Today I decided to participate in a #CancerSucks bloghop hosted by straighttalkjess.com. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember how much cancer has affected my family. If you’re a new reader, this may shed some light into why every penny I can spare will always go towards cancer research.
This all started a long time ago, in 2003, back when the hubs and I had only been together for like, 8 months. My mom’s brother got married to his wife in a huge to-do in San Francisco and had a luxurious wedding at the courthouse. Our whole family was there from the midwest. It was awesome.
About a week after the trip, I got a call from my mom. She said “I have something to tell you. It’s about Gabba.” (Gabba was my grandmother’s “grandma name.” I couldn’t say “grandma” as a kid, and that’s what came out. It stuck, I guess, because everyone in the family called her that.) I had no idea what to expect from my mom, but it didn’t sound good. She explained to me that before my uncle’s wedding, Gabba had found out she had ovarian cancer. They gave her 3 years, max. She told my mother, and together they decided not to tell anyone until after the wedding so that my uncle could have his day, and that the focus wouldn’t be on her. Because for now, she was okay. I cried when she told me, but I had no idea what that really meant. Looking back on it now, I’m so glad I didn’t know what kind of sorrow it could bring.
After my grandma’s diagnosis, it seemed like a whirlwind of more diagnoses. I know I have my dates screwed up here with who was diagnosed when, but next came my mom’s sister Mitzi being diagnosed with breast cancer, then I think my dad’s mother (breast cancer), then his sister (breast cancer), and then my mom’s sister Julie (breast cancer again) over the course of a few years.
My dad’s mom & sister went into remission with chemo & radiation treatments. Mitzi struggled to get it under control for a while, ultimately deciding on a double mastectomy to remove a cancerous breast and preemptively strike against the other. It may have saved her life, as she’s been in remission for a number of years now as well. Julie used a combination of chemotherapy and alternative therapies and also went into remission for a while, but eventually it came back. Gabba, though…never really went into remission. It was always there. But she was always still herself. Wearing wigs and sometimes being ill, but still Gabba.
Then Julie got sick. Really sick. The cancer had metastasized. It was all over her body. She was in and out of the ICU and hospital for months battling pneumonia and just dealing with being sick. Finally early in the morning on April 28th 2008, she passed away. I was home visiting my parents because we knew it was any day. I will never forget the phone ringing around 4am…it was my Auntie Mitzi calling from the hospital. It was unbelievable. So young, and because of what? A disease? It blew my mind, and really messed with me. Prior to her death, I had committed myself to doing the 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk. And later that year, I walked all 60 miles in memory of my Auntie Julie, and my other family members who had been affected by breast cancer.
In the early spring of 2009, Gabba got sick. Which for her, was odd. She had been living with her ovarian cancer for over five years, well past the three they’d given her. Then she ended up in the hospital. I was pretty newly pregnant at the time and let my mom tell her I was expecting, even though I was trying to keep it under wraps until 12 weeks. It was so hard to see her ill, knowing that this was finally it. It was different this time, with Gabba. With Julie, it was so upsetting and horrible, but with Gabba…it seemed so deep down. She was my rock, our family’s rock. I was so close to her. We had gone home before she died. I refused to say goodbye, but made sure she knew how much I loved her. Eventually I wrote her a letter that my mom read to her telling her everything I couldn’t say to her face. (I didn’t want her to see my cry.) And then on April 7th, she passed away.
Dealing with Gabba’s death was the hardest. Picking up the phone to call her forgetting she wasn’t there, seeing my mom fall apart, remembering she wasn’t going to be there for the birth of our baby…it was almost too much to handle.
However, on Gabba’s birthday last year, she gave me a gift that I will forever know was not just chance. Just after midnight on her birthday, Abigail Rita was born. (Rita was Gabba’s real name.)
This story of my family’s history with cancer wasn’t just to bring tears to my eyes while writing it, because lord knows it has. I’m telling it because all of this has done nothing but make me stronger…more vigilant in the fight against it. It does scare me knowing the chances I have of being stricken with this disease, but I’m more pro-active than ever and always doing what I can to help the fight against it. And my story is only one of THOUSANDS, likely MILLIONS of people affected by it every day.
So, yeah. Cancer does suck. And that’s putting it mildly.