Features, Top Stories

It should have been me

I wish that it had been me instead. 

I was 12 years old, still living in my favorite polka dot jean pants. But lately, a sinking feeling in me had whispered that I needed to grow up.  

This was not what I meant. 

***

Four out of my family of six was gathered around sitting cross-legged at the coffee table in our unfinished living room. The floor, still awaiting new carpeting, was rougher than I remembered from the previous night. The weekly choice of Friday night take-out was from the local Chinese food restaurant. Again, something about the smell of the fried egg rolls and vegetable lo mein was off, unappetizing.  

My mom and my dad smiled at me and my younger brother as we watched the newest episode of “Girl Meets World” on Disney Channel.  

It seemed so important not to miss. 

I was missing my sister, who would normally make terrible jokes during dinner. I think she gets that from my dad. I knew she would be back soon. I was old enough to realize that even though she had passed out at work that day, that the keeping her overnight was only a precaution. 

My younger brother was still in the “cry-when-my-parents-leave-the-house-for-too-long” phase, so it was apparent in his quiet that he missed her more. 

But why wasn’t my older brother home yet?  

Probably just at a friend’s house. Like usual.  

Ugh. 

I had just missed the last two scenes over-analyzing my surroundings. Now I was lost in the context. 

***

The end credits started rolling as “UP NEXT” rose from the bottom of the screen. I was quiet trying to observe what I should expect. Why was everyone else quiet? 

I turn and my mom was beckoning my younger brother and I to sit next to her on the couch. My brother took it as a great opportunity to cuddle. 

The air felt thick.  

“Okay, so I know this will be difficult to understand…” 

My mom’s voice trailed off as the atmosphere became heavy. I look to my dad who is just looking out our front window. Strange, since it was so dark outside. 

“Your sister is sick…”  

Stop pausing, I think to myself. 

“She has Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia it’s a…” 

This time my mom does not trail off and it is me who stops listening. Or maybe I could not hear her anymore. 

The tears come before I know why I am crying. I know that disease, I had just seen it in a show I was watching. 

What show? What show?  

It doesn’t matter.  

The recognition only flashes across my brother’s face when the word “cancer” tumbles from my momw’s mouth. 

What a disgusting word. 

I still cannot make out what she is telling us, so I glance around and see my dad’s shoulders shaking. Is he crying? He must be crying.  

I look back to my mom who has one arm around my brother and one arm around me. As she tightens her embrace, her ever-present charm bracelet digs into my shoulder. 

My brother is a mess. He has always been sensitive, which is now very apparent in his meltdown. I try to bring it together. 

Easier to say then do. 

But I must show my brother it will be fine.  

***

The next hour was a mix of tears, explanations of many terms and plans I know I would soon forget. My mind was too full. I could not absorb another word. 

Comfort of any sort only came as I lied in my bed that night. The pink walls now nauseated me. What a childish color, I need to grow up. Every object that littered my room seemed wrong. 

The stuffed animals in my bed, the pink knobs on my dresser, the bookshelf filled with books of fairies and fantasies and myth. 

It was all wrong. I want it all gone. 

I need to grow up.   

I shut my light off to find some solace in the dark. Only then did I find myself praying to a God I had absolutely no belief in. Starting as a prayer for my sister to be healthy, it then moved to an internal yell. 

Why was it her? She has so much going on, about to start her second year of college, so many friends and aspirations. 

Why couldn’t you have let it be me?  

It should have been me. 

***

My sister was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in August 2014. A few days later she started aggressive chemotherapy. After three months, on Oct. 31, her doctors declared she was in remission. However, she still had to continue chemotherapy for two years until 2016. She had over 30 hospital visits and multiple infections but was finally cancer free.  

She now is a registered dietetic nutritionist, licensed dietician, and a certified lactation consultant. She also just gave birth two months ago to my nephew Kenai, an amazing feat because she thought she may never have kids due to the treatments. She is very healthy and living a happy life.