I guess I can.
I can if she can.
I will if she will...
My little sister - one of my best friends in this world - has just received a diagnosis of breast cancer. We've spend three days zooming from medical jargon to COBRA battle, from open vs. closed MRI to holistic treatment center vs. surgeon you know, from "fight" to "hide under the covers" and back again. Sometimes in the span of about 15 seconds, give or take five or six.
Oh, yeah - and from "there's the couch, there's the linen closet, you know how to use 'em" to "OMG, who cleaned the bathroom for me - I am SO embarrassed!" As if she had nothing else to worry about than what her siblings thought of her housekeeping.
To Little Sister - for the record:
- The couch worked fine, and the linens were all of a highly acceptable thread count, which is more than I can say for some hotels I've stayed in.
- The bathroom wasn't that gross, and whoever cleaned it for you probably just did it as a favor, not as an oblique criticism. One less thing for you to worry about.
- And BTW, the fact that he (face it - it wasn't me, so it must've been your brother) cleaned the bathroom probably had at least as much to do with my toiletries and sundry items covering the vanity as anything else. (Not to mention my black pumps on the floor and the two options for Wednesday Wardrobe on the inside door knob.)
- And if you weren't freaking out, I'd really worry. I'm freaking out, and I haven't been subjected to the Invasion of the Body-Snatching Mutant Cells.
Much of my sister's stress comes from struggling to reconcile her innate need for independence with her health-imposed need for assistance. Even more of it comes from the fact that she's known for more than two years that something was wrong, but she couldn't get any of the healthcare professionals in her local system to do more than shrug. Bottom line: They didn't do the follow-up. They didn't check the details. They assumed. And they were wrong.
And some of her stress comes from the rest of us.
She knew something was wrong – and now, she has to get her head around the idea that she was right. And that she's lost two of the years she could have used to beat this thing. That she may lose both breasts instead of a little chunk out of one. That the tumors might have invaded other spaces by now. That the delay could cost her life.
And she's getting flak about "how the rest of us feel." Please.
Screw that. The average – or even above-average – human being doesn't have enough brain cells to handle all that. The rest of us are on our own; this woman needs to focus on what she needs to survive. And if that's hard to do – if it means she's all over the map emotionally and intellectually – well, blame the idiots who should have looked harder two years ago.
Okay, deep breath... Pedal on regardless.
What's the point? For me, it's how to keep pedaling.
I start a new job on Monday. This morning, I had to leave my beautiful sister alone to tie up the loose ends of the work we did earlier in the week. I haven't been on my bike in about eight days. I'm emotionally drained, intellectually fried, and physically in bad need of a good stretch. And I have my own annual touch-base with my GYN (who, incidentally, reminds me of my sister) in about 9 hours, which is why I had to leave Thursday instead of next Sunday.
So where does my "Pedal-On Manifesto" fit into this kind of psyche-crunching, body-slamming week? Okay... another deep breath.
What goes down must go back up. Sometimes it’s tough. Deal with it. Life's a bitch. On wheels. And it doesn't stop. (See above.) You do what you have to do. You keep moving. One foot in front of the other. One pedal rotation at a time.
If you let the fear of getting hurt stop you, you’ll never get out of the driveway. It might be easier to pull back, to disengage. This is going to hurt. No matter what happens in the end, it’s not going to be a fun year. But if I disengage, I lose time with one of my best friends. That's worse than having to endure some pain. Honest to God.
Life happens. Circumstances happen. You choose the perspective. No matter how you look at it, this sucks pond water. But in the last three days, I have learned:
- The immeasurable value of that classic Southern approach of "catching more flies with honey than vinegar"
- The importance of going to the source to be sure your information is accurate
- The essential nature of second opinions
- And the healing properties of dinner with your buddies – complete with fall-in-the-floor-laughing, disgustingly funny, "it really happened to my friend Barney" stories about body functions gone awry...
Keep going. I don't know that I can handle this. I don't know that any of us can. I do know other people have made it through, though, and I know if my sister will keep going, keep fighting, keep pedaling, I will. And when she can't pedal, we'll ride tandem.
She’s my baby sister. And I need her to know I’m right behind her, all the way.