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Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Worst Possible News

It's a cool summer's evening and I return home after a busy day.  After renewing Ben's passport at the post office, I post some special lash lotion to my new breast cancer buddy, Kathy.  I pick a card that says "Thinking of You" and I write a message that is in the main, practical advice.

Later, I meet my old friend, Leeann.  I have known her since I was 17 and the two of us have some great stories to tell - especially those involving her dirt bike and the smile we used to have on our faces when we got off that old Suzuki.  I'm talking about good vibrations - if you know what I mean.  (Hey, we girls have to get our excitement where we can, right?).

Leeann and I watch 'Hope Springs' and afterward we have lunch.

Today I realise how much there is to know about all the people in my life as I notice how Leeann is crying in a movie that I find funny.  People are so complex, I think.

It's been a big week of socialising for me.  Yesterday I had lunch with my beautiful new Indian friend, Aman who made pakoras especially for me.  I caught up briefly with Nim in her beautiful, new home, allowing myself a moment of 'walk-in wardrobe envy'.

On Wednesday I went to the movies and had lunch with my sisters, Nicky and Fiona.  In the evening I went to Trivia.

On Tuesday I walked with Louisa.  On Monday I had tea with Rachel.

I leave next Wednesday and this week has been a blur of preparations for my upcoming sojourn to India, Nepal and Bhutan - missing items to be purchased, that usual stocktake you do as the start of a long journey looms.

When I get home I find Al and Ben arguing over the dismantled Playstation 3 that they have been trying to fix.

I throw together a peasant's dinner and get into my gym gear, contemplating a workout.

But the I remember I need to call Fiona, my younger sibling.  You see, Fiona will have some news.

Last week she discovered a lump in her breast and today, after some delays, we will know if this lump is anything to be concerned about.

I go to the bedroom and pick up my mobile phone.  I see a missed call from Fiona.

Two minutes later I have burst into tears as Fiona reveals the results of her biopsy.

So here is the worst possible news.

My sister Fiona, aged 47 and mother of five boys, the youngest of who is to turn seven soon, also has breast cancer.

In fact, she has exactly the same type as me.

This news places us in a most unusual cohort.  Sisters who have an Invasive Lobular Carcinoma that affects only 10% of breast cancer cases.

Sisters who are diagnosed almost exactly one year apart.

I am blindsided of course.  It's another foul ball and it's knocked me over as much as it has my sister.

It's only later I realise that I shouldn't be that surprised.

While Fiona is 15 months younger than me, we used to often be mistaken for twins in our youth.  In fact, we both have various hilarious stories of friends, even boyfriends, getting us confused.  (Come on, all we Sri Lankans look the same, don't we?)

Fiona, like me, is a writer and in fact, there is a cadence to her writing that is not dissimilar to mine.

Like me, she's an artist and a poet.

Like me, she's a little manic in her energy but, I have to say, that she leaves me for dead these days (to coin a phrase).  She's almost unstoppable.

Like me (and Nicky), she has lived with the diabolical weight of two humongous boobs that commandeer social attention and that we have treated, in the main, as a disability.

Momentarily, I allow myself a little useless anger at the Universe.  You see, in my prayers, I had asked God to spare my friends and family from this disease.

But even the most earnest prayer it seems, provides no guarantees.

After my tears, Fiona and I talk about what's ahead.  She says I have demystified it and she's going to be fine.

She's quite collected in fact.

And I want to believe it with all my heart:  that she will be fine.

Because I am fine.  I know I am.

My cancer has become just another part of my story.

Fiona will have her story too.

And for the writers that we both our, I know in my heart that our stories will one day be part of the same narrative.

And what a fantastic tale it is:  the tale of two sisters who beat cancer...

A tale that is truly about miracles.







4 comments:

  1. She will be fine, yes, and that you have paved the way makes it a little easier for her to bear, yes. BUT, it still sucks big time!!!!

    Marlene

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  2. I thought your son Harry was an amazing person when I first met him about 11 yrs old. I didn't know you. I thought at the time he was amazing because his parents had allowed to be that way and maybe they were amazing too in their own way. I think I was right. I, too, have breast cancer. A good prognosis. Lumpectomy, one lymph glad removed. Radiation - no problem. Anti-estrogen drugs, big probem. Got rid of that drug. Felt great. One year later, I have had a clear mammogram and ultrasound. It is always in your head but pushed to the back for me thankfully. Colleen Ryan (I am a sister of Dennis Geraghty who sent me your link. Thank you).

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  3. I also should have mentioned one of my two sisters also has breast cancer, but I believe it when they say that in our case it is not genetic. I am 65, my sister is 72. We are in the age group when it seems to be prevalent for women who have not had children or breastfed.

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  4. Hi Colleen, thank you for getting in touch with me. I do remember meeting you at Dennis's 60th. I was very sad to hear you were going through the same thing as me. Fiona breastfed five children and I breastfed two. My mum also had breast cancer but got it so early she didn't even need radiation. Given that Fio and I have ILCs, the rarer type, I am wondering if we should be gene tested. My sister Nicky has 3 daughters and is very concerned. The problem is, if you are gene tested, it affects your chances of being life insured!! My own theory is that breast cancer is stress induced. If there's one thing that is common to the modern woman, it's stress! But who know! Everyone has a theory I guess. What kind of treatment did you end up having?

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