We've got to stop meeting like this.
It's been over a week since I learned that my middle sister discovered that she has breast cancer.
Everyone thought it would turn out to be of no consequence. No family history that she could think of. She nursed her kids. No lumps.
The good news is that she is taking action. She doesn't have health insurance and was able to access community resources to get a mammogram and follow-up biopsy. Now more paperwork has to be completed for Medicaid to cover surgery and treatment. But at least breast cancer is a "covered" Medicaid illness for which she can cut through some of the red tape and not worry about that.
Her breast started bothering her this summer - pain, not a lump, was the signal. She told me it was a shooting pain from the rib through the breast.
My thought has been that as we were dealing with Dad's death, she was quietly experiencing this, too.
A friend of mine and nurse who worked with me in community geriatric care coordination, said she often sees this. A caregiver has a serious health crisis after the loss of the ones they provide care for. In this case, this particular sister has served as a part-time caregiver to my grandmother who died this spring and my dad who died 3 months later.
At any rate, this week is the surgery to "stage" the cancer. This will be done the day before she turns 50 years old. Basically, this is a process that cuts away at the tissue to see if it is just at the site or how far it has traveled. Hopefully, she'll get a zero staging where cancer cells are only found at the immediate site. Then that will be that. But they have told her to be prepared for radiation treatments.
"So, what can I do?" I ask her.
"Visit me," she responded.
Well then, I will.
It is a lovely drive through the mountains of West Virginia from my home to her home. There are still a few leaves on the trees and we had our first frost last night. Everything has been harvested.
Since she is a Jehovah's Witness, I don't have to worry about how this will impact her holidays since she doesn't celebrate anything except wedding anniversaries. But in the larger scheme of life, we will review what has been gathered from our lives and hunker down for a long winter. Hopefully, we will emerge in the springtime ready for a new season.