Fond but Painful Memories
Last year we met at our parent’s house for the family get together to enjoy the Christmas celebrations. As I watched a rerun of past hockey goals on the TV, I felt the urge to chew on something and I found myself wandering off to the kitchen for a fruit. I reached for an apple in the fruit basket and was about to plunge my teeth into it when I remembered some of the most basic hygiene lessons I was taught in this house as a young kid.
I quickly dashed to the sink and after cleaning the fruit I strolled back onto the sofa to eat the fruit. As I took my first bite, I appreciated the hygiene principles instilled into me as a young boy by my deceased sister, Chloe when we were growing up. Chloe was our first born in a family of five kids and being the last born, she really went into great pains to ensure than I grew up in the ‘right way’. Sadly, Chloe was snatched from us at the prime of her youth by a cruel disease, ovarian cancer.
The family caretaker
Chloe was the role model sister, and I use these words without flinching. It may seem a trivial thing that memories of my older sister are triggered by basic hygiene lessons; however, Chloe taught me and the rest of the family a lot about taking care of our health. In fact, due to her overemphasis on personal hygiene, my fellow siblings and I had nicknamed her the family doctor. It is overly ironical that the doctor preceded everyone else on the journey to the next world.
Surely, cancer is cruel. Chloe was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of twenty one. It was a devastating blow to her and an unfathomable occurrence to the rest of us. As for me, I could not even grasp the earnestness of the situation due to my age. I was ten years old then. My parents tried to shield us the kids from the true predicament facing our sister but kids have a way of finding out facts on their own. After realizing that my sister was facing imminent death, I was very distressed and even the comforting sentiments that cancer was survivable did not alleviate my distress.
The final journey
The problems started with a late diagnosis for the disease. Apparently, ovarian cancer is a stealth disease whose symptoms are not easily discernible or distinguishable from normal ailments and hence the late diagnosis. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor and I can still recall her confident look in the hospital bed as she claimed that it was nothing but a passing cloud. Then she started chemotherapy treatments and lost her hair.
I will never forget her shrunken frame and clean shaven head in the hospital bed. She managed to hold off the disease for about one year and then it was back. The cancer went into remission or recurrence. And her final journey lasted less than three months. After losing my sister, life became unbearable for me and I had to attend therapy session with my mother.
I started question God and asking my parents why we were chosen for this sad ordeal. I struggled with temperamental thoughts throughout my teenage life and it was only when I grew older and joined a support group that I accepted the predicament and moved on.