I’m sad to say that very early this year, we lost my aunt to her battle with cancer. She was diagnosed last year about this time with multiple myeloma. I remember getting the call that she had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital while out of state, and feeling so helpless and sad for her and my family. She ended up having a large mass, which was pressing on her brain and induced the seizure. She ended up having to have emergency surgery, and was stuck in a neck brace and back brace for a good long time afterwards. Multiple myeloma is a very aggressive type of cancer, attacking everything all at once. They said it could have started just a couple months back and already progressed significantly.
It’s still strange to really think that she isn’t here with us anymore, that she won’t be at the next family gathering or holiday. My dad’s sister (one of two), and my mom’s-brother’s-wife, she was my “double aunt”. I remember spending lots of evenings over at their house as a kid, playing in the back yard, the swimming pool, tinkering around on the piano, having dinner. I remember every time we asked her “what’s for dinner?”, she would always answer the same way- “food.”
One time my sisters and I were spending the night there (I think my parents were going out of town for some reason), and I was on medicine for strep throat. I begged my mom to get me the swallow-able pills, but she ended up getting me the liquid medicine instead. I don’t do liquid medicine, to this day (just ask mark!). But as a child, you have no choice, and you have to suffer (or gag/almost puke every time- in my case) through it.
She called me over to the table, and had the bottle of medicine sitting there… she then pulled out this HUGE wooden spoon and said something like “time to take your medicine!”. She had an interesting sense of humor The medicine was supposed to taste like bananas or something (who’s idea is that!?!?) and I think we ended up trying to mix it into some applesauce to mask it… but I just ended up with a bowl full of nasty tasting applesauce that I had to then eat ALL of… bad idea.
I spent my first year of college at the University of Hawai’i, and as most college student know, opening your mailbox to find something in there is like finding gold! My aunt would write to me on a regular basis, and send me little gifts, stamps, etc. It was always nice to get a letter or a note from someone, and always fun to write back. I have no idea what we wrote about, it seems so long ago now. I should look to see if I still have any of those letters.
When she and my uncle were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, they came up with the idea of hosting a “show” of sorts. Each person in the family could choose an “act” to perform, and that would be the entertainment for the event. I was in the 5th grade, and completely in love with Winnie the Pooh… so I got my sister and a few of my cousins together, and we compiled about 5 songs to perform for our “act”. I remember rehearsing in my aunt and uncle’s living room for my aunt- she had pulled out the vacuum cleaner for us to use as a microphone to practice. I think I wanted to do something like 12 songs originally- over filling my plate (and probably everyone’s fill of winnie the pooh) like usual. She helped us narrow it down to just a few songs, and then we practiced our choreography. My cousin made us all costumes – they looked great!!! The show was a hit, and other performances (that I remember) included a piano solo, a choreographed girls dance group, oldies songs sung/choreographed by my mom and aunts, a HILARIOUS magic show, some song parodies, and probably more singing… what can I say, we have quite the talented family
It wasn’t until YEARS later that she told me that the show only went on because I was so excited about the whole thing, and no one wanted to let me down, so everyone got their act together. It’s true, I probably would have been crushed if I were told the show was cancelled. I guess that’s the power of love… and a lesson in thinking before you speak, or at least tell a child
There are many more memories I have with her that I will keep close to my heart. Most recently, I remember going to visit her at home after one of her treatments. She had lost all of her hair, and a considerable amount of weight, but she was working on regaining her strength. She had her walker out and showed off to my cousin and I how she could get up and walk around a bit. It was great to see her up and moving again! She had a very optimistic attitude, explaining that positive thoughts and energy were the best thing for her. To see someone go through what she went through, and prevail with optimism is inspiring to say the least.
She took off her head wrap and showed us her bald little head. I never thought that was something she would do, but she did. Sometimes people surprise you.
I am sad for my family and our loss. I do find relief knowing she isn’t suffering any longer. She was always very supportive of me and my endeavors, and always made sure to tell me so.
She wrote this to me in an email in 2006, and it’s something I have always remembered. Boy, was she right.
“Whatever happens, not to sound to blunt, but life goes on. Sometimes change is good, sometime change is not good, but change is always hard.”