When Cancer Knocks On the Door
On July 2017, the doctor noticed irregular activity in my younger sister’s thyroid. She was a bright-eyed student entering her first year in law school who now had to face the idea of cancer.
In our case, her cancer was physically invisible, but its presence changed our life entirely. As joy and a greater appreciation for her life filled us every day in 2018, we were met with the reality that cancer has a way of lingering long after its diagnosis. For my family, that door was once shut but in February 2019, my sister had to receive a series of tests and scans to check on her body again. Now that we knew cancer better, we approached these experiences with a certain tenacity.
My sister’s diagnosis two years ago injected itself into our daily routines. I kept working and taking graduate classes, my dad still worked for about six days a week, and my mom continued to teach. My sister kept working part-time between surgeries and even during her downtime she managed to study to retake the LSAT. No one told us how to handle her cancer diagnosis, so we just kept walking through every emotion and experience. We clenched our jaws, shook our heads in disbelief, held back the tears, and just kept going. After months of that, the relief that came when we received the news that the surgeries and radiation successfully removed any cancerous traces and that she was officially cancer free. These were the best moments in our lives.
However, this year, the fear set in again and I could hear a knock at the door. That knock reminds me of the vulnerability that cancer causes. It causes you to look at the human body and wonder, why would you want to hurt yourself? Why my family? Why my sister? Why now? I thought those questions were over the moment that door was shut a year ago, but the knock came back, when we realized that this “thing” is still in our lives. The recovery of a post-cancer life has no written script. There isn’t a map that shows you what’s next or gives you the option to find the nearest exit. The knock is an emotional and physical reminder that the fight against cancer continues.
I ask myself, who likes fighting? Who likes to have an opponent an enemy that wants to take you down? Someone or something that reminds you of your weaknesses and insecurities. For you, it could be health related or maybe it’s a traumatic experience you had growing up. Regardless, when this “thing” reveals itself again, it exposes feelings you’ve tried to mask or haven’t dealt with yet because you’re still recovering from the last fight. What my sister’s diagnosis and recovery have taught me is there are two sides to a fight. Before the fight starts, it’s unclear about who the stronger side is. For my family, I no longer question our strength. We were once in the dark, but now we are on the stronger side in the fight against cancer. Today, we stand in victory. The knock on the door is meant to intimidate, scare, and threaten us but we have built strength within each other. When one fighter weakens, another strengthens. The way to win the fight is to out-number, out-grow, and out-believe the enemy. So, today we choose to believe that a knock is only a reminder that we won once, so we will win again. Our side is stronger, more prepared and more equipped for battle, so the fight has already been called a victory before it even begins.