The Day My Sister Received a Cancer Diagnosis That Changed Our Lives Forever


A nursing student describes how the day her sister was diagnosed with cancer shaped her world in many ways and caused a domino effect on her life.

When my sister was taken to the hospital, we had already known she was sick. It was only after my parents forced her that she was seen, and even then, it was another day before we found out what some of us had already suspected — that she had cancer.

Granted, neither my siblings nor I knew which kind; we just had an inkling that it was cancer. And yet, after the day of testing, the long night at the hospital and the intense day of confusion that followed, hearing the words “she has cancer” was still shocking.

It had not mattered that we thought we knew. Or that after correctly diagnosing my sister, her oncologist has promised that she would be OK. It did not matter that every statistic given to us showed that the odds were in her favor. It did not matter that up until that moment, I had known all along that she was sick — hearing that somebody you are close to is sick with cancer is simply something that nobody could ever prepare for.

I have thought long and hard about that day and how it unfolded. The nurses did their best to explain to our family what their next steps would look like. I remember spending that first night in the hospital with my mom, both thinking how none of it felt real and wondering how much time she would spend in the hospital.

I think about my dad, one of the strongest people that I know, falling apart in the hallway of a busy hospital, thinking that he may lose a second child.

I think back and recognize that I knew so little about the disease that I now know so much about. During that time, had it not been for the nurses who helped us to decipher all that was happening, I am not sure that we have made it through cancer.

Strangely, so much time has passed since her diagnosis but when I think about that day; it is still very vivid in my mind. I am not sure that any amount of time passing will ever change how much it is imprinted in my memory.

There are so many things that I distinctly remember about cancer. That day still remains apart from all the others. And I have pondered why that day lingers more than the rest, and I am not sure I will ever have the exact answer. But what I think I have come to understand is that it was the catalyst for everything that followed. Not just regarding the cancer journey that my sister went on, but that it changed everything for me. At the time, of course, I did not know that. But I certainly do now.

Cancer has been a part of our lives for a long time now and reflecting on how much has changed since July 11th happens every so often. It is a day that changed my life, and it is strange to reflect on how much one day within a lifetime changed everything.

I am a nursing student because of that day. I became a caregiver that day. I met my late fiancé because of that day. Most importantly, I am markedly different than I otherwise would have been because of that day.

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