Some of you might know what is going on in my life. I struggle talking about it as this isn't actually about me. Let's start this blog with the bad news that our family got given 3 years ago.
My sister had a lump in her breast. She didn't think much of it and went to the doctor to get it checked out. The doctor wasn't concerned. She was young and there was no history of breast cancer in our family. She got sent back home with a round of antibiotics. The lump didn't go down and she was given another round of antibiotics. Unfortunately the second round didn't help either. A few checks later and it turned out to be breast cancer.
I was already living in Australia at the time and booked a ticket back to The Netherlands as soon as I could. It was one of the most difficult things I ever had to experience. Nobody knew what to expect. You have no clue what to do or how to act. She still had hair when I arrived and didn't look sick. She had her first round of chemo and lost her hair pretty quickly after that. Losing her hair made it real. That is what cancer patients look like!
I remember being full of anger. Why does this have to happen? Isn't there anything we could do? What does this mean for me?
Unfortunately I have the same genetic mutation and this means I have to visit the hospital multiple times a year with ultrasounds, MRI's and mammograms. The fear is indescribable. Seeing what it was like for my sister and knowing that could be my future is scary.
Sandra made an awesome recovery and life looked colourful again.
Life was going pretty well for everyone. Cancer made us closer.
One morning Sandra messaged me: Can you Skype? My heart was pounding in my chest. She showed me a bit of paper. I couldn't read it so I panicked even more.
Turns out.. SHE WAS FIVE WEEKS PREGNANT. After all the shit she went through, against all the odds and the possibility of her not being able to have kids, she was freaking pregnant. Everyone was so happy. She delivered a beautiful son in March this year.
I flew over there to see the little one in May and to spend four weeks with the family and friends. I loved every minute of it. Being an auntie is the best. Can't believe how much I love the kid and seeing my big sister turning in to a mother was very special. We had nothing but good times.
On a Monday, the day before I flew back to Australia, my sister was complaining about pain in her liver. I remembered it clearly, because she was obviously worried that the cancer was back. We tried to enjoy my last evening and Sandra booked an appointment at the doctor that week.
When I just got back, I had to go through an MRI to check for any irregularities. I saw this as just a check up so I didn't think much of it.
My sister deteriorated quickly. She was admitted in to the hospital. Her belly was full of fluid and she looked pregnant again. I tried to Skype her a few times, but that cost her a lot of energy. She looked ill, very ill. No power to look after her son, taking a shower was too much and drained her energy.
Nobody knew what was going on with her. Was it an auto immune disease? A liver infection?
After two weeks of not hearing the results from my MRI, I received a phone call. It was the hospital.. Three spots were found on my breast and I had to come in ASAP to get it checked.
Get this.. My sister was in the hospital, close to dying... and now I had cancer? What was going on? Why us?
I went back in to the hospital.. Extremely nervous and emotional. I knew what road I was going to go down. I knew I had cancer. A few hours went by, nothing to see on the screens. My breasts are dense and they can't find the 3 specific spots. They took a biopsy (gross) and 'clipped' the dodgy spot (I now have a bit of metal stuck in my right boob. Forever!).
Thank god it was benign! They're keeping an eye out on my "Iron Woman Breast' and I will have my next scan on Friday. If nothing shows up, I am in the clear again.
Back to my sister.
Three days after I found out that I didn't have cancer, I received the phone call from my mum. My sister had cancer. Again. This time it was in her liver. Her cancer came back and it has spread. Your life stops. Fuck.
How long does she have left? Will she see her son grow up? Do I need to move back to Holland? What are we doing now?
I spent the rest of the day medicated in bed, hoping I would wake up from this nightmare. I couldn't see light at the end of the tunnel. I never felt so alone. I wanted to be with my family. I am truely so grateful for my partner and his family and my friends for letting me talk about it, cry about it or simply not say anything at all.
I went back to The Netherlands in August for three weeks. Knowing damn well that this trip was going to be different than my previous trip. Instead of spending time in The Netherlands, we decided to make a holiday out of it. We drove to Italy with the camper van, our partners, the Bub and the dog. We had such a great time! You wouldn't even know that she has cancer. The only thing that gives it away are the reminders every few hours to take a shit load of medication.
My sister has gotten a different outlook on life and stays positive. She is enjoying the little things in life and watches her son grow up in to the cutest kid and hopefully in to a man.
How long we have got left with each other, we don't know. It is what it is. We can't change the situation. Believe me, I would if I could. She is responding well to the medication and hopefully this will continue for another 50 years (that's what she has in mind!)
I am flying over again in December for two weeks. Before all this, I wouldn't even humour the fact of flying for over 24 hours for just two weeks. It is crazy how much your mindset changes after going through this. It costs me an arm and a leg to fly over around Christmas time, but money seems insignificant now.
Family, friends and happiness. That's where the real richness is.