To My Sisters
I’m incredibly lucky to have four sisters. I loved growing up with a house full of girls who were built-in best friends. I wanted to be just like my older sisters growing up (actually, I still want to be like them) and was so excited when they would let me tag along with them and their friends. Me and my younger sister, Samantha, are only 18 months apart so we’ve always been grouped as “the youngest”. My mom even dressed us the same as kids. Now, as adults we don’t get to see each other as often because two of us live in Toronto while the other three live in Windsor but when we all get together it is so special. We can talk for hours and laugh at the littlest things. The five of us together is my happy place.
To my sisters,
Thank you for being my best friends, my shoulders to cry on, my running partners, my amazing role models and my soulmates. I can’t believe I am so lucky to have you all in my life. I’ll never forget the day I had to call each of you to tell you I had breast cancer. I knew your hearts were breaking for me and for what was to come for all of us.
Even though I was so scared, I took a lot of comfort from your love and support. When I think back to my year of treatment, I think about a few days after my first chemo when all five of us were cuddled in my bed watching stand up comedy or when I wouldn’t let you leave the hospital after my mastectomy because I just needed you guys with me. Tara, my second mom, thank you for your countless visits four hours from your home and family.
One I’m particularly fond of is when you knew I was devastated when my reconstruction was failing. You knew I needed you without me even having to ask. Katherine, thank you for your daily text messages making sure I knew you were right beside me in spirit when we couldn’t be in the same city. I’ll never look at the side by side women emojis without thinking of you and your love and support. Melissa, thank you for taking such good care of me everyday while everyone else was working and you were at home on maternity leave with your three sons. I’ll never forget the day that I was so weak from chemo lying on your couch when your 2-year-old son who was potty training pooed on the carpet right in front of me. Your life was hectic enough without you having to take such good care of me too. Samantha, thank you for making me laugh every day for a year. That must have been such a hard job, but I appreciated it so much. Thank you also for lying in bed with me until I’d fall asleep when I would be so sick from chemo. Only a sister can crawl into bed with you when you feel so nauseous and tired. We were close before I was diagnosed with breast cancer but now we are even more inseparable. I am the person I am today because of each of you. I am so proud to be one of the Piercell girls.
I feel that Emily’s battle with cancer brought her and I (and our entire family) closer. The thought of losing her made me scared. I tried not to think about her being sick and put it out of my mind as much as I could, but the thought of losing Emily made me appreciate her and my other sisters more than ever. It was difficult being away from her – I wanted to be there to help her and when I would be with her in Toronto, I would sometimes feel guilty that I was not with my husband and children. Emily, I don’t know if you’re ready (or if you will ever be ready) to see the bright side of cancer, but I truly do feel like it showed us how strong you are and it brought our family closer together.
Emily’s cancer diagnosis came as such a huge shock. It made me suddenly very aware that there are things beyond our control in life. It didn’t make sense that such a young and healthy person could be faced with such an awful diagnosis. Emily and I have always been very close but helping to care for her during her sickest days was a very powerful experience. It was heart wrenching to see my sister suffering so much, but I also felt grateful to be given the opportunity to show my love to her in her darkest moments. That type of intimacy between sisters is very special. We’ve all grown so much through this experience because we had to work through so many emotions together. Being a part of such a large family meant that Emily had a lot of support but it also meant that there were many personalities dealing with the stress of her sickness in different ways. We were all so scared for Emily but we knew we had to be strong for her. Now I think we have a greater appreciation for the fact that we can handle anything life gives us. What has surprised me about the experience is just how strong my little sister is! Right from the day of her diagnosis and including all of her painful treatments, she has been so tough. She’s shown such grit. You really get to see what someone is made of when you watch them fight cancer. Her strength has been an inspiration to me.
When Emily was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was a worst nightmare come true. As my baby sister I am supposed to be able to help her through anything and I didn’t have a clue how make this better. I spent a lot of time crying once the kids were in bed and between meetings at work. I tried not to show Emily my fear. It most certainly brought us closer, though we were inseparable before the diagnosis too. I was happy to help and happy to have her let me help. Making healthy meals, bringing her to appointments and watching countless episodes of Ellen were a joy, as each day was a step closer to her feeling better again. They weren’t always good days. The medication made her tired and moody. Some days were great but some days it felt like I couldn’t say anything right. Today she helps me more than I help her! Emily watches my kids and keeps at me to go running and to the gym with her. She has boundless energy during our workouts together. We will continue to grow old together through our ups and downs. I am not surprised about any of Emily’s journey. I knew she was tough even before the diagnosis. What I am surprised about is how truly helpless this disease makes you feel. Never before have I been terrified in this way. I’m still wounded from the fear of losing someone I love so dearly. I am beyond relieved that Emily has made such a strong recovery.
Emily’s cancer diagnosis shook up my entire life. When she called to tell me, it didn’t process – I didn’t know what to think. My first thought was there is no way this could happen to my sister. There must be a mistake – it can’t be true. After the reality of the situation sunk in, it was operation get her better. At the time, my work was flexible and allowed me to take the time I needed to help take care of her. I tried to do whatever it took to make her smile. It almost seemed like I was the only person who could make Emily laugh and that was very special to me. Seeing her smile throughout some of her most gruesome times was all I needed; it was in those times that I knew she had so much more fight in her and she would conquer your diagnosis. Now that you are cancer free and the hardest part is behind us, your diagnosis made me a better person. I am stronger now. I know how to put others before me. And I am inspired by your strength. Emily’s cancer diagnosis affected our relationship both good and bad. It was a rollercoaster of emotions. We had our good days and our bad but our bond is like nothing else. Through thick and thin we are truly best friends. I knew when we banded together, we would get through anything – and we did!
By Emily Piercell