I am the last of six children of a very close knit family. At age 13, I watched my father endure the pain associated with stomach cancer. At that time cancer medications were not as advanced as they are today, so he experienced excruciating pain but never complained. I knew he was hurting. Whenever I entered his room he always had a smile for me. I loved being there with him, and he loved having me there to make him laugh.
Having seen one family member suffer and eventually die from cancer does not make it easier to watch a second one diagnosed with the same disease. When my sister called to tell me that she had found a lump in her breast, flashes of my father, drawn, lying on his bed crossed my mind. I prayed that her lump was benign. It wasn’t. As the cancer began to rapidly devour my sister’s body I knew I needed to be there to help her. I went to London to be a source of comfort for her. Putting a smile on her face did wonders for me, and more importantly, it gave her an extension of life. As her days came close to an end, she still had that smile. Being there to love and laugh with her are moments that I will always cherish.
To say that I was now accustomed to cancer would be false. My mother’s phone call indicating her diagnosis scared me. I wondered what to expect. I had seen my father’s body wither away from cancer; I had watched my sister’s energy sapped away by cancer, the same breast cancer my mother was telling me she had. How would her journey be? I immediately knew my vacations days were going to be spent at my mother’s house. My mother was a cancer survivor for many years but finally succumbed to the disease.
My mother had always laughingly said to me, “Ann, you’re the last; you got all the drainings.” I realized she was right when I was told that the plum-size mass on my face was cancer. I guess I had gotten the “cancer drainings” from both parents. Although, apparently, there are no connections between my father’s stomach cancer, my sister’s and my mother’s breast cancers, and my lymphoma, a blood cancer. There was a connection in the fact that all four of us had been personally touched by cancer.
After having seen my family’s responses to cancer, I knew the requirements it took to live a happy and peaceful life even with cancer. I knew that I had to be courageous, strong, determined, beautiful, and most important of all, positive.
My parents may have passed on their cancer genes to me, but those certainly are not all they passed on. They passed on an inner strength and determination to look cancer in the face and fight back. They passed on a desire to love, to laugh, to live even in the midst of cancer.
Submitted by Anonymous
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