Posted by: workforcookies | June 10, 2009

Life stops, then starts again

teal-ribbon2WYou may have noticed that I haven’t posted on this blog in a while. Thirty days to be exact. On May 14th, my sister had surgery to drain cysts on her ovaries. It was supposed to be a routine surgery. I was at work and I turned the ringer on my phone up. I was just waiting to get the call that everything was okay. Instead, when my mom called, she said: “It’s cancer and it’s bad.”
Bad might just have been the understatement of our lifetime. It’s horrific. Horrific because it’s ovarian cancer, at least stage three, maybe four. It’s horrific because it is aggressive. It’s horrific because even though her ovaries appeared fine during an ultrasound in September, just nine months later there is too much disease to operate. It’s horrific because it has filled her lungs with fluid making it hard for her to breath. It’s horrific because she’s my sister and the thought of a world without her makes it hard for me to breathe.
I flew to Texas to be with her for two weeks. As much as I missed my children, my family, I had little time to think about home. There was much work to be done. Calling doctor’s offices, scheduling appointments, faxing medical records, etc.
When each of my children were born, my sister selflessly left her children to come help me usher my own into the world. I’ll never forget how she went to the grocery store, bringing my eldest with her to give my husband and I a chance to sleep alongside our new baby, and returned with a car full of groceries that she used to cook all of our meals over the next two weeks. I’d often wished I could return the favor, but not like this.
By the time I left Texas my sister had her first chemo treatment and she was fully feeling the effects. It killed me to leave her, lying in her bed.
Returning to my own children brought me bittersweet feelings of joy. I wanted to hug them and never let them go, but I also wanted to go back. Back to a time when I didn’t question whether my sister, their aunt, would be able to watch them grow and weigh in on all the parenting issues I’m sure to face over the years. Back to a time when I didn’t have to wonder if my daughter and I might have a similar time bomb lying in wait in our DNA. Back to a time when I didn’t have intimate knowledge of cancer and all that it can do the body and spirit. Back to a time when my sister took care of me. Back to a time when my sister was a mom, not a cancer patient.
I called my sister tonight and felt like I could go back, even if just for a moment. When I heard her telling her kids they couldn’t have cookies because she was about to put dinner on the table, I knew I was talking to a mom, not a cancer patient. I’m holding onto that memory, and that is how I will think of my sister through the rest of her fight. I know it will be long and filled with many days that she is my sister, a cancer patient. But when she comes out on the other side, I know she will once again be my sister, a teacher, a friend, a mom.



  1. Very very moving Bets. Thanks for letting us share. And know that you’re right that Ella will be all those things again when she’s finished the fight.

    We think of Ella and all of you every day. Stay strong.


  2. I will never look at my girls or at life the same as before. I never thought about life without my two loving and beautiful daughters who with their husbands have worked to have a happy and loving environment for their precious children. My girls have met many challenges in their lifetime but nothing like this. I have never been prouder of them. They immediately took action to get the best medical care possible for Ella’s fight against this horrific disease. They, their husbands, families, friends, acquaintances, and churches have prayed for God’s mercy and believe Ella will get well and stay well. I believe this as well. No one will ever forget the strength, determination, and loving way in which Ella and Betsy and their husbands have dealt with this life threatening disease. They will forever be a beacon of support and comfort to others in the future as well as now.
    With love,

  3. Betsy, in some small way, I know what you are going through and I know that all I can do to help is just be here. So that’s what you can count on from me- I am here!

    All my love to you and your family.


  4. Betsy, I could not read this without tears in my eyes. You are so strong and you have realized it’s your turn to take care of Ella instead of Ella taking care of you. What a wonderful gift. Love will get us all through this. We are so lucky to have come from a family with love at the center. Faith is hard for everyone but this is a time to let faith be our wisdom and show our love all we can.
    We are so very proud of you and Best of all Ella knows how much we all love her and thats the best medicine of all. We are forever here for you.
    Love You
    Guy and the girls

  5. As an only child, I can only be envious of the love between you and your sister. I am following Ella’s journey and I know she wouldn’t be where she is without you, your mom, and all her family, extended family and friends. Yesterday’s results were very encouraging, and I pray that this will cohtinue.

    Pepper (Your Mom’s friend)

  6. Betsy, I have thanked God for you and your mom every time I have prayed for Ella and Todd and the kids. The combination of technical and emotional and spiritual support you have brought to this situation is a gift only you could provide.

    And thank you for writing about Ella. You write so honestly and so beautifully…that in itself is a great comfort to everyone who loves you and your family.

    All of us in the Wednesday evening Chapel congregation will continue to pray for all of you.


  7. Dear Betsy, as I read your blog today, I thought of happier times–when you, Ella, your Mom and Dad moved in next door to us—what a joy it was to have neighbors and friends like you.
    My thoughts and prayers are being offered up to our Lord every day and night. I pray that you will feel His presence and find courage and hope and strength during these trying times.
    June Turner

  8. Dear Betsy, Jim passed along your moving story about your sister. I read it a week ago and just didn’t know what to say to you, I still don’t. He had told us about her illness but to read it in your words brought tears to my eyes. It’s just so unbelievably sad. What a horrible thing for you and your family to have to endure.
    Jim called last night and told us she’s having an operation at Mayo next Mon. Please know you’ll all be in our prayers and Don and I will be sending good thoughts from here in Ohio.

  9. […] He took two knock-kneed steps toward me and it became obvious to me that it was too late, he’d already tee-teed in his Pull-Up. This sort of spill wouldn’t have bothered him in a diaper but because Pull-Ups aren’t nearly as absorbent, he could feel the wetness and he didn’t like it. (Team Parents 1/ Team Kid 0) That night he put on the night time Pull Up and the next morning I left town to take care of my sister who is battling ovarian cancer. […]

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