Fighting cancer –
Decaying. 24 hours a day. She lies motionless on a remote operated bed, decaying. Tubes and wires string from every limb. Her grasp on life is unwilling and loosening. Death is something that comes in her dreams. This is someone you love. Imagine. Imagine your life as you know it, taken from you. Imagine watching her life drain through the tips of her purple fingers. Imagine yourself suffocating in tears as you fall into darkness each night while she lingers in your mind. Imagine.
A malignant growth or tumour resulting from an uncontrolled division of cells. Cancer. Each year 12.7 million people discover they have cancer and 7.6 million people die from the disease. So can you imagine if this was someone you loved? Watching this loved ones fading smile disappear into an institution filled with white dresses and ghosts. You feel a pain like death that follows you but its not there for you. You are only the observer.
I was an observer. She was only 11 when the sickness took over her left ovary. Looking back now I realise the damage this had on my life. Sitting in the back seat of a car driven by life is hard to control. My car had come to a stop. My sister. Two years younger than me, she was already closer to death. 17%. I was told her chance of survival was 17%. With stage four ovarian cancer she went through 4 rounds of chemo before they decided to surgically remove the tumour. For four months she was stuck with white dresses and ghosts.
This was my experience. But there are others. Like me, they were neglected during this experience in their lives. They were less prioritised. Less seen. Less cared for. Less loved. Their lives were thriving while a siblings was ceasing. Parents and other loved ones saw past their strong health and towards the weakening. Their mentality was uncared for. This is a problem.
All they need is attention. After every last eye is drawn to the purple fingered girl there is no one to watch the smile fading sibling. Don’t ignore or hesitate to acknowledge the feelings butterflying within their quietness. Sometimes all it takes is some one who will listen. Someone who is brave enough to speak the present. On behalf of the observers. I am listening. Watching some one you love deteriorate is depressing.
There are organisations to help observers like myself struggle through such devastating times. Canteen is one of many organisations that work with young people who have been exposed to, living with, or around cancer. They understand the changes that may cause issues within the family of the sick. In such a life threatening situation everything is put on hold and routine can become unimportant. This can cause stress and make relationships hard to maintain. Relationships outside of the family can change too. Your friends might not understand and react differently around you because they don’t know what to say. This can drive an observer into a deeper quite. However, Canteen brings these quiet young people together to express their pain and share their stories. They provide camps for kids who are going through the same difficulties to connect and talk. Every two days a young New Zealander is diagnosed with cancer. Every two days. Now, think about all the people being effected. All the loved ones who are now becoming more quiet.
Talking about your feelings and sharing with others is releasing. Releasing built up bubbles of stress, anger and depression. I think it is important for someone living around cancer to release these bubbles within themselves. I did not realise how much I had hidden within my quiet. When I started expressing myself more and sharing my story I started to feel less contained. This is a big deal. We need to slow down and listen.
The little girl, Remember? With purple fingers who dreamed of death. My sister. You might be lucky enough to see her walking through these very halls. Today she is 15 and a survivor. A miracle. But the ones left behind. Still fighting. Still stuck with white dresses and ghosts. Still observing. They are the ones who need our help. They need someone to listen. They need attention and care to pass safely through this life taking monster. This is my advise to you.
By: Lucy O’Brien