31 years ago, I wasn't even 18 months old. 31 years ago, at not even 18 months, all I knew (and I glean this from how I perceive my children, and their lives at 18 months) was my Mommy, my Daddy, and my big sister. My big sister who routinely sat on me, for who knows what reason. My big sister, who was no doubt jealous of the "new baby" and didn't like that I was moving around and taking her toys. But she was my big sister! And undoubtedly I loved her and she loved me, and I wanted to be with her, and couldn't think of a better little human being to hang out with for the rest of my life.
31 years ago, in September, the rug was pulled out from under our feet. My big sister was diagnosed with cancer. She had a tumour growing inside her kidney. Of course at less then 18 months old, I had no clue. But life flipped around and what I remember from those times is likely mostly just what I've been told. I was often taken to my Grandparents home, and looked after by my Aunty frequently. It only occurred to me recently that the Aunt that watched me was likely only 16 or 17 at the time. (Maybe mom will correct me, or maybe that Aunt will, but I know she was young)** I've been told that when I started to talk, I often said "You're throwing me away!!!" likely with tears, and anger at having to be left there. I couldn't have been easy on my parents, who no doubt were so distraught with having to face the fear of their child having cancer, and having to suffer through my sisters many rounds of chemo and radiation. But I wasn't even fully aware of the world outside my life.
They say the first 5 years of a child's life has the greatest role in shaping them as a human being. Having the wrench that is childhood cancer thrown into your formative years could really mess a person up. In retrospect, I know why I am the way I am. Simultaneously strong headed and independent, but with a longing to be loved, and taken care of. Simultaneously wanting the spot light, while wanting to hide away from the world. I'd say though, that despite all the awkward trials and tribulations that occurred because of the way my early childhood shaped me, at 32, I'm nearly a stable human being. I'm not totally stable, but who is really?
Stable or not, 31 years later, I have a Mom, a Dad, a brother. And a big sister. She's probably one of the people who keeps me stable the most. Even though we are far apart by measurable distance, we are so very close. 30 years ago, because of experimental treatments, she kicked cancer's ass. Today, she is alive, well, and has a family of her own. Life would not be the same without her, and it would not be the same had she (we, even. the whole family) not had to suffer the atrocities that go along with childhood cancer.
but first, let us take a selfie.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. As such I'm posting this tid-bit of my life story, in hopes to bring to light that when childhood cancer strikes, it doesn't just affect the child and parents, it affects the siblings too. Undoubtedly it affects the extended family in ways I can't even imagine as well. When I was working at Booster Juice, we set a second cup beside the tip jar, and labeled it "Relay for Life donations" and I had a customer notice that the donations cup was significantly more full then the tip jar. He said to me "Don't you sometimes want to just pour that cup," pointing at the Relay for Life cup, "into your cup?" It was all I could do to not to reach across the counter and smack him upside the head. I simply raised my eyebrows and cooly said "No." and turned to make him his smoothie. So, to the random guy in the Booster Juice, this post is for you. And for people like you. Cancer is evil. Even if the person suffering beats it, it shakes families to the core, and it's somebodies cause. It's my cause.
Also, in honour of Childhood Cancer Awareness month, I'm holding an auction on Facebook. It runs until the 19th, at 7pm CST (my time, here in Saskatchewan) There are 8 items up for auction on my SpinHeartSpin Facebook page, and 31% of the moneys raised will go to my favourite support organization for families, specifically children, who have been affected by childhood cancer: Camp Circle o'Friends. Not only did I attend that camp as a child, but I volunteered until life responsibilities made it impossible for me to attend camp. Also, I plan to match the 31% personally as well. So, please, if you see this, share it! Break my bank!! Please help me donate to a wonderful cause. My cause. Bonus for you, you get something really unique and awesome out of it too. Something physical to hold onto, and to remind you to live each day like it's your last, because whatever happens today, may shake the foundation of who you are. And it is your last day, your last day of being the person you are right now. Even the minute things change you, even if just slightly.
Thank you for getting through this post. It became something of a Teal Deer. But I suppose that's what happens when you talk about something so important to you.
Much love to everyone out there dealing with something life altering/shattering/redefining. It's not easy, but you will pull through.
**Turns out Aunty was 21. Still so young, and not ready for that responsibility. But I think she did a good job. Love you Aunty!!