Last night I stayed up with my sister Andrea through the night after her first round of chemo (her husband Ave was knocked out with a stomach bug). I’ve never seen anyone cycle through so many weird reactions so quickly. It was a little frightening at first. But she seemed to come back to her old self close to morning. I’ve also never seen anyone guzzle so much water. Almost instinctively she sucked up 8 litres of bottled water, I presume to help wash the toxins out of her system. She threw up once and looked miles better after, and spent a considerable amount of time in the throne room (that’s Brit-speak for the rest room).
At 6.30am, while my sister was easing into deep sleep, I stood on my parents deck, listening to the wood pigeons coo and watching the marmalade sun rise over the elderberry tree at the foot of their garden, and found a strange calm widening inside. It is almost as if in a time of crisis the door opens inside to another room, to a place of deep calm and beatitude.
I am so proud of my little sister. She is taking her illness as the start of a journey to transform her life, to find what she needs now for a happy and vital second half of her life. She is mixing up her own cocktail of conventional and alternative treatments. I think we instinctively know what we need, if only we listen to ourselves. And for me, belief in what you are doing trumps everything.
It is an under-statement to say it was hard getting news of Andrea’s cancer so soon after Laura’s. At first I developed a phantom breast pain that lasted for several weeks. But this is not Laura’s story over again. And oddly, I think the journey I went on with Laura has helped me cope with this. I feel not stronger exactly, but more flexible, less critical and better able to self soothe. At least I hope that makes me a better companion. It certainly makes my life easier and sweeter.