July 11 was four years since my sister was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma. In the past four years, my family – primarily my sister and I – have dealt with the realities of having cancer in our lives. There were times when I felt like it was ending, and she was going to die from cancer. There were moments that I felt sorry for the situation that we found ourselves in. And there were points when I was angry at everybody and nobody at the same time.
In the beginning, I thought that having cancer didn't matter. We were the Johnson family – strong, tight-knit and invincible. But as each day passed and things got harder, I was proven wrong. Cancer wreaked havoc on a family that had already endured so much. This illness ravaged every piece of us. It invaded every corner of what we had thought was normal and tore up every moment of time.
As time wore on, and were given more bad news, I realized that I didn't want cancer to define her life. We didn't know how much time she had, and I wanted to ensure that in whatever days she was given she lived a normal life – or at least, as normal a life as I could provide for her. Days were long, and she frequently ended up back in the hospital. On the harder days, I used to think that we were losing the battle.
What I now realize is that we weren't. Each time that we laughed and created memories we were fighting back. Every day that we got up and faced the unimaginable, we were winning. But in those moments, I didn’t have this perspective. No, when things were so bad, I felt like I was treading water and swimming against the current trying to save another life when I didn't even know if I could save myself. But what I now better understand is that every time we had to strategize, what we were really doing is preparing for another battle in what is the long war against cancer.
Every day was a challenge, but to be honest, the same can be said for most people in life whether they are enduring cancer or not. Throughout cancer, I learned an important lesson: you have to be able to accept that you are only human. It is something I still find myself struggling with. But the reality is, no matter how much I don't like it doesn't make it any less true.
You can only do so much. You can only face the day before you. You can only make choices based on the information that you have at the time and you can only control so much. Unfortunately, cancer is not one of the things that we don’t get to control. That being said, we do get to choose how we respond to cancer and all the unknowns that it brings with it. Focus on that – I know I wish I did when my sister and I were in the thick of it.