On October 13, 2009 my sister, Adrienne (Ade), died from Colon Cancer. I still have nightmares about the 2 ½ years she fought this disease and eventually lost her battle with it.
Ade was also in a wheelchair because she had severe arthritis in both hips. She was scheduled to have her hips replaced when her cancer was diagnosed. She lived in pain from the cancer and her hips for the rest of her short life.
We were alone in her fight. I stopped working to care for her. Ade couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand up or sit long enough to clean and change her ostomy bags and I was told that a visiting nurse wouldn’t do it. I didn’t mind, I’d do anything for my sister. She was not a burden.
I had no one to talk to about her cancer and the fact that she was dying. Our parents died in the 1980’s and Ade was embarrassed to talk about her disease. She believed she was being punished. My Aunt Regina was the only person who called practically everyday. But Regina lived 3,000 miles away in California and she was about 95 when Ade was diagnosed; there wasn’t much she could do but I appreciated her phone calls. Ade refused to speak to anyone even though she was close to Regina.
There was no one else around except for Jerry, the pharmacist up the block. Jerry was the only other person who was there for me during Adrienne’s fight. He was a voice of reason to me. I had no health care for myself so Jerry would give me the blood pressure medication I needed for his cost, maybe $13.00 for 30 pills. My doctor would see me and not charge for my visits. My doctor also had his receptionist come to my house with food for us. I didn’t have a penny to my name. Rent was paid from Ade’s Disability checks. Adrienne, thank G_D, had Medicaid.
Adrienne had to go for chemotherapy twice a week and we were at the hospital for her treatments from 8:00 a.m. all day sometimes until 8:00 p.m. Her cancer was bad.
In the two years she was taking chemo I came to know the other people who also had cancer and also their caregivers. I didn’t know their names but I knew their stories. I knew when someone’s insurance company refused to pay for their treatments any longer: I knew the struggles they had paying for transportation to get to their treatments; I used to cry with the other caregivers because we were all suffering watching our loved ones die. I knew how defeated they all felt, cancer victims and caregivers. There was nothing we could do but go on, not living, just existing.
At chemo I’d watch a caregiver come in with the cancer patient and tell the nurse that the person with cancer had a cold. “Please let it be a cold and not a sign that the cancer is getting worse,” their faces said. “Please let it not be a sign of something else going wrong,” their faces begged. I know my face looked and said the same thing many times.
Ade fought for a little over two years when her oncologist said that there was nothing more he could do for her. The cancer swiftly got worse until she passed seven years ago. Exactly seven years ago.
I can’t think about her without becoming hysterical. I can’t stop talking to her when I’m alone in the house. I know she’s still with me, watching over me and cheering me on. I talk to her all the time. I miss so much. The pain is unbearable.
A few months before Adrienne passed I found a great Colon Cancer support group on Facebook. They helped me, they’re still helping me. I try to help them too but there’s very little I can do but support caregivers and cancer victims. “Keep fighting,” I say to them along with everyone else: “Don’t give up,” I beg them along with everyone else. But there are times all you want to do is give up and stop fighting and everyone has that right.
Well, I’m in a bad mood and very sad now. Everyday I think of Adrienne and her fight. Everyday I cry. Everyday I miss her. But it’s especially bad tonight and will be worse tomorrow. Tomorrow, October 13, 2016, the seven-year anniversary of her death.
I need to thank Jeannie who runs the Colon Cancer support board on Facebook. I need to thank Katherine who has her own cancer fight and who finished her chemo treatment hours before Ade finished hers and would sit and talk to Ade at the hospital. I need to thank all of Ade’s friends especially Barbara and Ian. I need to thank my aunt Regina for being there for us. Aunt Regina passed two years ago, one month before her 101st birthday. Yes, almost 101 years old.
Lastly I have to address my friend Janette, who was diagnosed with Breast Cancer about a month ago and who now has two different cancers to fight. Leave it to Janette to have two different cancer battles. I love you my dear friend and will be down to visit you before you know it. As you requested, you Libby, and I will drink mimosas, cry a little, laugh a lot, eat plenty of food, and maybe travel down to stalk a certain singer you love and get ourselves arrested. Three “old ladies” causing trouble.
Here’s to Janette and Katheryn who are fighting hard and winning.
And here’s to my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, friends, and especially to my sister Adrienne, who have all physically left me because of cancer but their memory will always remain with me.
I miss you, Adrienne.
To see more of my childhood memories go to S.A.K. Remembers on my blog.