A prostate cancer survivor explains his regret over not pushing his sister to visit the doctor as soon as she showed concerning symptoms, which were eventually revealed to be the stage 4 ovarian cancer that took her life.
I have many fond memories of my childhood. One of my favorites is playing street hockey. Every kid in the neighborhood, even from several blocks away, would join in on the fun. We would play morning to late at night on most weekends and days off school, only taking an occasional break to use the washroom or to find something to eat. And we didn't always go to our own homes during rest periods. Usually, the closest door welcomed us in with open arms, where we were free to raid the fridge and use the facilities.
My older sister, Joanne, was my biggest supporter. She was always looking out for her little brother and making sure I was safe. Sometimes, street hockey got a little rough, and fights would break out. Even though most of us were still in elementary school, we took the game very seriously – we played to win. Joanne watched from the sidelines, cheering me on and ensuring everyone played fair. I'll never forget how proud she was whenever I scored a goal. She would raise her arms and scream "Goal!" at the top of her lungs while jumping up and down.
Those memories are priceless and provide me with a great deal of comfort. All I need to do is recall these events to cheer me up whenever I feel down. Joanne is the No. 1 reason why I have so many fond memories of childhood. She was always there for me. I was so proud to be her little brother and told everyone that she was my best friend and protector.
Over the years, we continued to make many fond memories. And our love for each other grew. We were inseparable and talked daily, sharing everything from the news to deeply personal issues, both physical and emotional. There was nothing we couldn't discuss openly and honestly with each other. That is until something happened that changed my life forever. Joanne died from ovarian cancer at 56, and I was utterly devastated and have never been the same emotionally.
About a year or so before her terminal diagnosis, I noticed Joanne was gaining weight. I found it a bit odd as she was always in good shape with a flat stomach. But one day, while visiting, I spotted a small spare tire in her midsection. I knew she wasn't pregnant, as she would have already told me. I assumed she was gaining weight as we both enjoyed eating desserts. Joanne loved to bake, and she would often invite me over to enjoy her latest mouth-watering masterpiece.
Therefore, it didn't seem unreasonable that all those extra calories were packing on some extra pounds. When I questioned the bulge, Joanne laughed it off and blamed her baking. On reflection, I had a bad feeling that day, and I regret not being more forward in my questioning. But I let it go and continued to enjoy her company and spectacular desserts.
Over the next few months, her abdomen continued to expand, and she frequently visited the washroom. I knew something was seriously wrong when she no longer joined me in snacking on her baked goods. Her appetite was disappearing, but yet it seemed that she was still gaining weight. This time, I couldn't let it go. And I wasn't going to leave until I convinced her to see a doctor. Joanne tended to put the needs of others over her own and believed she would be wasting the doctor's time.
It wasn't easy, but she finally agreed. However, it was too late. Joanne was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer that had already spread throughout her body. It was devastating to hear the news.
Over the next several months, Joanne endured multiple surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy. I was with her every step of the way, cheering from the sidelines as she did for me. But all of her treatments failed and took a significant toll on her body, leaving her physically and emotionally drained. She ended up in hospice, and it was so hard to say goodbye during her final moment. But I'm grateful I was able to be by her side when she needed me most. Even though I find comfort in the memories, I can't help but think that she could still be with me if I had recognized her symptoms earlier.
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