I took these photos back in September, when it was still a bit too warm to wear knee high stockings and warm plaid skirts. For some reason then, I wasn’t happy with how they had turned out and kept them to myself. But today, as I searched for something that felt right to post, I came across them again and, obviously, am sharing them now. I wasn’t really sure whether I should post today, or what. However, my desire this year is to revive my writing on this blog as the diary it once was. And I need to write about this week. About yesterday. About the last six months, and everything that has seemed to happen so very quickly it still feels unreal.
If you are not one for heavier subjects, I would advise you to stop reading here, perhaps scroll the pretty pictures and skip the text, perhaps move on to another blog. I absolutely don’t blame anyone for wanting to keep their lives cheerful, especially today. And, if all you do is comment on my outfit, that is a-ok. This post is mainly for my own benefit. Writing is a great catharsis, after all.
Top, thrifted | Skirt, Lindy Bop | Vest, thrifted | headscarf, thrifted | Socks, Amazon | shoes, thrifted
About six months ago, my aunt Mary found out that she had an aggressive and rare form of Leukemia. The survival rate of this cancer was fairly low — nonexistent without treatment, and chancy with chemotherapy. Though the prognosis sounded bleak, the first few months were hopeful. Aunt Mary was responding excellently to chemotherapy: not feeling sick, no loss of hair, none of the horrible things one hears about chemo. Just smooth sailing and a seeming miracle as it seemed she was fighting the cancer very well. I wasn’t able to visit her as her immune system was completely gone and it seemed I constantly had one sick kid or was sick myself. But from afar, I prayed and emailed her occasionally, and hoped. Hoped that she’d be one of the lucky few who go into remission. Hoped that she’d beat this beast. Hoped that she, unlike my great-grandfather, would not succumb to the cancer’s almost-inevitable demise.
Then about a month ago, she went in for another treatment and found her platelets were too low to be treated. She had to wait, and gain strength and let her body gear itself up toward chemotherapy again. This was a little alarming, but seemed to be a normal enough reaction that I still hoped. After a little while she gained strength and her platelet count was good, so back into chemotherapy she went. I didn’t hear much from her at this time because all of her strength was sapped from the chemotherapy. But what little I did hear seemed okay. Not terrible, not great, but just… okay. I prayed, and waited, and prayed more. Still hoping that she’d be able to beat the disease invading her body.
On Sunday, though, we all received a shock. The doctor told my cousins that the chemotherapy was no longer working. There was one more expensive experimental drug they could try, but that would take a week to get if it was even approved, and he didn’t think Aunt Mary had a week to spare. The leukemia was not only aggressive but it mutated and became resistant to drugs over time.
Perhaps I should have been more prepared. Perhaps I should have been less hopeful. With the rarity of this cancer, and its aggressiveness, and its ability to resist therapy, perhaps I should have known the inevitable. But hope is a funny thing, and I am an optimist who sees and wishes for the best from everyone and everything. When I got the news I was at church, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. My wonderful, beautiful, loving, humorous, amazing aunt was dying, and there was nothing anyone could do to fight it any more.
This entire week was a ball of waiting, and crying, and waiting more, and wishing I could get to my cousins sooner than I was able. Yesterday, the day before I would finally have been able to go to the hospital to say my goodbyes, she passed away. Today I will drive to my aunt’s home to see my cousins. Growing up, we were like one family; they are the sisters and younger brother I never had. Though we’ve grown up and apart over the years, I’ve never lost that sense of closeness to them. I dearly want to care for them and protect them from this hurt, but I know I can’t.
I haven’t fully processed this loss yet, and perhaps for a while it will seem unreal. The cancer was so quick and aggressive and I was never able to see her during her illness. I never saw her sick, and never really knew what it was like in person. In some ways, I am thankful to be able to remember her as she was, right before she found out she had cancer. The last time I saw her was a joyful one, at a wedding, and I will cherish that forever. But I wish I had been able to say goodbye one last time. I wish I had been able to be there for my cousins while they made some of the hardest decisions they’ll likely ever have to make.
If you have read this far, I thank you for being part of the comfort of community. I have already had messages from so many people who read my news on Facebook or Instagram. I may not respond to everyone, but I know you’ll understand. Please continue to pray for my family and especially my cousins and uncle as we all grieve and process life without Aunt Mary.
Aunt Mary holding my cousin Leia with me in the background at our first Valentine’s Day.