Facing Reality

Its been a year since my families nightmare began, and I think the reality of it all is just now beginning to sink in.  One day life was normal, and the next our world was turned upside down.  There was no time to process what was happening.  A week after Margo’s diagnosis she was having major surgery, and two weeks after that she was beginning chemo.  It all happened so fast.  There were days, and still are days, when I just didn’t think it can be true.  I kept waiting to wake up from this nightmare, but unfortunately I never did and I never will.

The pattern seemed to repeat itself.  Anytime we received any form of news things happened so quickly.  We knew from the beginning that Margo had a rare and aggressive form of cancer, but I don’t think any of us ever expected it to end so soon.  How could we?  I can attempt to explain to you what its like, but unless you’ve lived through it you will never fully understand.  To wake up one morning and be told that your 24 year old sister has cancer is not something anyone is prepared for.  There is no manual on how to handle these situations.  All we can do is handle it to the best of our ability and learn as we go.  For me, the most difficult part was accepting this reality.  Instead I tried to run from it.  I figured if I could avoid it all and distract myself I could push it out of my mind.  As long as I could stay busy maybe I could burry it.  In the beginning I was forced to face it all.  While most families were busy celebrating the holidays mine was in a hospital busy concentrating on my sister.  The doctors gave Margo time to recover after surgery and enjoy Christmas and New Years with all of us, but it was difficult to ignore the elephant in the room.  The material things about the holidays suddenly didn’t mean so much.  You could open present after present but what was in the box was never what you wanted.  None of us could give my sister the gift of life.  The future was unknown and it was a scary thing for us all.

When I returned to school I tried to push it out of my mind.  My mom and Margo always invited me to spend some time with them while Margo received treatment around the corner, but the thought of it terrified me.  I didn’t want to watch my sister go through that.  I handle things very different than most people.  I don’t ever like to let people see me upset.  My sisters know this better than anyone.  I was afraid if I got upset in front of her I would only add to her fear.  Cancer was never something I could talk to Margo in person about, instead I had to find my own ways of showing my support and letting her know how much I care.  As much as I hate to show my soft side I do really have one and those who i care most about always seem to bring it out.  I sent Margo funny pictures on the mornings she had chemo hoping I could make her laugh and put a smile on her face, and I sent her the following email before she began her first chemotherapy treatment.

‘Whether you are rich or poor in life is determined by smiles around you, friends you make, people you are with, ideas you have, dreams you chase, and the love you spread”
If there is one thing your diagnosis has taught you it is that you are an extremely rich person.  It’s impossible to count the number of smiles you have painted on faces.  You have found friends in even the most unlikely individuals.  The people you are with are better than you could have ever hoped for. Your creativity is endless.  Your dreams are always within reach and will with time be yours.  And the love you have spread?  Your family, your fiancé, your friends have all been lucky enough to experience it.
  This past month has revealed a side of you I never knew existed.  A side of you that kind of reminds me of myself.  The strength and determination you have showed is admirable.  You have your mind set on beating this disease and nothing is going to get in your way.  For me, the mountains I have climbed have been small.  I credit my determination and unwillingness to EVER accept failure for the things I have been able to accomplish.  Every time I step on the field I rely on my strength and determination to get me to the top.  So far, those two ingredients have never failed me, and I truly believe they won’t fail you either.  They are the two most important things you will need during this fight.  The mountain you are climbing is daunting, but with time you will make it to the top, and I can only imagine how beautiful the view from there will be.  You will look back on this horrible experience and be able to smile.  You will be a survivor.  You will be an inspiration for those still climbing the mountain.  The rest of your life will be on the horizon and waiting for you to start living it. Nothing can stop you from having everything you ever wanted unless you let it.  For some reason ever since you were diagnosed this picture keeps popping into my head of you walking down the aisle beaming; for that day means even more than you ever imagined.  I know its hard to think about that day now, but I know it will come and you will be more beautiful than ever.  You and Ambler have both proven that some day you will make amazing parents to a few extremely lucky kids.  You will have the family you always dreamed of, and your children will adore the two of you in the way that Garret, Jax, and Wes do.  So when you’re tired, sick, or feel like giving up just think about getting to the top.  Think about the view, and know that today you are one step closer to reaching it.  You are a Mallory.  You are stronger and braver than you ever knew, and you WILL make it to the top. I love you and consider myself extremely lucky to have you as a sister.
Love Always,
I wish I had been right about what I said in this email.
About a month after she began chemo Margo lost her hair completely.  For weeks I hid because I didn’t know how I would react.  Seeing her this way was going to make it all real.  It was just a constant reminder that something wasn’t right.  In February we took a day trip to NY to go wedding dress shopping and film Margo’s episode of Say Yes to the Dress (which will air this January!!).  Margo’s main reason for doing the show was to prove to the world that beauty is skin deep. It is not about your appearance.  As we sat in Kleinfelds I remember the stares.  Everyone was looking at my sister sitting there in her hat.  I can’t even begin to describe how angry this made me.  Sometimes we get so caught up in appearance and forget what really matters.  Whether or not my sister had hair did not determine if she was beautiful or not.  Margo wanted the world to know this.  She had told us all that she would film the show without her hat.  As she went back to try on the first dress my mom told her she didn’t have to do this if she wasn’t comfortable with it.  Margo once again showed incredible strength as she came out in front of the store and on national television sporting her wedding dress and bald head.  This was the first time I had ever seen my sister bald.  It was hard not to get emotional.  I tried so hard to hold it together.  I never thought my reaction would be on film.  I didn’t want the world to see me cry.  I had run from reality, but here I was in front of a camera being forced to face it.
In June we learned that the cancer had spread, and I think this was the first time I allowed myself to really think about what might happen.  We had all remained so positive, but she wasn’t getting better.  This tumor was worse than the first.  In my heart I knew what this most likely meant.  Through out the summer I watched my sisters health decline.  Both her physical and mental strength just wasn’t the same.  She spent most days in bed.  Doing simple things like taking a shower took every bit of strength out of her.  It was heartbreaking to say the least.  Through out it all she remained focused on her goal.  Be healthy enough to make the trip to Punta Cana and marry the love of her life.  She knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but it was what she wanted.  Easy it was not.  The long day of traveling just to get there took everything out of her.  When we arrived at the resort and saw Margo passed out on the couch I think we all worried that this was a bad idea.  I hated seeing my sister this way.  It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Her wedding was something she dreamed about her entire life.  We were surround by our closest friends and family she was supposed to be able to enjoy herself.  I have an extremely difficult time seeing people I care about suffer.  Its a feeling I don’t know how to handle so I tend to express it in all the wrong ways.  For the majority of the trip I took my anger out on everyone else, especially on the person who had made major sacrifices to be there to not only support my sister, but to support me.  I spent the wedding day angry about all the wrong things. Once again I was upset and expressing it through anger.  What should have been a happy memorable time watching my sister put on her dress instead turned into a moment I will regret for the rest of my life.  I think a big reason why I acted the way I did was because I was still running.  I didn’t want to accept what was happening.  As I watched my dad walk Margo down the aisle all that anger went away.  I was reminded of what is really important in life.  After the reception everyone went out to the bars and the casino to continue celebrating.  I didn’t want to.  Suddenly partying didn’t seem so important to me.  I wanted to finally spend time with someone I cared about with all my heart and show how appreciative and happy I was to have him with me.  To finally treat him the way he deserved.  It was a night I will always cherish and I would give anything to go back to it.
Connor, Aunt Tish, PJ, and I left the Domincan the morning after the wedding while everyone else stayed another 3 days.  I returned to school and soccer and went over a month without seeing Margo.  When my mom texted me saying she back in the hospital I knew what I had to do. As much as I hated putting myself in those type of situations I had to realize that it wasn’t about me.  Margo needed us all.  I will never forget walking into her room.  The person I saw laying in the bed was not the person I had seen a month ago.  I couldn’t believe I had let so much time pass that I didn’t even recognize my sister.  As I sat there holding back tears trying not to lose it in front of her she laid there as strong as ever.  Her body was shutting down.  The cancer was winning.  It had taken nine months but at this moment I finally accepted my sisters fate.
Waiting so long to face reality cost me valuable time with my sister.  It was too late.  By the time I realized the severity of it all the cancer had already won.  I should have gone to see her more often.  I should have talked to her every day.  Two days after finally coming to terms with it all my sister was gone and I was faced with a new reality. Life without her.
For two months I did what I do best.  I ran.  I kept myself busy with friends and soccer; never allowing myself to have the opportunity to think about what happened.  Soccer ended and my life came to a halt.  I suddenly have all this free time on my hands.  All I’ve been able to do is think.  The most difficult part of it all is that no one understands.  Unless you’e ever had to say goodbye to your sister.  To watch her take her lasts breath you never will understand.  It just isn’t possible.   People are so quick to judge you for the things you’ve said or done.  To make you out to be someone you’re not.  To think you just don’t care or you’re not appreciative.  No one considers that maybe it wasn’t you.  You see something like this affects your life in every aspect imaginable.  You make decisions you never would have made.  You say things you don’t mean.  You become someone you’re not.  It consumes you.  For the past year I have been someone I’m not.  I have said and did things that I cannot even explain and I beat myself up over them every single day.  Cancer took over Margo’s life, but it also took over everyone else’s.  I am finally beginning to come to terms with what happened and trying to be the person I used to be.  I’m beginning to accept the reality of life without her, and it is far from easy.  There are times where I don’t know what to do; when I’m so desperate for someone to understand.  While life has moved on for everyone else it hasn’t for all of us.  Not to say that anyone has forgotten about Margo or cares any less, but the wound is still so fresh for those of us closest to her.  The pain is still real.  Its still a part of our every day life and I think this is something that a lot of people don’t realize.  We are all still trying to find our way back onto the beaten path.  Since September I have been forced to live my life without two people I loved; two people that played huge roles in my life.  It has been far from easy.  There are still sleepless nights and just getting out of bed some days is a real struggle.  The tears haven’t stopped and probably won’t for a while, but I am confident one day I will come to terms with reality.

80 thoughts on “Facing Reality

  1. I just watched the Say Yes episode with your sister on it. I was so shocked at the end to see the memorial picture posted. 😦 I had to Google her name to find her story. I never dreamed that I’d find this blog written by you. I now know why I was compelled to pursue her story.
    It was to share my story with you, to hopefully comfort you by letting you know that your grief as a sister is shared by others. I lost my younger sister 13 years ago next month. She was 25 when she died….she was in a tragic accident & put on life support. For a week we lived in total hell, watching her body shut down, praying for a miracle, living every minute in the ICU waiting room…literally living there, only leaving to shower at a hotel down the street. Her husband & my parents were broken down to their lowest mental & physical state possible. After a week doctors told them she had no brain activity & would never recover. They had to make the toughest decision they’ll ever make in their lives….to let her go. Through that entire week, I was the strong one, like the athlete I had been my entire life, with my game face on, taking on every task they threw at me. I was the family spokes person to everyone who inquired about my sister’s condition and the support system to my parents when they needed to break down. I sat at her bedside and held her hand as they switched off the machine…..I literally watched her last breath leave her body.
    Looking back now, I never got my moment to REALLY grieve, to REALLY break down or go crazy like they all could. Because I didn’t want my parents to see me break down, I felt that I had to be strong for them, to support them.
    Six years later, her husband was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident…..he had never remarried, he never found anyone to match up to her larger than life spirit, he lived miserably without her. They left behind my nephew who is now 15 and whom I have had custody of for six yesrs since my brother-in-law died.
    I look at my son (nephew) and I see them both in him every day. And I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that life is too short to live in the past, to live with the regrets…it will eat you from the inside out if you let it. Live your life to the absolute fullest, I now do, because my sister wouldn’t want it any other way. And I have a feeling that your sister wouldn’t accept any less from you!
    God Bless!
    In Memory of Lori Baker-Dixon, Rusty Dixon & Margo ❤

    • I just did the exact same thing, Margo’s episode just aired here in Italy and I was so broken when I realized she didnt make it, I checked online to find out more about this adorable young lady.
      She was so brave, beautiful and sweet, I still can’t believe it really happened; there are no words that can ease the pain but she will be in our hearts forever, no matter what.

  2. Taylor,
    You are so brave to share this story and to even try and begin to explain the pain and loss you have experienced. Although I did not know your sister, I do know love. I know that your sister would not want you to have any regrets because life unfolds the way that it does and we all try and deal with it the best way we know how. You learned some difficult lessons and this can go to show you everyday that your sister is always with you and has helped make you a more loving person. I was so touched by the episode and I cried when I saw the end. Your sisters story, life, bravery, attitude, and spirit will resinate with so many people. Thank you for your beautiful post and know that my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family tonight. You see? Even though you and I have never met, your sister’s legacy is connecting people through love. ❤

    Stacy Lineker

  3. I just finished Margo’s episode of Say Yes to the Dress and now I have a huge lump in my throat and teary eyes! Margo was a kind, loving and beautiful person! Wishing your family strength and patience.

  4. I just saw the show Say Yes to the Dress and had to google the whole story. I completely identify with what you went through. My best friend in high school had cancer and my reaction was to run and deny that anything was happening. The worst she got, the more I ran. In the beginning I would try and make her laugh, so I was the clown in the hospital, but when she started losing her hair, I felt a sudden need to run. My feelings were all over the place and I eventually just hid from her.

    To this day I am not quite sure why I reacted that way.

    Just wanted to say you are not alone. Many, many hugs to you.

    Your sister looked beautiful and incredibly brave in the wedding and the tv show. She is an inspiration of strength.

  5. I just saw a re-airing of the “Say Yes to the Dress” with your sister, Margo in it. I was moved and touched by how brave and courageous your sister was. At the end when they showed the In Loving Memory, I was in shock. I thought how could this woman who was so brave lose this fight. I am truly sorry for you and your families loss. Please know your sister knew the real you and knew you were struggling. She knew that when push came to shove you would be there, and you were.

    May God Bless you and your family! And know that Margo is watching over all of you.

  6. I just saw the Say Yes to the Dress episode. Your sister was beautiful, inside and out. I, too, was shocked when I saw the ending about her passing. I am so sorry and am literally in tears about this. She was too young to have to leave this world. Please don’t beat yourself up. People handle stress differently and if you behaved in a way that you now regret, it was due to all that you were trying to cope with. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family and Margo’s husband.

  7. I just saw that episode and when I saw then ending my heart sank. I felt so sad and helpless. Instantly I felt like I wanted to reach out. My prayers are with you.

    Paul Marciano

  8. When I was 17 years old I lost my dad to lung cancer. Never having been a smoker it was a shock to all of us. Although they told us it could be 1–4 years, he died 9 months after his diagnosis.

    I too had a similar experience, where at first we were all blinded by hope and refused to think about what could happen. I have regrets that I never talked to my dad about death. I got so angry anytime anyone mentioned death around him. I thought that the only way he could make it was with positivity and encouragement. It is a heart wrenching moment when you realize that cancer and death is something we have no control over. However it’s good to remember that those moments of hope, although now they might have seemed pointless, we’re what helped make your sisters life beautiful until the very end. My dad did not want to die. My twin sister and I, along with the rest of my family,were the light of his world. His death was not poetic, he had no wise words in the end, but he did live a life of love and happiness and died surrounded by 20 loved ones in his home. This, in all that darkness, was beautiful.

    I am going to leave you with words read at my dads memorial. They are the most beautiful and TRUE words I have ever heard.

    “Now that I’m gone,remember me with a smile and laughter. And if you need to cry, cry with your brother or sister, who walks in grief beside you. And when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give to them what you need to give to me. There are so many who need so much. I want to leave you something. Something much better than words or sounds. Look for me in the people I’ve known and loved or helped in some special way. Let me live in your heart as well as your mind. You can love me most by letting your love reach out to our loved ones. By embracing them and living in their love. Love does not die, people do. So, when all that’s left of me is love, give me away as best you can.”

    While attempting to navigate my grief I wrote A LOT. You can find my writings at http://www.tumblr.com/skippingacrosstheworld

    Reading them might give you comfort and remind you that you are not alone

  9. I saw margo’s episode of say yes to the dress. Not only was i amazed on how strong this woman is, but how completely beautiful she is. Like yourself i was so hard on myself when my grandpa passed away from cancer. What we need to realize is that even though they aren’t with us in person they will always and forever be in our hearts. Your sister knows how much you love her and wouldn’t want you to feel that way. Just remember all the fun times you had together!!

  10. Taylor,
    I lost my friend next door to cancer several years ago. We grew up together, laughed our way through childhood, and tested authority together in our teens. Our “MO”, was if one of us came outdoors we’d run over and play. Nothing planned, that was just our thing. Anyway, at this point he’s very weak, and comes outside ( as grown ups), and knowing this could be the last time I saw him, I couldn’t run over to see him. It must have taken all his strength just to get out of. bed and I just drove away ( to my present home 1000’s of miles away) Several weeks later, I heard my garage door rattle, Jim came over to say goodbye on his way to heaven. I know he forgives me, and your sister forgives you.

  11. I literally saw the last ten seconds of the episode and had to look the story up online. I don’t even know if you still look at these posts…

    My name is Katie. I was also born in 1987, and I also have a rare form of cancer called osteosarcoma/bone cancer. I was diagnosed in November of 2011. I’m not really sure what to say, but I feel compelled to acknowledge you and your sister’s story.
    I got married last fall, but I couldn’t change my last name or file it legally because I am on medicaid and I’d lose it if my husband’s income was counted as mine. It’s just sick how cancer worms it’s way into every crack of everyone’s life. I often think that the people close to me have it worse than I do, although they all deny it.
    For me this twisted situation, so wrong and so unfair, has become my “normal” life. I’ve been forced to adapt and just deal with bad news or new symptoms as they come. My friends, family, and husband have to watch it happen. They are in a position to see me go through something that they know they can’t fix or change or even begin to understand.
    I guess I just have to applaud you for being there for your sister, even though you feel like you weren’t. I can tell you from my personal perspective, that I know how hard it is for the people in your position. I don’t expect (or even want) someone by my side all the time. I don’t want people talking to me about being sick and asking me about treatment. I want, more than anything, to live the way I was living before I knew I had cancer! I strive to not let the cancer be the center of my universe and one thing that helps more than anything else- is if the people around me feel the same way.
    I know I’m not normal. But people like you, who put on a strong face, are the most valuable in helping me feel normal. I just want you to know that.

    -Katie B. in Alaska

  12. Here I am watching this episode at work and just thinking how admirable this woman is, then all of a sudden a in memory of screen pops up and my mouth hit the floor. So I googled her story and found this blog. Your story speaks more volume than you would know. I lost my birth mother when I was 14 & actually had a “friend” say, she didn’t even cry, what kind of daughter is she? I only could act as if she never said it so I never heard it. I watched my father and grandmother take their last breath within a year of each other and both from cancer and I feel the most inconsiderate statement a person can make is “I know how you feel” going through what you went through, I would be selfish to say I know as opposed to I can understand or appreciate your thoughts. I don’t know your religious beliefs but prayers are with you and your family.

  13. Dear Taylor, just finished watching the episode with your beautiful sister in it. I was so happy watching it, and seeing how confidant she was and just what a beautiful bride she was going to be. In my mind she was going to beat this disease and live happily ever after. At the very end of the show when I realized she had passed away it totally broke me up. Her spirit was so full of life that I was in disbelief and had to investigate to see if that if was true. I am so thankful that you wrote something about your sister and explained what had happened. I am so very sorry to her husband, you and your family for your loss. I will never forget this story and she will be forever in my heart.

    Sincerely, Cynthia

  14. I just watched the episode Margo was in on TLC.
    I was so happy for her that she was getting a happily ever after…
    When it said “in loving memory” my mouth dropped open and I shut my eyes and started shedding tears, asking god why. I am still “watering from the eyes” as I type. See. I don’t even know her and she made an impact on my life. God works in mysterious ways my friend. God allowed them to get married a year earlier because he knew what was in store for the beautiful angel. I have no clue where and what you are realiougiously but god is the one in control. He did this for a reason. And we have to. Have to, believe this to be true. If you let him lift up your burdens you will see a light. A reason. Just keep strong. I could never imagine life without my beloved big sister who just turned 22 today. I’m 12 but that doesn’t mean anything. It hurts. I’m hurting for you. And I’m here. If you ever need to talk even though I don’t know you I’m going to be here. Just please please remember Jesus Christ is on your side. I’m sorry if I offended you in any way I didn’t mean to at all!!! You are in my prayers. I mean it. I hope I helped. Stay strong.
    -kinsley 12, Texas

  15. I just watched the episode of Say Yes to the Dress and find myself holding back tears. Your sister was inspirational and I am so sorry for your loss.

  16. After watching this episode for the second time the only thing I could think of throughout the episode was how beautiful your sister was. She absolutely glowed. I am so sorry for your loss.

  17. I recently saw the episode of “Say yes to the dress” with your beautiful sister Margo… I was very touched by her story as I am also a young (36) patient of advanced stages of cancer (stage IV colon cancer). I applauded her bravery as she came out to show her family her first dress…as a woman without hair. I was in disbelief that this beautiful young girl was going through what I was going through, but was happy to hear that she would be done with treatment in five months. The wedding was beautiful and I could visualize a long beautiful future with her new husband. Then I saw the “In memory of..” at the end of the show. It absolutely took my breath away. I had to look up Margo’s story. I have to admit, it broke my heart. It made me see the unfair side of the disease. But then I kept reading… & saw her inspiration. I heard a song today that said “you can’t live if your afraid to die”. It gives me courage to have that mentality..no matter the circumstance. I truly believe your sister made the best of her days living with cancer & left this world a brave and amazing person. This inspires me to do the same. May God bless your family…there is a beautiful angel watching over you now. I will never forget this story.

  18. Like many others here, I was so touched by your sister’s episode on SYTTD. As your mother said on your sister’s bog, Margo made friends out of strangers, so there are thousands of us as viewers who befriended her in that hour and ended up grieving her loss. We share your grief, even though it is but a minute sliver of what you have experienced. I hope you feel her warm energy and beautiful spirit around you, encouraging you and cheering you on as you chart this new journey, and completely understanding what you were going through when she was ill. She sounds like someone who would know your heart to the very depths and love you for being exactly who you are. I am confident you will find your way to honor your future and her legacy in your own special way as you continue to put one foot in front of the other. Peace be with you in the joys and the sorrows.

  19. I just watched “say yes to the dress”, like many others when I saw the memorial at the end I was shocked and felt compelled to google her to find out more! Your sister was so beautiful and brave… I’m so sorry for your loss.

  20. I just watched say yes to the dress, I have never had an interest to watch it but as the show went along I was captivated by your beautiful sister. She had such a great smile and so much zest for life that I had to keep watching to see her on her wedding day. She brought tears to my eyes. When I saw her memorial come up at the end I was shocked. I had to google her story and came across your letter. I’m so very sorry for your loss. My cousin was 30 when he had a stroke and an anurizum. He had no brain activity and his wife had to make the decision to pull the plug. My aunt and uncle have never gotten over that. I recently lost my dad and cannot imagine the grief you suffer. I think the show caught my attention because your sisters spirt is very strong. I don’t know your religion or beliefs but want you to know I’m psychic and I feel such strong feelings that your sister is very much with you watching over you. I have read and studied spirits and when a spirt goes to their afterlife they are not idle, they have a job such as spirt guides and teacher guides etc. Your sister feels like your guardian and protector. I hope this gives you comfort I don’t want to upset you or anything, I just really feel something there. I’m so very sorry for your loss and hope you will be able to come to terms and enjoy life.

  21. I just saw your sister on syttd and she was beautiful. I was so happy she had beaten it and saw the memorial afterwards and it literally made me cry. I’m so happy she got to live her dream with her dream dress.

  22. I just saw the episode of syttd with you’re beautiful sister. She was so strong, pretty and brave. The love between here and here husband was inspiring… Then I saw the “In loving memory” at the end of the episode and the tears streamed down my face… Wishing your family strength and love. Big hug, Esther (from Holland)

  23. Stumbled upon your sisters episode. Had to google it and found your website. I too lost a sister. I was not there when she passed but wish I would have been. I’ve been there for my dads passing as well. I’m sure it doesn’t mean much to have a total stranger reach out but know that I can understand your pain!

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