My eldest sister is currently waiting to have a biopsy.
A few months ago, she finished a year of breast cancer treatment, treatment during which pretty much everything that could go wrong, did. She got shingles, she got infections. She had a mastectomy, the chemo gave her hideous side effects, including cataracts. She had panic attacks. She changed completely from a loud, bubbly, outgoing person to someone much quieter, much more timid, much more worried by the world.
But we were feeling positive. The treatment was over, she was back to work, she had booked herself a posh holiday and was generally much more like herself again. And now we’re back, waiting for a second biopsy which will tell us whether a tumour they’ve now found on her liver is related to the breast cancer or something new, and treatment can’t start until we know.
When it was “just” breast cancer it was much easier to stay positive. You hear so many success stories around breast cancer treatment. In 2005-2009, 85.1% of adult female breast cancer patients in England survived their cancer for five years or more. Those are quite good stats, she had a really good chance.
Right now we don’t know what we’re dealing with though, and we’re all a bit scared. More than a bit.
My sister is 14 years older than me, and due to life circumstances, we didn’t grow up together. When I was 5 my parents and I moved abroad to follow my dad’s job, and both my sisters stayed in the UK. When we came back 5 years later, we had to return to a different part of the country, and by this time my sisters had their own families.
So while my sisters are very close to each other, I feel like an outsider. It’s not deliberate on anyone’s part, it’s just the way things are.
What this means though, is that on top of the worry for my sister, I’ve got a huge guilt around us not knowing each other better, around how I’m feeling about the whole thing, around how I don’t know what to do, and I don’t know how to talk to her and I haven’t dropped everything to be there and and and….
The biopsy is on Wednesday. And all we can do is hope.
I think it goes without saying that cancer sucks.