One day, on the way to the hospital for another meeting, Ronan said to me: “You know babes, I’d take this from you if I could.”
“I know babes,” I replied. “And you know what, I’d fecking give it to you too. You would be way better at this than me. I would mind you and look after you like mad.”
Val is my older brother and has always been a rock in my family. I would never make an important decision without him. I may not take his advice, which really annoys him, but we always talk it over.
My sister Alana lives in Australia. When we knew what was going on, of course we called and told her, but she is also far away and she’s our baby sister. I didn’t want to worry her too much. I’m sure there was nothing more annoying for her but medical information coming in bits and pieces. Alana wanted to come home to help me. I didn’t know what help I needed. I felt and looked perfectly fine. Actually pretty hot for a mom of two very young kids. I wasn’t sick, not one bit. I don’t know what it is to need help, I was never sick in my life. I couldn’t answer Alana’s questions about what I needed. I had no idea what was ahead of me.
So she called me one morning to say she was boarding a plane and was on her way to me. I didn’t know how much I needed her until she arrived. She saved me during the rockiest two weeks of this “journey”. During those two weeks, she was at every appointment with me. When I would panic at home after each appointment, when I would cry to her that I’m going to die, she would stay calm and say, “No, that is not what the doctor said.” For the next two weeks, on top of lots of chats, she must have said “Mandy, you’re not going to die” a million times. Each like it was the first time she said it. No matter how many times we went over a doctor’s conversation, she would bring me back out of panic, to fact that this was all very manageable.
My team was building. Ronan, the kindest and optimistic man in the world. Val, my no-nonsense brother and Alana, my factual sister. And our team would meet with the CUH team for every appointment. My team would ask questions, cross-examine the oncologist, then translate it back to me. At the end of one of the meetings the oncologist asked what my team did for a living.
See Val, he’s an engineer so he believes everything you say.
See Alana, she has a science background so she doesn’t believe a word you say.
See Ronan, he’s in hospitality so he’ll find the good in whatever you say.
And me? WellI work in marketing so I just want you to see me. I want to be a real person on that surgery table and not just a patient number. I want you know my story and my family. I want you to like me, I want to make you laugh. I show you the upmost respect because I think that might give me advantage, it might make a difference if I live or die.
Alana held my hand, and minded my mental health through the worst part. The denial, the panic, the exaggeration, the disbelief. She was there to laugh when I wanted to laugh, cry when I wanted to cry, cook great food, drink red wine, and talk. Go back over every conversation again and again. And she did this for me, without letting on, that she had said all this 100 times. With just as much enthusiasm. Without me even knowing, that was exactly what I needed when I needed it.