Christmas, Cancer, and the One Thing I Dreaded Most…

First and foremost, I hope everyone had a wonderful and happy Christmas and New Year. You all deserve it. Every. Single. One. Of. You.

Secondly, it’s so painful for me to say that on January 1st, 2014 at 1:24 am, my wonderful aunt Christine died from stage IV Cutaneous T-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma and HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome).

Many things happened this Christmas season. I came home for Christmas break on December 18th. Two days before, my aunt was transferred from Novant Hospital in Charlotte, to the Duke University Hospital. She wasn’t getting the treatment or care she needed, and maybe that’s why all of this happened. I visited her the 16th and the 17th of December, right before I came home. Her skin was peeling, but she seemed fine. She was laughing and talking enthusiastically about the Christmas presents she was getting everyone. For days she seemed okay. Completely healthy.

And then it began.

On December 23rd, my aunt’s heart rate and blood pressure dropped so low that she ended up in a coma.

On December 24th, she woke from her coma, and talked with the doctor. She was sicker than what anyone thought she was. The cancer was ravaging her body, and the HUS completely shut down her kidneys and were starting to take over her other organs. Her doctor told her that there was really no more that they could do. She had to chose between quality of life and quantity of life. Quality would mean that she wouldn’t have as many treatments done, and she would be given more pain medication, and she would only live for a few more days. Quantity would entail all of her usual treatments and procedures, and she may have lived for at most a week. Quality = comfort. Quantity = excruciating pain. My aunt called us on Christmas day to say hello to everyone. She began crying over the phone to my grandmother, but I don’t know about what.

On December 25th, my mother (her sister), my grandmother (her mother), her husband, Tim, and I went up to see her. Her skin had gotten worse. She couldn’t move her mouth much because sores coated the inside of her mouth, making it difficult to talk. She couldn’t move her arms, hands, or legs. The nurses came in and moved her legs to rotate her. She moaned and cried and begged them to stop. I couldn’t handle it and had to leave the room. Later the doctor came in and told us that she was extremely sick, and that all treatments would eventually fail, and she would die.

On December 27th, I came back up to Duke with Laura, my younger middle sister, and Tim. We stayed for a few hours, and then went back home. My aunt was asleep the whole time, but I was okay with that. She needed her rest.

On January 1st, at 1:25 am, my aunt passed away.

I’m devastated. I felt so close to my aunt, and she’s not here anymore. I thought that since I knew what was going to happen, I would be okay and accepting of her death, but I’m not. The entire day has been so grey. Like I’m looking through a screen. My body is doing the normal things it should be doing while my mind is in ten thousand places at once. I hardly cried all day, but I attribute that to Tim keeping me preoccupied. Now I’m lying at home, in my bed crying. Not the beautiful, movie star crying, but the two-year old crying. Snotty and red faced and hard enough to make my body sore.

Aunt Christine was 41. She would have been 42 this year. She has two children.

She’s not going to see me graduate college.

She’s not going to see me get married.

I’m never going to see her again.

I hurt so bad, and there’s nothing I can do.

Rest in peace Aunt Christine. I hope the afterlife is real because missing you hurts so bad.

I love you. I will always love you, you amazing woman.


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