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When I’m Afraid

When I’m Afraid

Sorry I haven’t been around the past couple of weeks. Life got busy and scary as you can read below. This is a departure from my usual type of writing and I debated sharing it because it is so personal, but I find writing that’s “real” to be the most impactful and my prayer is that by sharing some of my struggles it encourages others. -Cher

The hospital air hits my face as the sliding doors open. It has that smell. Why do they all smell that way?

Today wasn’t supposed to go this way. I was thinking about picking some paint for the dining room. Maybe go for a swim with the kids. Enjoy the long weekend. But nothing turned to something in less than a day. My sister’s “pink eye” morphed into a brain tumor in hours. I was telling her to throw out her old makeup and get a stronger antibiotic. She considered going in to work. She felt fine. But her eye was so red, and I told her not to mess around with her eyes. She went in to a clinic. Something didn’t look right. They transferred her to the ER. The ER moved her to a small hospital. They did a CT scan. It showed something. But….it was probably nothing. An annoyance for sure. Some meds for a while. But lets do an MRI to be sure. They pulled out her many ear piercings with pliers and did 2 MRIs. And then we waited. And waited. I googled. It was the “nothing” I was sure- she had all the signs and symptoms. It was going to be fine. But why were we still waiting? 5 hours of waiting and she said her head hurt. She wanted Advil. They gave her morphine. For a headache? I tried not to read into it. They finally told her the news. A mass. The polite way of saying tumor. She took it well, she’s not overly emotional and I’m sure the morphine helped. But it was large, hiding behind her eye and wrapped around her carotid artery. It was serious. She texted me the news. Said I was the one she was most afraid to tell. I hate that. I want to be strong. I called her and spoke calmly. Repeating- it was ok. It was ok. It was ok. It’s GOING TO BE OK –but my words couldn’t hide my breathless, panicked tone.

I run around the house trying to pack my bag to go to her. Brain tumor. I’ve always had paranoia about them. Every headache or twitch- it crosses my mind. And here it is. There were no headaches or twitches though. It was pink eye. It was supposed to be pink eye. My face is so hot. I’m so hot. I pack a giant bag and rush to the hospital. I take her 10 granola bars and give her water she’s not supposed to have. I leave the hospital late and collapse into bed relying on Benadryl to put me to sleep.

More family is on the way to be here. Preparation gives my busy body something to do. I clean my house, replace all the burnt out light bulbs, buy toilet paper and insist my husband put weed pre-emergent on the yard. Now. No, it can’t wait. We have to do it now or weeds will grow in the spring. Now. Don’t let the weeds take root.

I go back to the hospital. She looks good- you’d never know. Just the reddish eye, though it’s turned her brown eye green. My eyelids look like split tomatoes. I’m sweaty and gross no matter how much I scrub and keep biting my tongue and staring at the fluorescent lights trying to dry the tears that keep pooling.

She is so strong. Joking even. Texting friends and family. She named the tumor Paul. How are we sisters? I want this peace. Even if it’s fake. I want to be able to at least fake calm. Not have every emotion spill out my eyes or mouth with no way to dam them up.

I bring her her daughter. She smiles and talks so calmly but I see the look in her eyes. It’s an intense stare beyond the smile and cheerful tone. That terror all mothers feels if they ever let their mind wander to leaving their child. I clumsily push out of the room before the tears fall. I want to be strong so much. I stare out the window and watch her daughter darting in and out the ICU room giggling. She has a cherry lollipop and is so happy. She went pee-pee in the hospital’s “funny potty” so her mama gave her a lollipop. Parenting and potty training from her bed in ICU. I go back in and am happy for 3 year olds. Every family needs them. Her mama gives her more lollipops and tells her she loves her 100 times.

My sister wants chocolate ice cream so I ask the nurse if it’s allowed (not that it would have stopped me). The nurse says no but then looks at her chart and says yes. The nurses are being too nice. Their eyes look sad when they see her. I bring a large chocolate Frosty back since it’s the closest to ice cream I can find. Everyone eventually leaves the room besides us. I slowly tear. For the first time she does too. She tells me not to make her cry. I make a joke, “I’ve made it this long!” haha. I tell her I love her. Which we never say. She says it back. I turn to leave and the tears pour out. By the time I get to the elevator I am literally choking. Coughing. Gasping. I can’t breathe. I rush to my car and collapse inside. Lay on the steering wheel and cry so hard I don’t know how I will stop. My grandmother comes over and puts her hand on my chest and her arm tightly around me. She’s always so soft. I sob and heave. I want to make it better. I’m the big sister. I’m the protector. I’m the one who beat up the kids who called her names in elementary and threatened the ex-husband to not mess with her during the divorce. And people believe me. They don’t mess with me. I will be crazy if needed and they know it. But I can’t scare this away.

I pray. I ask everyone I know to pray. God performs miracles. I’ve seen them with my own eyes. Received them. I know they happen. But how much do I need to pray? If I beg 1000 times is it enough? Give me a number. Give me a job. I will do it. I promise. Just restore her. Heal her. Please God.

I want to be annoyed at her boyfriend choices and roll my eyes at her messy room. I want to tell her to go back to college for the 3000th time. I want to see her cool makeup looks, envy her nails and go Christmas shopping together. I want to see her give her daughter lots more lollipops. Please God. Please.

My sister is at home recovering now. Thank you to all who prayed for her and please continue to do so. I have seen God’s hand and so many miracles. The older I get the more I see my need for Him. So while I hate all the tragedy, sickness and destruction in our sinful world- I know God can work good through it.

You meant to do me harm, but God meant it for good -so that it would come about as it is today, with many people’s lives being saved.- Genesis 50:20

-Cher