I still remember some things like they happened just last week. I can recall the scariest moments of my life in an instant.
This summer I was working in my hemp field, harvesting. I was so busy with it… and didn’t honestly think it was possible to harvest everything even when I was spending every waking moment doing it and getting help from workers, friends, and family.
I was gallivanting along… jamming to Taylor Swift… thinking everything was going to be okay.
I thought it was weird that the last few times I asked to speak on the phone with my sister, my parents (who had been taking turns spending time with her) would say she didn’t feel like talking to me. I could kind of hear her saying no but something sounded different. I think at some point, my dad facetimed me when he was with her… and she just looked totally different. Her face was stuck. Her lips wouldn’t move much. This was after her second chemo was about to begin.
(Now I know they had been pumping her with fluids to try and protect her body from the chemotherapy medications.)
I was in the field a lot. I got some scary calls from my mom about what was happening with my sister over the course of a week or so… everything seemed like it might be changing for the worse but no doctor would really come out and just say it. Or maybe they did but nobody wanted to share how bad it really was. Or maybe everyone was telling me how bad it really was and I was refusing to believe it could ever come to this point so I sat in denial. My belief system of “positivity” and “everything has to turn out okay because that is just how life goes” was getting in my way of seeing the truth of the situation.
My husband kept telling me he thought I should go see her. The fact that I didn’t right away or that I wasn’t the one who felt the urgency is super strange to me. Usually, I am the one who overreacts with worry about things — not him. So that was concerning. But somehow I just kept refusing to believe it. It’s like my brain wasn’t functioning properly because I didn’t want to hear the truth. Because the truth meant my worst fear was coming true.
I was in the car on the way to recycling and I was marco polo-ing my friends. I think I was updating them or commenting on something someone had said — or I don’t know what… when my mom called.
She sounded different. She sounded scared… terrified, really. I feel like she still had to convince me how bad it was… I was asking… TELL ME… TELL ME is it really what I think it is? What is going on? She told me that the ICU doctor had called her. He told her that he thought her family needed to come be with her. He worded it in a way that was masked. Are you saying we need to come be with her because she needs support to fight the cancer? Because she is lonely? Because what???? My mom had to read through the lines. She said, “I feel like he was calling me to tell me we need to come be by her bedside.” And all of the sudden, I knew what that meant. I had a sinking feeling, a feeling of complete loss of control that would just keep unraveling over the next few weeks.
I got home and was in pieces. There were two women helping harvest my hemp and I probably looked like I was insane to them. I was walking up and down the field, crying, sitting down on the dirt talking to my mom, talking to Austin. I didn’t know what to do. I STILL didn’t know how to book the flight. I was scared that flight would be the beginning of the end (I can see this more clearly now but at the time, I just felt paralyzed).
My mother in law booked flights for my husband and I to leave early the next morning (a Thursday). I don’t recall how I felt on that plane ride. I think I was still in disbelief. I don’t know what caused that… or what causes that… but I could not wrap my head around what was being told to me.
We got to the Mayo Clinic, walked onto the elevators I had been on only one month before – when she was doing fine.
And when I walked off the elevators… everything changed again. I saw my parents – together – I saw a bunch of doctors, my brother in law, my uncle, my step dad… the team of doctors had planned a meeting and pulled us straight off the elevators and into a conference room. Literally one of the worst moments of my entire life.
I sat down. I started sobbing. I knew it was serious. Palliative and hospice care was there (honestly, at the time, I didn’t have a clue what that even meant but I knew it was not good because my family was very upset by their presence). I heard the words “monster” (referring to her cancer) and “extremely bad prognosis”.
I don’t even know what else was said in that meeting. I was shaken to my core. I didn’t want to face the fact that my sister was dying in a hospital from cancer. How f*cking terrible is the reality of that.
When they were done talking, I couldn’t go see her. I just couldn’t. I was a coward. I wanted to see my sister — who she was when she was happy and healthy. I wanted to see her sitting up, happy, making everybody laugh like she did, drinking a diet coke and hugging me when I walked in. And I knew that wasn’t going to be the case.
I couldn’t breathe. I needed air.
Austin and I quickly rode the elevators back down and walked out the front of the building. There were the trees I walked around in sharing the hardships my sister was facing with Austin on the phone, only a month before. I was walking so fast I was so frustrated, and I didn’t know what to do with all of my angry/sad/shocked/terrified feelings. Austin and I talked while I sobbed and freaked out. I had to calm down. I had to go see her. I had to go see my dying sister/best friend/mother of my favorite people on the planet. I wanted to change everything for her but I couldn’t. I wanted to talk to her like normal but I couldn’t. I wanted to feel her embrace but I couldn’t.
There is no happy ending to this writing – just the reality of what happened and me facing it by writing it out.