Trusting Yourself Through Cancer

March 7, 2018

Trusting your intuition can be key.

On a random day in late winter 2013, I came to a realization. It had been an often thought about issue as my siblings and I watched our sister grow ill from a mystery illness that she was reluctant to seek treatment for. I thought many things about why she was ill, but all of a sudden, as a soft snow fell from the sky, I just knew. I do not know why, but in that moment a piece of me reasoned with the facts and knew that it was cancer. Precious time was lost, as it was nearly seven more months before a doctor gave us the news.

Many things have been said about my sister, both within my own family and by outsiders looking in. Many of these things have validity. But, as someone who has been by her side more often than I have been alone in the last three years, I know that many do not. She has had the blessing of modern medicine to help get her to where she finds herself today. She has also been cursed to have been diagnosed at a cross-section of an ever-changing field. While on the cusp of many new treatments, we have yet to discover cures for the many side effects that any treatment brings.

I have walked beside her through her journey, and the difficulties faced have been plenty. When a drug caused severe neuropathy and temporary paralysis, she worked multiple times a day with physical and occupational therapists in an effort to walk on her own again. She spent more time in hospitals than at home for almost three years. Even though a lot of complaining happened in that time, who is to say that it wasn't valid?

Nightly, she would be woken many time as vitals were taken and labs were drawn. During many nights were sleepless, as she could barley catch her breath between bouts of vomiting from a seizure. Days were long and filled with pain that often was not even touched by the heavy dose of narcotics that were being dosed. And even with treatment, the tumors that riddled her body didn't shrink overnight.

The idea that she didn't fight or play a role in her own remission is absurd. Because while she has been reluctant to be her own advocate and sometimes willful in an effort to not always take the best care of herself, she also put in more work than most people know about. I have often been frustrated by her lack of action and her behaviors. That being said, I think it is easy to judge when we were not the ones dealt the same hand in life as she was.

In the time that my sister was sick, I learned a lot. I learned that cancer is persistent, but so is the human spirit. I learned that even in the face of something so dark, people can be the light the lead you through. I learned that even though enduring something like cancer is something that I never thought could be done, it can be. Because despite how hard it was, my sister is now over two years in remission.

But the biggest lesson that I think I learned from cancer is to trust your instincts. Thinking back to that cold December night, I wish that I had had more faith in myself. Not that I could've controlled my sister's choice to be seen, but I think it may have prepared me for what was to come. I think about all the doubts that I had regarding the choices I made about her care.

Something like cancer enters your life and it magnifies everything, including any insecurities that we may have. I know that it is not always easy, but we must remember to go with our intuitions and trust ourselves, even though it might be challenging.


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