What No One Told Me After Someone I Love Was Diagnosed With Cancer

My sister was diagnosed at 21 with a cancer usually only seen in older adults. She had become somewhat unique. Luckily, a talented surgeon and incredible oncologist kept her with us. I am so thankful for that to this very day.

But what no one told me about after her diagnosis was the guilt I would experience. They didn’t tell me that I would wish every day it was me and not her. That I would have nightmares about losing her every night for the next five years. And that despite the melatonin or sleep aids I took, I still had those nightmares.

They didn’t tell me that when my sister became emotional, I wouldn’t be sure how to help. That when my mom cried, I would wish I could take away her pain and fear. But there was nothing I could do. I felt guilty. So I became a “fixer.” I tried to fix everything around me. I tried to fix things to make up for the one thing I could not fix. I started taking over housework, cleaning, trying to make everything right.

The advice I have for those people struggling, given to me by a trusted mentor, is to let your guilt go. This place, this Earth we live on was meant for us. It was meant for us to cherish our moments. Laugh. Cry. Get angry and love each other. It was meant to help us learn to love and to make and foster families. Cancer should not stop that.

The longer I spent moping around and crying at the thought I could lose my sister was the more time that I was losing with her. So now, she and I travel the world, looking to spend more time together than we had ever spent prior. She’s my plus-one to events and I spend a little extra more on her birthday gifts than I used to. But I have learned that all these things, material things, are nothing without her.

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