have predicted cancer shaping my life in the way that it has. I always assumed my sisters and I would grow old together, don’t we all? I, like so many of you, thought it won’t happen to me, to my family, and then it did. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Black, white, male, female, two, twenty, two, eighty two, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, it doesn’t matter. Shortly after my sisters death a close family friend posed an interesting question, do you think its easier to know someone is dying and have the chance to say goodbye, or to lose them suddenly and be denied the opportunity to have one last conversation, create one last memory. I have lost friends without the chance to say goodbye, and I have been with my sister during her final hours. I have experienced both, and yet I can’t answer that question. I guess, in a way, it depends on the circumstances. I think that there is nothing worse than watching someone you love suffer. Seeing the pain in my sisters eyes was heartbreaking. I think at one point there wasn’t a single one of us that wouldn’t have traded places with her just to rid her of her pain. Instead, we were helpless and forced to watch. The last day at the hospital I thought I was experiencing the worst pain of my life watching her lose her battle, that was until I learned what its like to miss someone. Sure we have all gone a few weeks or months missing someone we care about, but have you ever come to the realization that you’re going to miss someone every day for the rest of your life? I know I have.
At this point some may think there is nothing left to do, but I have a war to fight. A war to support those fighting, and to remember those lost. In 2014, there will be an estimated 1,665,540 new cancer diagnoses and 585,720 cancer deaths in the United States. Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4. Despite these startling statistics this is a cause that is so often overlooked. If it hasn’t directly impacted your life in one way or another maybe these statistics will catch your attention. There can never be two many soldiers fighting this war. Since my sisters death I find myself unable to say no to the occasional question asked by a cashier “would you like to donate a dollar to cancer research” of course I would. Friends or family raising money for events, of course I will support you. We are fighting this war together. The only pattern I can seem to find in all the bad is the obvious good in all these individuals who lost their lives far too soon. If you’ve lost a family member or friend you should feel lucky you had the opportunity of knowing a great one here on earth, and even luckier to have an ever better one up above. If you haven’t already I urge you to join the fight in any way you can. Cancer can win countless battles, but ultimately we WILL win this war. Excuse my language mom I can hearing you yelling at me all the way from PA, but I will say it anyway. Fuck you cancer, you will never win.
Be sure to check out our new website:
and like our Facebook page: