I’ll never forget it… the text I received from my sister on the 15th May 2018: ‘I’m going to the Horton right now, I have an enlarged lymph node in my chest, it could be lymphoma.’ What? How is that possible? She’s 20 years old, she’s too young to get cancer and not my sister… it can’t be right. It was. 10 days later she was diagnosed with primary mediastinal large B cell lymphoma.
You don’t think it will ever happen to your family, especially not your younger sibling. You hear about it all the time, on tv, in magazines, on social media. Cancer is everywhere but you never expect it to happen to someone you love. I remember picking our youngest sister up to go visit Nicole in the Emergency assessment unit after I received that text; trying to keep strong and positive, I’m the older sibling I have to keep it together. But as soon as I saw Nicole’s face looking so scared and vulnerable. I couldn’t hold it in any longer, tears pouring down my cheeks uncontrollably, causing that sharp, stinging to my eyes, I hugged her so tight. We’re getting through this together, I thought.
The following weeks/months I watched my sister become more and more fragile; the chemo killing every cell in her body, healthy and cancerous. There is nothing more heart wrenching, there was nothing I could do apart from be there and keep things light hearted. I think most people deal with hard times like these by taking the piss out of it: ‘Every time you find some humour in a difficult situation, you win.’
Nicole finished her chemo in August; finally. Now we could look forward and help Nicole regain her strength and resume some sort of normality. Right? Wrong. The news we received next seemed to come out of nowhere; her doctors wanted to send her to the USA to have more treatment: ‘proton beam therapy.’
This is a whole other blog post for the future which I’m sure Nicole and I will work on together. As much as the thought of travelling 4000 miles for 7 weeks away from your family is scary, especially to have treatment. Nicole and I had a wonderful experience, we certainly made the best of it and the staff at the Proton Centre in Jacksonville, Florida were a pleasure and made everything so easy for us.
Nicole and I bonded incredibly on this journey we had together. The overall experience was inspirational, Nicole took everything in her stride and faced everything the doctors threw at her. She finished 22 rounds of proton beam therapy and she finally got to ring out those chimes to signal the end of her treatment. My heart burst with pride. She’s done it.
I suppose that takes us up to now; Nicole has faced the absolute worst thing a 20 year old could face. She was supposed to be enjoying her life… going on adventures, experiencing new things, passing her driving test. Instead she’s had to be in and out of countless hospitals, focusing on taking copious amounts of tablets and medicines, enduring the horrible symptoms that comes along with treatment. Her life has changed forever. We now await her results, hoping to hear the words everyone hopes to hear.
I can proudly say that through all of this, Nicole has a new found confidence; she’s found her voice and even through all the bad times she has kept a smile on her face. She is the strongest person I know and I am so proud to call her my sister. Whatever the future may bring, we will face everything together, always.