I woke up this morning wrapped in blanket after blanket, looking like a nibbled corn dog with my round face peering out. “I’m sick,” I groaned as Fil snuggled close. After a night of Nyquil ramblings, this was something he’d already assumed. “I was at a fire last night. Whole house burned to the ground.” “Mmmm.” “I’m making an apple cobbler for breakfast.” “Mmmm.” “I’ll be back.” And off he went to the store, leaving me to fight the common cold.
“My head is stuffy,” I texted momma, hoping for more than an update of last night’s headlines. “Oh no. Well, your sister has a sore throat and a cough and is burning up inside and she can’t get cool and her skin is getting dry and rashey AND your niece wants a unicorn valentine box.” And with that I rolled over and shrunk back into my cornbread coating.
The single most impressive event of my day will eclipse all others, leaving me campaigning for it up and down my social block, but I’m almost always shocked when no one else seems remotely affected. “I’m sick, Bagheera,” and with the glare of one eye she’s back to sleep.
“I’m sick, mom.” “Cancer.”
“I’m sick, Fil.” “House fire.”
“I’m sick, self.” “Me too.”
This Thursday my sister goes in for the BRCA test, which will determine which operation she will undergo. Momma has been thinking about it a lot the past few weeks. It’s really all she can talk about, which doesn’t bother me, only I feel so detached from the whole thing.
I don’t see my sister’s bald head. I don’t see her dry skin or the bags under her eyes. I don’t see the hot flashes and sleepless nights. Instead I just hear from her and when we’re texting back and forth, it’s usually not about cancer. She likes to hear about the articles I’m writing or the bars where I’m drinking. I hate to say it, but I’ve kinda gotten used to the idea of my sister having cancer, it’s never really news to me. Please, don’t freak out! I’m not saying that cancer is something you grow accustomed to like aunthood, the snow, or an antique barrel turned side table (ehem, Filipp,) but when you’re an outsider looking in, when you’re the shoulder, the friend, the chemo partner (We love you, Brandi!), no matter how affected you are by it, it’s not your cancer. It’s your friend’s cancer, your wife’s cancer, your daughter’s cancer, my sister’s cancer.
I really doubt my sister feels territorial over it, and by no means would she pull a, “Well my cancer’s bigger than your cancer,” but with all the fuss we’ve made over it: the blog, the newsletter updates, the Facebook posts, and the easy conversation topic (yes, I’ve used the cancer card, don’t you judge me!), you really would think it was everyone else who had cancer.
Here’s an update for all of us- it isn’t.
It’s my sister’s cancer. It’s Abby’s cancer. Abby lost her hair. Abby can’t sleep at night. Abby has to call the doctor at the inkling of a damn itchy throat.
It is Abby’s cancer, but she isn’t Cancer’s Abby. She doesn’t belong to it and it can’t claim her. She is ours! She is Chad’s wife, Momma’s daughter, Paigey’s mommy, Linda’s niece, Gram and Pap’s grandbaby, Brandi’s best friend, and my sister!
We all fight for Abby because not a day goes by that the thought of her doesn’t exceed the best or worst moments of our day. There is nothing today that could be as great and wonderful were it to happen when Abby is cancer free. That was a mouthful. What I mean is that every good thing that occurs will be twice as good when the cancer is gone and every negative thing that happens never feels as bad as first hearing the diagnosis.
Here’s to my sister’s cancer. Thank you for making light of my common cold, my event, my moment.
I’m off to the craft store. I’ve got a unicorn valentine box to build.