As I have written for CURE, I have spilled many of my emotions out onto the pages that all of you read. A lot of it subconsciously, as I have typed away the fragments of thoughts regarding Hodgkin’s, caregiving, bone marrow transplants, remission, recurrence. It is often a confusing experience, but for me, that’s simply a part of having had cancer apart of my everyday for such a long time. That does not means that it has always made sense.
Since my sister was the patient and I was her caregiver, it never surprised me that people asked me about her when they saw me. What always took me by surprise was when they would ask me how I was doing. I was the family member of somebody who just happened to be so unlucky to have cancer. That being said, I was not the one in a hospital bed, the one getting chemotherapy dosed into a port in my chest every two weeks or the one who was facing the possibility of losing my life at the shockingly young age of only 27.
In the beginning, things were so different than they had been. It was an emotional rollercoaster and I was physically exhausted, as was my family. Still, it puzzled me that people would notice my fatigue or anxiety. In my eyes, my sister was the one who mattered in those moments because she was at the center of it all. It was not until a late winter night, up talking with my fiancé that he explained it to me.
He told me that while she was the one sick and it was her diagnosis, it affected all of the people who loved her just the same. While she was the one facing death, we were the ones who had to sit idly by and watch it all unfold regardless of the outcome. While I think I had known that on some level, it was not something that I had truly come to accept. Honestly, it took long after he spoke those words for me to fully understand what he ways actually trying to convey that night.
After almost three years with cancer in our lives, I better understand the severe effects that it has on life. It is an emotionally charged experience with a physical impact that can come in many forms. I think for me, a lot these issues were happening throughout but it is only now, after all her treatments have ended that I have come to better understand the situation.
It is still strange for me because even though she is over a year in remission, I still catch myself saying that “she has cancer” as opposed to “she had cancer.” It has only been with the help of professionals that I understand it is because that was my life for so long. Cancer is something that stays around far longer than the period from diagnosis to remission. So as much as she needs time to heal and recover, so do I. I think that while true for me, it is also true for other caregivers, families and friends who have gone through similar situations as mine.