Friday, October 2, 2015

The Smallest Sister


Lately I haven't been writing as many blog entries because I haven't had as much time as I used to. This week I haven't written anything because I don't know how to tell this story, the hardest one I've ever had to type. How do you write down in words that your 25 year old sister has cancer? I guess I just did, but it still doesn't seem real. It's like my fingers are typing something my brain doesn't know how to hold. I hate writing the words down because then they can't fly away anymore.

The details are easiest to share. That it's colon cancer, the most treatable kind of cancer. That last Friday they removed two feet of Maddie's colon and a tumor that looked like a shrimp, which is ironic because she always eats all the shrimp at Thanksgiving and the family Christmas party. That we're waiting for the pathology report to come back to know more. "It takes seven to ten days to be ready.", "Yes, it's torturous waiting," I say over and over again. 

I can hear myself saying things like "How terrible" and "This must be so hard for them" and "It isn't fair" when I've received similar information about other people. Now that it's happening to us, I can barely pray about it.

I think about my bad days before and I want them back; a butchered haircut, a mean co-worker, a flat tire, a silly fight, that time I hired a cleaning lady and she broke the mermaid statue I brought back from Peru. 

Last night I was lying awake thinking about what a lactation consultant told me after we speculated that my formerly overly-enthusiastic milk supply was suffering due to stress. She said if I can get it back up I can give my 25 year old sister breastmilk if she has to do chemo. I was staring at a night light at 3:05 a.m. thinking about how now I am probably more motivated to keep breastfeeding for my sister than I am for my newborn. The consultant said to give it to her in a champagne glass, not a bottle, obviously, but I know we will make jokes about her drinking it from the source because it's awkward and laughing always feels good. 

Last week Scott and I went to get haircuts in the evening with Avalon. The hairdresser from Boston was pregnant with her fourth boy, so I asked her a hundred questions like "Did you breastfeed each and for how long?", "What are their names?" and "Which age has been the hardest so far?" She said eight has been the roughest age yet because her oldest son, just beginning third grade, has a few hours of homework every day. "Every night he loses it because the other two are playing X Box and he has to sit in his room solving math problems and writing short essays! I just think they could have eased him into it, you know? Started him off with a few nights of homework and then worked up to the every day routine." I nodded my head enthusiastically because the blowdryer was on and I hate when people make life harder than it already has to be. But then the other day I was thinking about how nothing could have eased us into to this cancer diagnosis so maybe a third grade teacher piling on stressful homework out of nowhere is just a third grade teacher mimicking life.

I remember when Maddie was in third grade and I was in ninth. I was attending school without my sisters for the first time in years. I panicked. I hated it. I cried every morning in the dark. I moved a couch cushion into their room and slept on the floor. After school, Maddie and I would ride our bikes to the construction sites down the street and pretend we were in Egypt, living in castles with our dog Bailey. Maddie let me keep my childhood alive without a second thought. I looked forward to being with her every afternoon. She was the only person who just let me be who I needed to be at the time. I would climb around the framing of the new homes to get to the second stories before the stairs were built. I've always wanted Maddie to think that I was brave, even tonight as I paddled out once the water was black while she and her friend Kara watched from the cliff. But she is the brave one. She has always been herself out loud. She knows what she wants. She speaks her mind, but in a gentle way that doesn't intimidate you. She loves without hesitation.

When I first found out the diagnosis, my faith in God wavered for a moment, but my faith in Maddie never did. I know the smallest sister will be the strongest. 

38 comments:

  1. Oh Devon, my heart breaks for you and your family. I'm sending all the healing vibes and positive thoughts I can muster across the pond to you all. xx

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    1. Thank you so much Laura! They are very appreciated! <3

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  2. Oh Devon, I'm so very sorry. Maddie is in my thoughts and prayers, as are you and your family. Your words are beautiful and moving. Keep writing, if you can. Not necessarily to share if you don't want to, but just because sometimes writing helps in some way. Sending you a long cyber hug. CJ xx

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    1. Thank you CJ! Writing always seems to help and I will definitely keep doing it as much as I can. Hugs.

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  3. I'm so sorry your sister and your family are going through this. But having read your blog over the course of time, it is evident that your family is truly there for each other. How many other families of adults can vacation on a boat together?!? I know this family love and strength that shine through in your posts and photos will guide you and support you in the time to come. I will keep Maddie in my prayers

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    1. This means so much to me Bridgett! Thank you.

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  4. You're right, this isn't fair. I'm truly sorry that you're sister, and family have to face this fight. BUT, as you said, SHE will be the strongest. Thankfully, she has y'all as her awesome support system throughout all of this. Silver lining? I know it seems like there is so much bad, and hurt that comes in swoops. The things we thought were trivial before, we now wish were the only things we had to worry about. However, I have faith that your sister, as well as your family, will conquer this next bump along the road of life. Sending a lot of prayers and good vibes your way.

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    1. Thank you Raquel. Yes, the perspective this has given me has already helped me understand suffering and sadness more. I hope to use that to relate to and understand other people on a different level in the future. It's hard to see the good in this right now, but if there is any, that is it.

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  5. Devon! I'm heartbroken for your family. I am so sorry. I'm praying for her right now and I will continue to do so. Didn't your cousin get breast cancer young? Enough already for your family! If I were still in California, I would drive down and hug you.

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    1. Hi Michelle! Thank you for the prayers. Would have loved the in-person hug :). Yes, my cousin did get breast cancer at 25 as well. She is in remission now, thank God. Really scary that 2 very young people in our family have had to go through this.

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  6. I am so, so sorry to read all this Devon. I'm sending you and your family all the hugs and healing thoughts I know. xxx

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    1. Thank you so much Adeline! We really appreciate it!

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  7. I am so heartbroken to hear this. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. I am sending positive vibes that your sister is stronger than this and will get through it!

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  8. Your writing has been most beautiful lately, with the birth of your daughter and in this entry. Wishing your family well.

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    1. Thank you! I do feel like these big life events have changed the way I feel and see things.

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  9. How heart breaking...I don't know if I could be half as strong as you if I were you and it was my sister. Praying for you!!!!!

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    1. Thank you Olivia! I think you would be surprised by how strong you can be when life presents you with challenges.

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  10. Devon, always hard to know what to say..but I am sad to know Maddie is faced with such a personal challenge at her young age. One that will forever form her. Perhaps, in time, in a way that only gives her strength in life. I too had cancer (of a different kind) growing since about 25 and not discovered and removed until I was 30. I have always considered myself a lucky person but now at 36 I still see myself as lucky but more importantly as strong. I honestly don't fear cancer like I used to. It really has made me so much stronger in every way and I have no doubt it will do the same for Maddie. For the helpless loved ones, is seems we all take turns in that seat. And with that, I have made my observations and discovered the importance of handling life's challenges with grace. If anything, to be a good example for others. Sending you much love from Minnesota ~Andrea

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    1. Andrea, thank you for sharing your story. I always like hearing stories about or from people who have survived cancer. Your perspective on not being scared of it anymore is interesting and inspiring. I'm so happy you are in remission! Sending love to you too. This message means so much.

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  11. Oh honey, I can't imagine. I am so sorry to hear this. Of course, it's good that the cancer is treatable, but there's really no "good" cancer. Keep us updated on her pathology reports and how she is!

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  12. I'm so so sorry to hear this. I know that there aren't any words to make this better but know that there are so many of us out here thinking of Maddie, you and your family. Cancer freaking stinks. It isn't fair at all. Sending loads of love to you and big hugs.

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    1. It's the worst! Thanks for the virtual love and hugs Christine!

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  13. Will be praying for your sister and your family, I'm so sorry to hear this I'm not sure how I would cope if my little sister was sick :( xxx

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    1. Thank you Carey! I really appreciate it! <3

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  14. I wish I had something wise and helpful to say, but I don't. Still, I wanted to leave a comment so that you knew I had read this and that I was thinking of you and your family.

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    1. Honestly Millie that is the perfect thing to say. Thank you. It is very appreciated! <3

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  15. This is so beautiful Devon! Your writing is always such a treat and straight from the heart. Especially this one, although much tougher to read. I have been praying and thinking about your sister so much. I can't imagine that happening to my smallest sister, but I do understand the depth of pain you feel when you are that close with someone and they are going through a hard time. Maddie is so strong, so full of life and equipped with the greatest spirit. She will get through it and has so much love behind, in front of and beside her on this journey. XO - Jenna (Loftus)

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    1. Hi Jenna. We are so lucky to have your family in our lives. This note really touched my heart. Thank you!

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  16. Hi Devon, I've been reading your blog for a few years now, I think I found it through Drea's blog. As a new mom myself, I love your honesty and how you express the vulnerability that we all feel with such great responsibility and worry about our children. I also live in MN so I love all your beautiful photos- especially in the dead of winter! Just wanted to comment for the first time to let you know that I'm sorry your sister and your family are facing this challenge and I'm praying that your sister heals quickly and gets a clean bill of health very soon. You seem like such a thoughtful, deep person, she is lucky to have you. Take care. Holly

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    1. Hi Holly! I am lucky to have such a thoughtful reader like you. We really appreciate the prayers and kind thoughts and I cherish this note. Thank you!

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  17. Best wishes to your smallest sister and your family, everything will be ok.

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    1. Thank you very much. It helps to hear things will be fine.

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  18. Devon my heart goes out to Maddie! I remember the day she was born...she was a fighter then and as you can clearly see she is a brave light in the world who will fight this head on! God is with her and will make her strong even through tough times...I pray that He lovingly wraps His arms around her to provide her strength and wisdom to her doctors as she fights this!

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  19. I was catching up on your writing when I came across this post...... I'm so sorry Devon. As the oldest of three girls this touched me in every way. Our youngest sisters will always be our babies (whether they are 25 or 19 in my case) so I understand the feeling of powerlessness that comes when something happens that we were not able to protect them from. Last year my little sister had a horrible horseback riding accident (cranial fracture, broken arm, some internal issues, etc.). I lost it when I got the news. It was the weeks and months that followed that I realized how true that last sentence of yours is...smallest sister will be/are the strongest. God has this too. Hang in the love.

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