Bone scans and blue skies

On Wednesday, my sister had her first appointment with her oncologist. It was a two hour appointment and took place in the early morning. By 8:00 PM, my brother and I both had stomachs that were in knots after a long day of waiting and worrying. Why hadn't she called us? How bad is it? It turns out that she and her husband went to lunch with the oncologist (who is a friend of a friend), picked up their son from school and then went to a baseball game. That's life with cancer, I guess. Except the lunch with the oncologist part, I'm sure that's a bit unusual. Anyway, she quite forgot about us and was just doing her life.

To the news then: we can breath what I think of as a half sigh of relief because the tests show that the cancer hasn't spread to her bones or liver. Only a half sigh because her cancer is invasive and she will have to have 4 1/2 months of intravenous and oral chemotherapy plus radiation, so it's going to be a hard road for her, but we are relieved that it isn't worse.

My hope for a clear bone scan came true. My greater wish for my sister's body to be free of cancer hovers on the horizon. I dream of blue skies and that Irving Berlin song is in my head all the time. Maybe her life will never be exactly "normal" again. But things will get easier, surely. What next, big sky?


A moment

I haven't felt the urge to take photos in quite a few months. I've felt heavy in my body, slow in my head and not exactly brimming with creativity. The last photos I posted here were taken last year. I've thought many times lately that I ought to get out there and take pictures and that pressure really didn't work in my favor. I just ended up feeling shitty that I wasn't doing anything creative. "Should's" are really throttling and don't work so well with the reality of chronic illness. So, I had a moment today where I just wanted to stop and take pictures, and for that I'm grateful. There was no pressure, no judgment, nothing but deliberation and a bit of wonder.

[click to enlarge]


My sister has breast cancer

I might as well just come out and say it right off the bat. It's not like she or the family was eased into the idea: she found a lump, had an ultrasound and had a mastectomy in a matter of weeks. Days after the surgery, her oncologist told her that she has Stage 3 invasive cancer. This was one week ago. She has to have blood tests and CT scans and an MRI and a bone scan to see if the cancer has spread to her brain, liver, bones. Her world has turned upside down and I stand here full of love and anger and fear, wondering how I can help her face this.

Tomorrow, I'm taking my sister to have a bone scan. Over 25 years ago, she was there with me when I had a bone scan. I was living in the east Kootenays, with my parents, and flew alone to Vancouver (where my sister was living) to see a pain specialist and have the scan. At the time, they had no idea what was causing my pain and had run out of tests they could do at the local hospital. I was 17 and my sister was 24, and she helped me face this uncertainty. They weren't looking for cancer, but I was scared and unsure and she was there for me. I told my sister that I would like to be able to return the favour and accompany her. This is one small thing I can do.

Twenty five years ago, my glowing bones showed nothing: the scan was normal. Tomorrow, after the radioactive tracer sinks into my sister's bones, I pray that her scan will echo mine. In this nothingness, I hope we will find common ground.

I had a very hard time creating an image that captured my hope and longing as well as my feelings of fierce protectiveness of my sister. This bone scan is one small part of her journey, but in this I offer up my support to her, my hope for her, my love for her. I will stand beside her and do whatever I can to help her through. There is so much more that she will face: chemotherapy, radiation and the suffering they bring. This image is my talisman.

[click to enlarge image]