Seems like a lifetime, and seems like yesterday all in the same breath.
16 years ago, I lost my big sister to Ovarian Cancer.
16 years ago, I spent this day, in a chair, in her bedroom, watching her sleep. I woke up that day, knowing that it was the day. I called out from work and told them I just knew. And I did. I drove down with my mother, and I sat with her all day. She didn’t wake the entire day – just laid there. It was probably the most restful day she’d had in over a week – her sleep was peaceful, breathing wasn’t labored. She just was. And I was just there. I said little, just watching my big sister sleep. Wishing a thousand wishes that this wasn’t going to be the end, that she wake, and smile at me, and the nightmare of the past six month would be over.
My sister knew I was there. She held on all day. She refused to let go while I was there.
Mom and I told my brother-in-law around 4:30 or 5 that we were going home to get dinner. We stopped and got some chinese take-out on the way home, and just as we sat down to eat, the phone rang.
She had passed while we were driving home.
My sister was beautiful. Simply beautiful. She had a laugh that to this very day I remember – high-pitched and glorious – full of joy and merriment. She was a brilliant woman, and a great mom. She was that typical sister – you know, the perfect one. Beautiful and smart, and couldn’t do wrong. She had a temper that could sting, and a look that could wither, but to her friends, she was a saint. To her children, she was their world.
To me, she was my Sissy.
We didn’t know about Lynch Syndrome then – although we should have. My dad had passed from colon cancer. My other sister had also had colon cancer a few years before. And then, Betsy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. We never put two and two together.
Then, in 1998 when she got her diagnosis, it was a death sentence. People now, who are diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer have a better shot at remission, but then, no. Betsy got her diagnosis in November 1998. She had stem cell replacement, and was in remission by December (treated in the same hospital where I received my treatment). In February, the cancer was back – and moved swiftly. By February 14th, a blood clot presented in her leg. By the 19th, it moved to her brain and caused a stroke. By the 20th, she begun hemorrhaging as the cancer ate through her colon. And by the 23rd, she was gone.
My sister left a legacy. Three beautiful children who are now adults. She never saw them graduate from highschool or college. She never saw the way they blossomed into adulthood. She missed her girls’ weddings, and the birth of her grandchild (I won’t say she never met him – she knows Keegan, and I hope, through us, he will know her).
I miss my sister. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about her in some small way. She’s in my dreams. She’s on the tip of my tongue, at the back of my brain. She is in her kids, and her grandchild. She’s in my heart.
I miss you.