A year ago, my sister Joni went to the emergency room with abdominal pain she could no longer manage. She had lived with the pain for a while. The diagnosis rocked our world. Colon cancer that had spread to other organs. Stage 4. Metastasis. Abscess. Surgical repair. Chemotherapy. Words we’ve all heard but sound so much different when it’s someone you love. It was a lot for us to try and understand.
A few days earlier we had celebrated Easter at mom’s house. Joni was in her element. Cooking. Preparing new dishes. Surprising mom with more food than any of us needed. It wasn’t about need. Joni liked to make sure everyone’s likes were met. She also loved to experiment with new recipes. There wasn’t enough room in the oven or on the counter to hold all the love she shared with us.
Her laughter filled the room. Conversation with her was lively and pointed. Joni had no trouble articulating her well-crafted opinion. While some of that was inherited, Joni honed her skills through reading everything she could.
Easter was the last holiday we spent together. In six short weeks we were planning Joni’s funeral. Actually, we were carrying out the wishes she had shared with family after the diagnosis. She knew what she wanted and those things that had no place in a celebration of her life. Faith, family and friends provided the framework wrapped in music and stories of the person we loved.
The time between her diagnosis and death were not the best times of Joni’s life. But she faced it with a stoic, unwavering faith. “I’m not afraid of dying. It’s the rest of this crap I don’t like.” She confided from her bed. Joni’s family and her friends miss her deeply.
On this anniversary of my sister’s diagnosis, I encourage you take care of yourself. To see your doctor when things don’t seem right. And to have regular cancer screenings. Treatment options are so much better when it is caught early.