Thursday, March 13, 2014

and she is strength

It has been well over two years since Lizzie, my sister, was in the hospital after being diagnosed with a ganglioneuroma tumor.

I’ve talked about my sister’s previous health complications on my other blog, Through the Eyes of An Irish Twin, and today I don’t want to focus on those dark days, but instead the incredible light she has shined on me and the life lessons I have learned from her.

This past week, Lizzie had her first oncology check up in six months. Like every doctor’s appointment, I do my best to be there for her. The oncology appointments are always the scariest for me. Even though this appointment was just a check up, I found myself fidgeting in the waiting room chair, praying it would be nothing but good news. Lizzie is healthy most of the time, but there's something about returning to the doctor's office that makes me second guess everything.

Lizzie had already written out all her concerns and what she planned to ask the doctor. She had the little white paper folded in fourths, waiting in her black leather bag. I read it thoroughly. I was well aware of all her concerns but they seemed so different printed in my sister’s handwriting. Every time I had worried, every little detail I noticed, she had too, but neither of us had said much then. Now that white paper voiced the concerns that neither of us had the courage to say.

Lizzie and I sat in the waiting room for over an hour. In that time, we saw a beautiful teenage girl, her bald head wrapped in a pretty pink floral headband. We saw a two year old with tubes around his nose and a pale, sweet innocent face as he smiled and waited. We saw countless families come in and out, all with the silence of knowing we were all in this waiting room for a reason and some were luckier than others. Lizzie was being stared at, and I know what they are all thinking, she is a lucky one. Lizzie continued to talk to me, about what it would have been like if she had lost her hair, if the surgeries didn’t work, if chemo was the only option. She told me that when she first heard it was cancer she was crying on the phone with our aunt and my sweet aunt said the words, “don't be upset now, you need to save your energy." And she still models those words, she is the epitome of strength.

I rested my head on Lizzie’s shoulder, partly because I was tired, but partly because I was happy to just know she was there. An able, healthy body sitting besides me.

As the nurses called her name out, we walked back together. A few nurses sang a song to a little boy as we passed, “Happy no more chemo for you, happy no more chemo for you…” to the tune of happy birthday. I just thought about how I never had heard that song before, a huge blessing.

Lizzie and I laughed while we waited for the doctor, doing impressions, talking about the kids at our work, and just being sisters, completely intertwined perfectly in each other’s lives. She is the funniest person I know and there is no one I understand better and love more. She is threaded into all the pieces of my being. In fact, without her thread, I know I would absolutely fall apart.

I took this candid picture of Lizzie while we were waiting and my phone died soon after. After getting home and restarting my phone, I stared at it and realized something. No matter how dark the situation, she is always looking forward to the light. And no matter how dark a place gets, she keeps chasing the light, only to realize it was inside her all along.

She is healthy, she is strong, and I know she can take on whatever comes her way. I guess a little lesson for me: life is realizing what a beautiful thing it is to have people you are terrified of losing. Life is being appreciative of our bodies, what they are capable of overcoming and the strength that rests within them. Life is not feeling sorry for those who are worse off than you, but instead helping, guiding, and loving them with an enormously grateful heart.

Happy Thursday xoxo

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