Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
My sister just learned she has breast cancer. She hasn&'t told anyone
else because we are twins and our relationship is closer than either of
ours with anyone else, including our husbands. She arrived and
immediately burst into tears. When she could finally talk, she told me
how scared and confused she is. She felt the lump and had somehow
managed to keep the secret even from me. (For the record I knew
something was wrong but she kept denying it.) I know she needs to
make some pretty important decisions. I want to help her, but her
husband and I don’t get along very well. I think he’s jealous of our
closeness. Her kids love me fine. I&'m scared too. Where do we start?
Breast cancer is not a death sentence. But virtually everyone has the
same reflexive response to the word “cancer.” We immediately go to
fear and assume that we (or whomever is diagnosed) is entering a
dark tunnel with only one way out. That’s not only untrue, but for
breast cancer potentially much less true than for other types. Yes it
will be a long road with some difficult pit stops. There will be pain,
likely some or all of surgery, chemo, and/or radiation. There may also
be smaller problems like hair loss, exhaustion, and medical side effects
large and small. But they are not a death sentence. They are a wake-
up call for her and for you and for the rest of the family to band
together and fight like ****.
If you haven’t already had a big family meeting to re-organize reality,
make it happen ASAP. That means sitting down with everyone from
ghrandparents to kids to agree on a plan to support her through the
process. And by her I mean all of them. You should probably be her
medical best buddy, going to doctor appointments and chemo sessions
with her as often as you can. Her husband will have to be the primary
support for their children. There are various online sites that can help
organize care teams for everything from meals to household chores.
The most important thing you can do is to love her deeply and well
and say so very often in words and hugs and yes even tears.