By Tracy Renee Lee
Six weeks ago, my sister-in-law was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. This devastating announcement was unexpected. She and my brother rushed off to a cancer treatment center in another state. We have great expectations that her treatment there will prove miraculous.
I traveled to Louisiana this weekend to see my brother and his wife. We are expecting results from a recent blood test to inform us of whether her condition has improved, remained the same, or worsened. We are praying for improvement.
My sister-in-law has always been very health conscious. Among us, she has been the one who has deprived herself of any food-related pleasure, has maintained a routine exercise program, has avoided excessive sun exposure, and seen her doctor annually for check-ups; yet, it is she who has extensive cancer.
She suffers pain, nausea, confusion, sadness, self-blame, fear, exhaustion, depression, etc. My brother does too. We are all confused. We wonder how this happened and what should be done to save her? She and my brother research exhaustively, potential treatments (natural, of course) and the rest of us pray intently for her return to health.
We discussed possible treatment options this weekend. There are so many obstacles to obtaining them, primarily distance and expense. My brother and his wife are professional people; however, her treatments within the last six-weeks have already exhausted their financial reserves. They are now looking at creative options to afford additional treatment.
My sister-in-law will return to work tomorrow. These past six weeks have nearly exhausted her FMLA, therefore, to retain her qualification for health insurance, as ill as she is, she must work.
She has hope for a holistic treatment located in a state far away from where she lives. The cost is exorbitant. She and my brother will be forced to sell their home, their vehicles, their investments, their life insurances, as well as all of their possessions. All that they have worked for over the past 20 years will soon be gone. They will be left with nothing more than their love, each other, barely enough money to afford her chosen treatment, and their hope that she will survive.
I sat with my brother yesterday after church. With the loss of every worldly possession including their home, they have many decisions to make. We spoke of them possibly relocating after her treatments to a state that is friendlier to alternative pain treatments, primarily the use of medical marijuana. Both my brother and my sister-in-law would lose their professional licenses should they unlawfully utilize this option in their state of residence. My sister-in-law, however, is a naturalist and is intolerant to conventional pain options utilized thus far in her journey back to health.
Moving to the mid-west will isolate them from family and friends as her treatments bankrupt them. At this juncture, they both suffer tremendously; she, the pain and uncertainty of recovery; he, the fear of losing his wife, the uncertainty of financially affording her needs, and the reality of bankruptcy. Our family suffers the sadness that we may lose one of our members, the worry of their financial plight, and the pain of his and her sufferings.
My brother is understandably filled with rage, fear, and depression. It is painful to witness him suffer so deeply. My sister-in-law is understandably obsessed with research. She is trying to find what will save her life. I am scrambling trying to ensure that should the worst happen, we can afford to get them home for interment. I can’t even imagine that I am doing such a thing. I feel guilty that my focus is the possibility of her death, but I understand that it is my responsibility. I do it silently, however, so that they do not have to consider this burden on top of everything else from which they suffer.
We understand that life ends, however, we did not expect that she would be fighting for survival so young. We pray, hope, and plan that she will live. As a funeral practitioner, however, I am unwillingly forced to consider and budget for what our family hopes will not be our reality, the loss of her life.
Six months ago, I lost my grandson. My anguish was, and continues to be, devastating. My brother and sister-in-law were kind, supportive, and helped me through it. Should this become their reality, I pray I can muster my strength and help them as they have helped me, to feel my Savior’s love and to know that one day our family will reunite.
Families are forever, and I believe that with all of my being. Were it not true, why would there be love? The body is weak and must therefore perish. Even through death, the spirit, as does love, continues. Reason dictates that reunion is not only just, it is imminent. For this, I am grateful. It is what allows me to survive.