Assistant editor reflects on families and illness

Assistant editor reflects on families and illness

My childhood was easy compared to most other people’s. My parents weren’t divorced, there had been no deaths in the family, and most of my family lived close so I always saw them. I essentially had a picture perfect life, until one day when I was in junior high. That is when everything changed.

The summer before eighth grade year, I was on a mission trip six hours away from home when I got the call from my dad that my aunt just found out she had cancer. I went into the room with all the bunk beds and laid in the dark for a while by myself. Soon after, all my friends on the trip came in and sat with me and prayed with me for hours. I remember thinking how unfair it was that I had to hear that while I was on a mission trip, serving our God and six hours away from the rest of my family. Little did I know that the passage my friend Josh showed me that night would stick with me from then on and even get me through other hard times as life went on.

During my sophomore year, I remember going to my grandma’s house for a family dinner. I didn’t think anything of it, considering this was something that happened somewhat regularly. However, on the way there, my dad let my sister and me know that our other aunt had found out she had the same cancer. I remember that family dinner being particularly painful, as I was at a loss for words the whole time. All I could think was, “Seriously?”

Then, in February, I was headed to work one Thursday. I had just woken up from an after school power nap, and had just gotten out of my car to go in. My dad was standing out there waiting for me. As I got out, he told me that my grandma had found out earlier that day that she too had the same type of cancer that both my aunts had. That was a bad night at work. All I remember is all the thoughts that were going through my head. “This can’t be real.” “How am I supposed to wait tables and smile at people now?” “I need to be anywhere but here.”

Of course, one of my first thoughts was, “Oh this means bad news for me and my sister,” which was selfish of course. But as I am sitting here at my cousin Ben’s baseball practice, cheering him on as he is at bat, I am starting to realize some things:

Although cancer is terrible and I would never wish it on any family, the cancer that has struck my family so harshly these last few years has indeed changed my life, and not in a bad way.

Now, I get to be the cool cousin who picks up the younger cousins from school sometimes, takes them out to eat and do other fun stuff, and spends the night with them when their mom has plans. I get to be the cute granddaughter who says, “Ma, you sure are looking thinner,” and “Wow, I didn’t even notice you lost your breasts!” I get to be the fun niece who brings her friends to her aunt’s house for a sleepover. I get to be the helpful sister who takes her sister to Walmart when she decides she wants to take our grandma flowers. There’s so many things I get to do now that I would never get to do if cancer had not struck our family the way it did, and I would never be as close with my cousins, sister, and rest of my family as I am if this had never happened.

Of course, I hate the pain and suffering that each of my aunts and my grandmother have had to go through, and I wish I could take it all away. However, I am filled with joy at the thought of the memories I am making and the unique bonds I am able to form with my family now that would have never happened otherwise.