I was really upset my parents had to cut their trip short. They had just arrived in Rome when they got the call. Luckily Sister2’s mother is a travel agent and had arranged all the travel plans for my parents to return early. All they had to do was pack up and get on the plane to fly back the U.S. so they could urgently see their youngest daughter who had a tumor.
I started to feel so sorry. I was sorry for everything. I was sorry I was putting DH and Little Man through this. I was sorry Little Man was going to have a sick mom. Was he going to have a mom? I was sorry Brother and Sister had to drop everything in their lives for me — a new wife, a husband, three kids, jobs…I was sorry my parents had to leave their trip for me. I was so sorry I was putting my family through this…again.
You see, this isn’t the first time tumors have cast a shadow over our lives. Sister was the same age as I was when she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in September, 2001. I will never forget sitting next to her during Rosh Hashanah services and seeing Mom look at her neck. There it was, clear as day. A jelly bean-shaped and sized thingy sticking out of her neck. Mom looked shocked. She said, you need to get that checked out immediately. I went back to Boston where I went to college for Yom Kippur and one night, before or after Yom Kippur (I can’t remember exactly) my parents called me. I knew something was wrong immediately. They said they biopsied a lymph node on Sister’s neck and it wasn’t good. It was lymphoma. DH, who was my boyfriend then, wasn’t with me that night. In tears, I woke up my roommate and her boyfriend to tell them the news. My Sister married a few years earlier. She and Brother2 just bought a house. They just had a baby, a girl, the first grandchild. Oh, the sadness I felt was indescribable.
I called Sister the next day. Brother2 answered and he could barely choke out the words beyond his tears. Sister got on the phone and said I’m ok. It’s going to be ok. I’m going to beat this. I thought, But how? How will you beat this? How can you be so sure?
I wish the story ended there, but there’s more. My cousin, on Dad’s side, she too had lymphoma. More than 30 years ago, just after having her third child, she too developed symptoms. She had a mediastinal tumor. What is this? Where is it coming from? Why is it here?
I cried a lot for my sister and the tragedy of the whole thing. I cried for my Brother and I. How was Sister’s life so different from ours? How did she get cancer? Will I get cancer?