Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Cancer: When a pebble sinks to the bottom

I've been writing this for weeks. It isn't perfect. It's angry and selfish in parts But it's from the heart.

My sister died today. Vile, destructive breast cancer. The stubborn woman that she was should have been dead by last Christmas. Instead she almost made it to this one. By the time she got a diagnosis she was given a choice of drastic chemo with no guarantee of survival, or... well that was it.

She chose the or. No chemo. No treatment. She wanted to live the remainder of her life without the agonising side-effects of the chemo. She wanted to visit her kids who had just emigrated in Australia before she was diagnosed. She managed that twice. She got to play with her granddaughter again.

The doctors didn't approve. She ignored 'em, My sister was well used to dealing with doctors. She was a practice manager for a large surgery. She was/had been a lay inspector for schools, one of the people that would be called upon in the event of an emergency in Scotland, a mentor for practice managers, and worked with a campaign against irresponsible driving. 

She was amazing. And stubborn. Did I already say that? No doctor was going to make a decision for her.

But for me she was my big sister. A Brown. I really was a Brown thirty years ago. Part of a family of seven. She was ten years older than me, and the next one to me. My brothers and sister lost their little sister today. I lost my big sister. Seven is now six, and it bloody hurts.

When someone close to you they have terminal cancer, your first thought isn't always 'poor you'. It's much selfish than that. But what about me? How can you leave me? How dare you leave me! I need you. Selfish thoughts. In truth I lost her the day a driver decided not to wait a few extra seconds - but that's another story.

Not long ago I read an article from a cancer patient, who pointed out that she was not responsible for everyone else's feelings, the cancer was hers and her alone. Damn skippy. My sister wasn't responsible for helping me with my anger and grief. But I have those feelings in spades. I've been fortunate enough to have my other sister and friends to talk to.



But her life and her illness rippled outwards. At the centre of the circle is her husband and her family, some of them who live thousands of miles away in Australia, and her son who works in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Her friends on the Scottish island who loved her. Her surgery, responsible for managing the declining health of the 'boss'. My brothers losing their little sister, feeling guilty at the fucking unfairness of life. Feeling it should be them first in the natural order of things. My older sister losing the sibling she lived, loved and fought with (as siblings do) as she grew up. Not now, not ever should it have been her. 

And me, My sister was the one I turned to after my mum died when I was a teenager. For a brief time I became a confidante after her son was killed in a road accident (the other story) and she couldn't talk about it where she lived. I'm so angry today I can barely speak.

She was a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a boss and a friend to many. Today her pebble sank to the bottom of the pond. But the ripples of her life will carry on long past this moment.


21 comments:

  1. I am so sorry, baby. Words are pitiful, paltry things at a time like this so I won't even try. Just known I'm here, always xx

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  2. So very very sorry for your loss, my friend. *hugs* You and your family are in our thoughts & prayers. Much love, Sharon, Bill, Krissy & Katrina. xoxo

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  3. I'm so sorry for your loss and can only say you are entitled to your anger. Life isn't fair and death even less so.

    My mother was 53 when she died. I was three days away from my 27 birthday. My grandmother at the time was very old and although not ill, not really capable of living a satisfying life anymore either. When she heard the news her reaction was, it's not fair, it should have been me. My father, brother and I said nothing. What could we say, we thought she was right.

    Death is harder for those left behind. Once it has happened the pain and suffering is over for the one who has died, regardless of what you do or do not believe in. In my mind there either is an afterlife in which case you sister (and my mother) now life pain free happy afterlives. Or there is nothing, in which case they're still free of pain and suffering.

    For us who stay behind the real struggle doesn't begin until our loved one passes away. Because no matter how much you think you know how much the loss is going to hurt, no matter how much warning you get and no matter how hard you work to prepare yourself, it is impossible to imagine what life without that loved one will be like.

    So I wish you strength and patience. In my experience you need to experience every single life event without the one you've lost at least once before the pain stops being acute. Which means you need to give yourself at least one year to just feel it.

    For me it got a bit easier after that first year. Happy memories slowly replaced the pain although there always were and without doubt still will be moments when all I wish for is five minutes with my mother.

    You're in my thoughts.

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  4. So sorry for your loss. Love to you and your family.

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  5. I am so very sorry for your loss. I cannot fathom the depth of grief I would feel if I were to lose any of my sisters. My heart and thoughts are with you (((HUGS)))

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  6. I don't even have adequate words for how sorry I am.
    The loss of a beautiful woman, for sure.
    I can only offer my love and support. Love you.

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  7. I'm so very sorry for your loss.

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  8. She sounds like she was a strong person with a powerful personally. Clearly she's left a giant hole in the fabric of your family. She cannot but be missed. Cancer is a greedy thief and I'm so sorry for what you have lost to it. I can't reach over and just hug the dickens out of you, but I wish I could. Love you!

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  9. Having lost every one of my relatives to cancer, and watching as the last of these relatives made the same decision as your sister, I understand. But the sun always sparkles greatest on the ripples... Blessings. ~b.

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  11. A close friend of mine just died from prostate cancer that had metastasized. His last two or three months were horrible. He was in pain all the time, the chemo ruined every single day... I will miss him every day of the rest of my life (he was more than a friend, he was family), but it was a relief when he died. I wish he'd chosen your sister's route.

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  12. I'm so sorry for your loss, darling. I'm here for you and you know where to find me. I wish I could be closer and nothing I can say will help. *gentle hugs* my sweet

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  13. **hugs and warm winds to keep you**

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  14. *HUGS* I'm so sorry lovely lady, my heart goes out to you and your family at this difficult time.Remember I'mjust an email or phone call away

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  15. This is heartbreaking. I hated reading this...I hate it when good people leave our planet. I was also glad to read this as painful as it was. I'm glad she was so loved by you. So loved.

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  16. That was lovely, Sue. I'm sure she knew how much you loved her and would miss her. Hugs from me.

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  17. The love you feel for your sister is heard loud and clear through. Thanks for sharing such a deep part of yourself.

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  18. So sorry, Sue. So many people affected by this horrible disease. My Facebook timeline is currently full of friends suffering through the side effects of treatment. If what one of my childhood friend is going through is any indication, your sister made the right decision. Sounds like she was an amazing lady. I'm sorry for your loss.

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