The “Other” Sister: “I didn’t have to fight…”

Although I’ve written about my younger sister Karlette who succumbed to breast cancer a few years ago, I have not mentioned Lori, my other sister, who danced with the devil. Lori’s diagnosis came a few years before Karlette’s first. I asked her to write a blog post about her experience, but she feels that she has little to add to the conversation. However, what she shared with me during the “trying-to convince-her” discussion says a lot about the feelings of some breast cancer survivors whose battles may not have been as “dramatic” as others’.

It has been hard for me to think of myself as a survivor. I really didn’t have to fight cancer. Karlette fought cancer. It kept coming for her and she fought with everything she had. I just went through treatments and it was gone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever celebrated survival. I know that there’s always the possibility of its coming back, but my plan would be the same[…]. I never thought of it as a fight. I thank God for His mercy and for blessing me when so many others had to fight and many even lost.

When I pointed out to her that her status as “survivor” is a matter of perspective, that every year she “holds her breath until given the ‘cancer free’ news,” she responded:

I do. [But] I give it all to God. I thank Him daily for every breath I take. Don’t get me wrong. I know I, too, could have lost, but I know that it was God who fought and won. Not me–not without giving it to Him.

It has been difficult for Lori being the older sister survivor when one of her baby sisters didn’t survive. She lives with profound sadness because of this reality. I watched her go through treatment, and it wasn’t pretty. Cancer changed her life. It changed her body’s chemistry and even impacted the way she processed our younger sister’s passing. 

A cancer diagnosis–no matter how positive the prognosis–is a sucker punch that a person feels deep in his or her being. Every cancer survivor lives with the possibility that “it” may return.

That is what makes survivors survivors–not “beating” the disease or coming through unscathed but the daunting reality of the disease; they’re survivors because they can stand up in the world and move and contribute and be [whole and well] with the looming possibility of such crippling news.

We lost Karlette. That’s an awful reality that hurts like hell. But losing her makes us celebrate Lori even more. Though we may never have the answer to why not Karlette too, Lori’s survival is important. It rescues us from despair. It gives us hope. And that is certainly a reason to celebrate.

The closing lines of my favorite Lucille Clifton poem comes to mind:

come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
[from “won’t you celebrate with me“]

*Photos in this post are from Pixabay.

Fight Like a Girl!

“My Sister’s Tat”
One of my younger sisters, a four-time breast cancer survivor, had this tattoo done after her first round.

In case you haven’t heard, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM).  “Someman” posted on Facebook that he’s “offering”  free “exams” to women during BCAM.  I found it insulting, creepy and a bit disturbing that he would trivialize such an important matter to get laughs. Breast Cancer–cancer period–is no laughing matter and we must do everything we can to raise awareness and encourage women to examine themselves monthly and have mammograms done annually.   We must also do what we can to help those who are suffering and continue rallying around survivors and co-survivors.  Those are goals of one of the swaps I participated in and of some of the mail I received this month.

The card below completes the “Think Pink” swap I participated in earlier this month (You can see the first card I received in the “Good Mail In…” post).  TeePeeMaiden made this and sent it all the way from Canada.  I love all the layers!  I am honored that she shared this with me since she also made the card for one of her friends who is a breast cancer survivor.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Handmade card and envelope art by TeePeeMaiden/Donna B.

The next piece is an Artist Trading Card (ATC).  ATCs are miniature pieces of art (2.5 x 3.5 inches in size) that are usually shared among artists, crafters and collectors.  Even for the “craft-challenged” like me, ATCs can be addictive.  This one, made with paint, a sharpie, ribbon and a little bling, features the theme “Fight Like a Girl.”

“Fight Like a Girl” made by MLRobinson/Journal Junkie

If anyone thinks “fight like a girl’ is an insult or an attack on masculinity, he or she needs to meet my younger sister.  She is now battling cancer for the fifth time in seven years.  She’s dealt with chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and other radical treatments.  She’s more than a survivor.  She’s a fighter who didn’t run and hide from “the enemy” that assailed her body relentlessly.  She’s a fighter who stared death in the face many times and, by the grace of God, is still here.  She’s an inspiration to anyone who hears her story.  Her very presence motivates me to stand up to my literal and figurative bullies and “fight like a girl”–fearless, relentless, strong and hopeful.