Kim is a nursing student who is hoping to find her place amongst the phenomenal oncology nurses and doctors who cared for her sister. She loves reading, volunteering and enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.
I am, by nature, a “what-if” thinker. I know that those thoughts do not serve a practical purpose. The thing is, that also doesn’t mean that those thoughts aren’t still in my head. So, try and imagine for a minute how hard it was for me to hear that my own sister had cancer. My head was spinning with more what-if’s than it ever had before.
The lack of uncertainty that is created when the word “cancer” leaves a doctor’s tongue is unequivocally one of the hardest moments to quantify. If one did not experience worry, I would assume those around them would show concern. For me, the hardest part was trying to hold on to the tangible. That was made quite difficult as any plans made, were in a seemingly constant state of change.
Although we had known she was sick, when the diagnosis came, everything changed. All of my family’s plans were immediately put on hold. My parents would not be moving out to Illinois like previously thought. I would not be going to Los Angeles to fulfill a songwriting contract. In that moment, it was far more important to be with her than it was to be anywhere else.
As time wore on, it sadly did not get easier. It was hard to commit to even the smallest of things because on a daily basis, everything seemed to be changing. Looking back, our days where filled with so much unceratinty I am not sure how we made it through. When you are going through it, it feels like everything is always changing. And aalthough it isn't all of the time, sometimes it really was.
You try and maintain some kind of normalcy, and to let go and just go with what works to get you through the days. It is a sort of autopilot that works for a while, but you really can’t maintain that. Just when you think you have that perfect approach and the skies are smooth, a storm hits and you plummet in altitude and it is hard to breathe.
I think my sister was always in a constant state of uncertainty. Even though her journey lasted almost three years, she always seemed to be in a fog, never quite grasping what cancer was or how she was going to make it. I had a persistent fear of the treatments and the many side effects. Chemo isn’t ever easy, but it was a special kind of hard for her.
Even now in remission, the what-if thoughts continue to be present. Although admittedly, they are not near to the degree that they once were. I have found resources to help sort through the traps laid within my own mind that were the results of the makings of what I witnessed my sister endure and the choices that I was left to make as her power of attorney.
Of all the thoughts, I think the hardest to sort through is the “what if cancer returns.” I am sure that many reading this can relate. She has been in remission for 586 days as of this moment in time. That does not mean that it will never come back. “Never” is an absolute – a hope in my heart – but cancer doesn’t abide by that.
While going through her treatments, the fear lies in the fact that she had already experienced many failures. In doing so, each new treatment meant we were that much closer to running out of options. Now that she is in remission, that is no longer my focus. It is now, “if it is to return, what will be the options?” She has used so many to get to where she is today, so not even her clinical team can answer that question. A plan will be formulated if that day is to come, but to not know sometimes leaves me feeling as I did back when this all began.
In the end, I think the emotion of uncertainty has taught me quite a lot about both myself and life. The fears of losing my sister and having lost many around me during this time have taught me how precious life is. Amongst tragedy and heartbreak, you can still make memories. Although I am young, tomorrow is never promised and today is all that we have. So, while I do still struggle with uncertainty and many what-ifs I am trying harder to focus on that what is instead.