Tough Stuff

Minutes after my first husband and I were settling into our honeymoon suite, I got a call from my father advising me that my oldest sister had gone from the wedding reception to emergency.

“I think you better come,” he told me solemnly.  So we packed up and headed back.

I had known that my sister, who had a congenital heart problem all her life, had been particularly tired leading up to the big day.  Her eyes had appeared heavily lidded and she’d had ugly open sores on her face and chest.

By the time we reached the hospital, the family had already met with the medical team, and received the diagnosis: acute leukemia.  Prognosis:  she had one month to live, a year if she had any fight in her.  She was not yet thirty.

It was a stormy February when we buried my sister, and despite the cold and treacherous weather conditions, many came out to pay their respects and talk about her fighting spirit.  She had survived for fourteen years.

Recently, I got a call from the home where my eighty-nine-year-old mother is residing.  She had only been released from hospital, where she was treated for pneumonia, for one day and they were sending her back because her blood pressure was topping at 282/97.  That night she was released from the hospital and everything was back to normal.

“How did she not have a stroke?” a nurse friend of mine asked.

“I don’t know,” was my honest response.  “Guess the women in my family are just made of tough stuff.”

Oh, and she did tell me that she wants to live long enough to see her youngest great-granddaughter play with her older sister.  The baby is now three months.

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Permission to write, paint, and imagine are the gifts I gave myself when chronic illness hit - a fair exchange: being for doing. Relevance is an attitude. Humour essential.

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