I want to reflect on the life of my sister-in-law. We buried her recently—her body, not her spirit. She battled cancer for 22 years. Almost as soon as she graduated from college, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. But it didn’t stop her.
She worked; managing an office. She married her college sweetheart. She adopted two boys. She became involved in school and her neighborhood. She vacationed with her parents nearly every summer at the family shore house. She travelled and celebrated life. Her home was beautiful and welcoming—much like herself.
She endured round after round of chemo. She lost and regrew her hair at least 5 times, that I can recall. She lost the possibility of ever becoming pregnant. Because of the medications she took, her body was plunged into menopause at age 30. She endured hot flashes and night sweats. She had issues with a poorly designed implant, infections in sinuses and teeth and an IV port that nearly caused congestive heart failure. She had tumors in her liver, bone and brain. One year, she spent more time in medical centers and hospitals than she spent at home.
She toughed it out.
Put cancer on the back burner of her mind. She hosted Thanksgiving dinner and holiday parties with and without hair. And each time it grew back, she became more beautiful. She attended school plays, sporting events and recitals. She attended the weddings and graduations of her nieces, nephews and her one son. She was given the blessings of her delightful, albeit mischievous boys, who kept her on her toes. A husband who was able to manage the demands of his job, his sons and her care. A mother and father who were at the ready to drive her to chemo or just hold her hand from the vomiting to the blistering heartburn. A sister who always managed a sunny, but practical attitude--in life, love and food. Friends and neighbors that always dropped in to find out who needed what—a ride to lacrosse practice, a dozen cupcakes, a snow shovel, a stamp for a letter, a shoulder to cry on.
We didn’t lose her spirit. As her 9-year-old son told his aunt: “I’m sorry you are sad. But my mommy is with me.”