I had a whirlwind visit to my parents' house this weekend. I feel so blessed that they live close enough that I can just jump on a train and get there 2 1/2-3 hours later. My dad picked me up at the station, we drove to their house and I hopped in my mom's car. After a 45-minute drive, we arrived at the hospital where my aunt is being treated.
I don't know how she's doing. According to my disgruntled, snarly, old relatives, she's on death's door. According to my cousin, her daughter, she's making progress, but there's no guarantee. What I do know is that she survived a terrible bout of cancer about 10 years ago. And now, the cancer is much strong, much wider-reaching, and much worse. She's lost a significant amount of weight, you can see it in the drawn expression on her once very pretty face; yet, her strong legs are twice their normal size, filled with cancerous fluid. She progressed in just two weeks from being on oxygen and having a feeding tube, to eating real food on her own and not needing the oxygen. She's sitting up, walking down the halls, and expressing her hopes of going home, physical therapy, and rehab. She's a fighter.
My mom and I took my cousin out to eat later that day. She's 7 1/2 months pregnant and trying to hold everything together. She's really doing a great job. I don't know how she's doing it, but she's managing to care for her family (two children) and also spend about 8 hours a day at the hospital. We were glad to let her take time, even if it was just two hours, for herself. Time where she didn't have to care for anyone else.
I've been periodically sending my cousin information about cancer centers, including universities that have clinical trials going on. She's accepted them graciously. But today, I realized I needed to quit. My level of "hope" isn't hers. Hers is much more grounded in the day-to-day reality of caring for a very sick relative. Mine is 200 miles away.
I know if this can be beaten, my aunt can beat it. She can. If she doesn't, it won't be because she's not strong, or because her family didn't do everything they could to get her well; it's because it's her time to go. I feel very grateful to have had her love, friendship, and those of my two cousins for all these years. That says a lot about a person - that sort of legacy. She'll know when she dies, whether it's soon, or several years down the road, that she lived well.