Warning. Long post.
Watched grandfather fight lung cancer then spine when I was 5. Not sure they knew which was primary/secondary back then. Broke his spine in mining accident some years previously. Who knows.
Age 14, dad died following hideous battle with lung cancer. Mercifully brief. Traumatic effects felt for many years. Things like mum having to leave to get to a phone (we had none) and elder sister running away from dad as she couldn't cope, leaving me to stoke his back and beg him to breathe, while tears ran down his cheeks and he struggled for breath.
Age 25 mum diagnosed with breast cancer. Moved many miles away from hubby to be with her. She got 2 years, defying prognosis to see her first grandchild, my daughter. Hubby told me just after, he was leaving, though actually stayed for a few years until leaving me a single parent to 2 girls.
Age 38, sister, then 42, diagnosed with breast cancer. Fought -like an absolute trouper, and beat it. She was the most incredibly brave, determined person I have ever seen. used to drive herself to and from chemo and go to work straight after!
She kept telling me to go for mammogram, see specialist etc. Genetics person told her to set down a blood sample for any future test. Sis said she would as we both have children.
13 years later, all of us utterly shocked to have her diagnosed stage IV. Her thigh literally crumpled. She had her leg pinned from hip to ankle. They had to use 2 pins or would have shatters the remaining bone. A few days later after tests, they had to pin other leg hip to knee as already had large hole in that thigh too.
In all of this, she cried once and once only. And only because nurse left the brake off her bed while she was in the toilet. She sat on the edge, both legs in plaster, bed rolled away and she couldn't move or reach her buzzer!
Again, an absolute star. Able to navigate stairs, on crutches, by the end of week one. Driving in a couple of months. Back at work - never telling them anything other than she'd had hip replacement. No adjustments asked for or given and a full time job with a long commute. She has monthly injections and hormone treatment. And here we are, some 6 years later.
I've never doubted our love for one another but we've never been close like other sisters. We fought most of our childhood and into adulthood. I mean physically! She has broken my toe (dropped a bed on it deliberately) and my finger (beating me off a concrete floor and jumping on me - she was 25!) But still got over those episodes and were there for one another. We didn't do stuff together though, and she's never been a sharer - of emotion, plans, feelings. She hurt my mum by her shutting out.
We live about 1.5 hours apart. As a single parent I've spent most of the years she's been ill, with little or no money, no transport and hard to get through to hers, but I tried. I was there when she had her mastectomy and tried in every way I knew, to offer her emotional or practical help. She has never spoken to me about her feelings over any of it. I don't know if she does with anybody. All her life, she has had close buddies and those have always seemed to be who she turns to or goes to. Not her family. That's the way it has been. I accept my own limitations in relationships and her choices in her preferred go to companions. Though it has saddened me and did my mum too. I'd see other sisters having nights out, spa days, shopping trips, all yon. And wished it could be us, but she would reject any suggestions made and I had no idea how to fix it. while she's been ill, I have regularly told her I am here for her, if she needs to talk or needs anything I can do for her. Any time I asked how she was doing, all I'd get was "fine".
She never did have a blood test. She always said she was going to but when I finally asked her if she could, or would at least go and talk about it, she refused. We both have grown up children, 3 girls, one boy. And I am utterly baffled.
2.5 years ago, I was so ill I had to stop work. Couldn't see properly, so dizzy I had to lie down to stop the world spinning, constant headaches, passed out sometimes etc. Sent for an mri amongst other things and out of the blue in an eye clinic, was told they had found what they thought was a Meningioma, (tumour) on my brain. At that point, single with a mortgage, no money and worried I would not be able to work again, would lose my home etc., I also found out there are links ( research in early stages) between Meningioma and breast cancer. Women who have one, often develop the other. I pleaded with sis to have the test. She refused. And as I sat there telling her how scared I was - not that I was going to die but of how the Hell I was going to live, unable to drive, work, support myself, where, how, I would be able to survive, what I got back was a stream of vitriol.
Maybe now I would no what it felt like to be her. Maybe I would know something of what she's gone through over the years. Etc etc. I told her that I loved her and was sorry as I knew it would hurt her but that I didn't want to be in touch any more. I just couldn't bear all of this on top of everything else. And we haven't been. She has messaged me saying if she ever has the test, she won't tell any of us - including my daughter's, the results. I didn't respond.
What to do? I am not great at relationships I accept. How do you know what somebody is going through if they repeatedly refuse to tell you? I have cared and supported others all my life. I have consciously worked to help other struggling working extensively with single parents and carers. I am able to empathise and I cared for mum in ways my sister couldn't. There was nothing about her cancer journey she and I didn't share and 30 years later, I miss her still, but have no regrets.
But my sister. . On the one hand, realistically nothing much has changed. We were down to texting one another every month or two. The occasional call and meeting up a couple of times a year. And judging by her last rant rant ( which I don't ever want to face again) she clearly didn't get much from me!
But.. she's my sister, the only previous generation I have left. And time is passing. I have no idea what to do or if, aside from the way it "should" be, if there is any point for either of us. Once upon a time, 20 odd years ago, it turned out my brother-in-law had been seeing somebody else and at Christmas, took an overdose. It would have killed a smaller man, was no cry for help. My sister took her baby and toddler, jumped in the car, and drove for hours to spend Christmas with HIS brother. The whole village had known everything. She only told me (who lived considerably closer) some months later because she knew I was about to find out from somebody else. That, is our relationship.
Is it fixable? Should I try? Or are we both just better off leaving well alone?
Thank you, if you made it this far.
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