As a caregiver, I've experienced much of what my sister has. The obvious difference is that while it was happening to her, I watched it all unfold. It has often left me feeling both hopeless and incredibly helpless. During the course of this time, it has been hard to watch cancer ravage her body and try its best to steal away a young woman who also happened to be my sister.
Being her caregiver, I tried to learn all that I could, because somewhere in my mind, I thought that meant I had nothing to fear. Back when this all began, my goal was always to spend as much time with her as possible. I had an innate fear that she would not make it and I would lose my sister. What I did not realize is that living with that thought process affected me in more ways than I realized.
I couldn’t ever imagine myself any other place but by her bedside. Anything that I could do just make her smile, to ease the pain was what I tried. Now that some time has passed and she is in remission, I see things a little bit differently than I used to. Cancer very much changes the person living with the illness, but I now know how much it can also change the lives of family and friends who are affected by it.
By nature, I am a problem solver. It is both a good and bad trait to carry, but nonetheless it is a part of who I am. The complicated thing is that with cancer, you can't just fix it. It is not something that has an easy solution and it is something that so often can have no solution. Learning to reason with that reality is something that I am still working on. Because although in remission, my sister continues to deal with a vast amount of complications that she will live with for the rest of her life.
Through all the twists and turns of her journey, I have devoted copious amounts of time and energy in the hopes of changing the outcome. Being a little beyond a year post-cancer, taking a step back has given me a perspective that I did not having during it all. I now better understand the importance of caring for yourself despite the innate want to care for another. The need to not lose your sense of self because you give so much of yourself to the loved one who is sick. I can also better appreciate the need to let things go.
I am not saying that I have it all figured out. No. Because even after three years of cancer in my life, I do not think I will ever have all the answers. What I do have, and am continuing to work hard at, is simply getting to a place of peace. Making peace with all that has happened, the choices that were made and all that I wish so badly that I could change but cannot. It is a long process but so was cancer. Knowing that, I am optimistic for what is to come.