I still vividly remember the worst day of my life so far. I was teaching in Arizona. My 5th graders were in Art and I was at my desk planning for the next week. My cell phone rang. It was my mom. My sister, Lisey, had just given birth to my nephew the day before. She and her family live in Golden, British Columbia. I was obviously very concerned when I picked it up. When I heard the tears in her voice, I thought the worst. Something was wrong with the baby.
It wasn’t the baby.
My sister had been diagnosed with estrogen-induced breast cancer at 28 years old. I fell on the floor, I couldn’t breathe.
I sat in my car, sobbing, while I informed my family and her best friends. At the time, my parents, who were divorced, had not spoken to each other in 10 years. One of the toughest things I have ever had to do was call my father and tell him my little sister had cancer.
But Lisey had a plan. She was getting a mastectomy, and she was hitting the chemo and the radiation hard. She was a stubborn, determined pain in the neck. There was no way she was backing down from this. She has never a person who put stock in appearance; she was willing to do whatever it took to get better. After a long treatment cycle, and receiving chemotherapy far from home, she was deemed “in remission” and we all felt like the nightmare was over.
Two years later, Lisey thought she had vertigo. She was falling off her bike, having trouble with balance. The doctors discovered that her breast cancer had metastasized to her brain. She had a malignant tumor that needed to be removed immediately. She was airlifted to Kelowna, British Columbia, for surgery. This call was no less devastating than the first. I flew immediately to the hospital to help support her. The surgery was a success. Her husband and I brought her home two days later. The news was good, and we were hoping this was the last time.
In February, I got the call again. Lisey was in tremendous pain, in both her back and her hips. Her doctor recommended a bone scan. Lisey’s cancer had metastasized to her bones and blood. I went out to British Columbia, to take her to her radiation treatments. We spent 4 days together in Kelowna. Between radiation treatments and tears, we were able to just be together.
When we met with the doctors, they informed us that they weren’t using radiation to treat the cancer, but to lessen her pain. They showed us the scan, and we realized why they couldn’t treat it all. It was everywhere.
This was not the way we had thought this would go. We planned to someday live next door to one another. What about our plan?
Lisey has been my best friend for a long time. She was my first roommate. She was my biggest champion. When she moved out west, from Montreal, with her now husband, I was sure my heart was broken. Instead, our bond became stronger. As we grew into adults, I realized how fortunate I am that I have my sister in my life as my best friend.
Recently, my sister has had complications that put her in the hospital for weeks. She is home, but struggles to walk around the house, and move from bed to couch. She says she is feeling stronger every day, and I am so proud of her fight. She is determined to walk her daughter and son down the aisle at their weddings, though her kids are 5 and 8.
Often I am angry. Sometimes, I can’t breathe. Sometimes I can’t stop crying. Sometimes I am happy, and it’s because I have forgotten for a minute. I got tired of feeling helpless. I decided to stop feeling useless, and take control. I couldn’t do much from Michigan. I couldn’t take her kids to school, I couldn’t help her shower, or clean her house. I have never felt so powerless. I decided to take action. Lisey has so many things to worry about, I decided to try to take one of those worries away.
If you are interested in helping support Lisey and her family, the link is below. If you cannot, then please help support and pray for anyone living with metastatic cancer. It is not only her nightmare.
Emilie Schiff is a Math Consultant and Instructional Coach in Lake Orion, Michigan. Emilie is originally from Montreal, Quebec. She studied Physical Education and Kinesiology at McGill University. She currently resides in West Bloomfield, Michigan. She moved to the US after meeting her husband Scott, while they both worked for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Emilie is a mom of two amazing half Canadian hockey players Max