I recalled how, when I was leaving for my surgery, my sister Carolyn and I took a walk in my backyard. I picked and handed her a tiny yellow daisy, which she kept and framed.
Two years later, I'd recovered from my surgery and had no evidence of disease. About this time, Carolyn went for a routine check-up. The scan showed a large mass in her abdomen, and she was sent for a biopsy. Shortly thereafter, when she called to let me know, I learned what it felt like to be on the other side of a cancer diagnosis.
My precious, angel sister had cancer -- a large sarcoma tumor wrapped around her kidney. I was devastated. My whole family and I were so afraid of losing her. I couldn't imagine my life without her. I prayed and wept and begged God not to take her from us. "We still need her!" I pleaded.
A decision, then preparations
We all agreed she should come to MD Anderson. Knowing that surgery would be a tremendous ordeal, Carolyn's physician, Peter Pisters, M.D., decided to postpone it for a while. But when the tumor showed growth, surgery couldn't be put off any longer.
Meanwhile, I tried to be there for my sister as she'd been for me. We spent many hours on the phone talking, praying and preparing for her surgery and recovery. If I was half the comfort my sister had been to me, I'd be satisfied. I think she did come to depend on me. After all, I had been there and come through on the other side.
The day of surgery, I met Carolyn, her husband and son at the hospital. We hugged, then she gave me a little flower just like the one I'd given her. It was our symbol of hope, expressing that we would always be there for one another no matter what.
Faith, not fear
After the surgery, Dr. Pisters told us Carolyn had fared better than he'd expected.
He'd removed an 8-pound tumor, her kidney, spleen and part of her diaphragm, but she was OK. Our prayers had been answered.
Carolyn's recovery was long and arduous. I stayed with her at the hospital often. I remember stroking her hair, and she would say "Hmmm," like it felt so good. I was happy to be able to bring her comfort -- to care for her as she'd cared for us.
Today Carolyn and I are both cancer survivors. We live with fear of recurrence, yet we treasure each day. I'm so grateful that she and I had each other to cry to, to share our feelings with, and to remind each other to have faith, not fear.
Life is like that. When you hit tough times, look for an angel holding out a little yellow flower of hope. Take it, hold onto it, and someday pass it on.