Beginning this post is the hardest part of writing it. I’ve wracked my brain for clever openers and catchy one-liners.
Nothing fits. Nothing captures it. I don’t know what to say.
Amidst the busyness of March and all its madness, I kept thinking about my aunt.
For 20 years, she has fought various forms of cancer. Initially, she was diagnosed with melanoma in the mid-90’s. With time and age, I don’t really remember what I was thinking or feeling. A few years earlier, my grandpa had passed away from cancer, but I don’t know if I was making any of those connections. I remember the State Tournament that year, watching Cousin A (aunt’s son) win the championship with his teammates. Grandma was there and numerous other relatives. There were graduations for cousins in June. My parents packed me up and sent me to Grandma’s so I could be part of all the festivities – food prepping with my aunt, watching Cousin A and his twin sister receive their diplomas, soaking up the Northern Minnesota good life. Then it was off to another border town to see Cousin B’s sister graduate. More food prep and family time, 4-wheeling and fun. I think it was officially around that time that my aunt was diagnosed. She beat it. So, I don’t remember fearing much.
The fall brought college hockey to our family (Cousin A) and for the next four years, that was the focus. Plus, I was going through some of my own medical procedures at the time, so everyone was watching me. Making sure I was ok. In those years, I don’t recall ever asking my aunt how she was doing.
2000 and forward I dove deeper into my own life. During high school and college, I remember more phone calls from my aunt, more talks about cancer returning and spreading. College was when it became real to me. When I started to see cancer as a threat in her life.
Six years out of undergrad and cancer is back, bigger and badder. We found out last March, around the time my last Grandparent died. My aunt discovered a new lump. Trips to Mayo ensued. Chemo and drugs are running their course. But this time, the cancer’s not running away. I took for granted 20 years of easy victories (easy is a relative term) over cancer. I knew the severity increased, but this time, it’s harder to accept.
In recent conversations with my aunt, she told me she can’t think about tomorrow; just today. Her cancer continues to rage on in her body, causing her many hardships. She continues to hold out hope. Prays for peace and lives day by day in ultimate Grace.
It’s still hard. On her. On my uncle. On their kids and grandkids. On the rest of us. It’s different now than in the mid-90’s.
We all feel it. This cancer is tough. Tougher than the other times she’s beaten it. The doctors are giving more timelines this time. Dating her days and bearing bad news.We face losing someone in our family who brings such light and love to all of our lives. Someone who says silly things when she plays board games. A woman who loves her God, family, and friends. Someone who embraces the best of Minnesota – hockey, hunting, and fishing. A woman who serves everyone around her. Someone who thinks of you before herself.
The thought of her not here. It’s hard. Too hard to describe in words. Most likely, it’s why I have avoided mentioning it on here. For a year+, I haven’t typed and talked about it because doing so means it’s real.
But now it’s time to talk and wonder. To explore emotions and thoughts from the mid-90’s to present day. To remember aloud all this aunt has given me. And to hold onto the Hope that her newest drugs will heal her of this monster.
I guess I found something to say. Who knows if it’s the right thing to say.
This is what I say when I don’t know what to say.