My twin sister found out last month that she has ovarian cancer.
She had not been feeling well since before Christmas, and the symptoms were similar to how she felt over a decade ago when she had to have a tumor removed that was attached to her right ovary. All was fine back then, and our family hoped that all would be OK this time around too. Unfortunately it wasn’t OK.
Jennifer has been amazingly positive and calm about it all. She has seemed, to me, less anxious than the rest of us. Her oncologist has told her that her ovarian cancer is a “easier to treat” type, called granulosa cell tumor. While that is the positive in the daunting world of cancer, and we know Jennifer will be tough through her upcoming treatments, so many thoughts have gone through my head the past month.
This cannot be happening.
When I first got the text letting me know that the doctor found cancer during Jennifer’s hysterectomy, I couldn’t believe it. All I felt was shock and fear; and I’m sure she had many more intense emotions as she learned the results of surgery. I was so convinced that a cancer diagnosis couldn’t be right.
Jennifer is one of the healthiest people I know. She exercises almost every day. She eats right. Our family doesn’t have a history of ovarian cancer. She basically didn’t have any factors that would increase her risk.
But cancer doesn’t discriminate.
Is she going to be OK?
I love my sister more than words. We have been together longer than we’ve been with anyone else. We are “the twins”. I cannot imagine not having my sister around.
After her diagnosis, fear set in. I was scared for days. Was I going to lose my sister? Would I get more time with her? I needed and wanted more time so we could vent to each other, laugh together, go to lunch or dinner and spend time together. I wanted time to take our daughters out shopping on weekends.
As her diagnosis sunk in, I reminded myself that instead of worrying about an end, I needed to focus on the now and living and enjoying life with her. All of us have an expiration date–none of us know when our time is up. Jennifer could have 30 or more years left, and I couldn’t let my anxiety twist my thoughts into shortening my time with her.
Is the rest of our family going to be OK?
Of course, I also began to worry if my sister’s diagnosis meant a higher risk of ovarian cancer for her daughter or my girls. This now meant that ovarian cancer is in our medical family tree. How would that affect other females in our family? Breast cancer already runs in our family, so I know that this will be another type of cancer I need to inform my doctors and my children’s doctors about so that extra care can be taken during check-ups if necessary.
What can I do to help my sister?
Most importantly, I was so concerned about how I could help my sister. I wanted to take care of her, prepare her meals, spend as much time as I could with her, and offer to run errands for her. While I’m sure she appreciated those things, I slowed down and realized that what helped her most was just keeping life as routine as possible, treating her no differently than I treated her before. I know that if she needs help getting to doctor’s appointments, is tired and could use some help cleaning up the house or finishing up laundry, or if she just needs someone to come over for coffee to hang out and gossip, she will ask and I will be ready to provide what she needs. She knows that as she needs me for anything, I will be there for her.
While it’s been unexpected and scary that Jennifer is only in her mid-forties and living with cancer, it has reminded me how grateful I am for her and how much she means to me, how important sister relationships are, and I shouldn’t stress over the small stuff.
I’m so inspired by how she is handling this journey so far and I know she is going to end up being stronger than ever.