A Star in the SkyPosted: August 18, 2012
Just about five years ago we lost my Aunt Jan to brain cancer. It is hard to believe that it has been this long already. Although, Mea came home just a month prior to her passing, and that time has flown by as well, it is just still hard to believe that she has been gone for five years.
There are a number of things that made this so difficult for all of us. She had been divorced from my uncle for about two years at this point. Their divorce in and of itself was a mess, hurtful and hard on everyone, and took its toll on all of us, most specifically my Aunt of course.
My Uncle told her on New Year’s day of that year that he was in love with his secretary, and that he didn’t want a divorce but also wanted to see this other woman. They were all friends. After this woman moved to their town, she and my Aunt became friends. The three of them went on vacations together. They went to dinner together often, attended church together. My Aunt and this woman joined a gym and worked out together. After all of this betrayal, it was just as hurtful to my Aunt that she has lost her husband and in addition she lost her best friend.
She had finally gotten to the point that she was independent. She had her own house. She started working for the first time in many, many years, at a job that wasn’t owned by my uncle. (She had worked here and there over the years, for my uncle, but hadn’t really had a job that she had interviewed and worked to get that was her own.) She didn’t really need to work, but part of gaining her independence made this important.
She started doing things out of her comfort zone, she went white water rafting in Colorado, she started going to an orphanage in Slovakia to volunteer time and resources. She did many other things that before wouldn’t have been anything she would have tried before.
She got her boobs done. May seem silly to some, but she was always small chested and decided that if she was going to be a single lady she wanted to do something to enhance her figure. She looked great. She was living again. She was vibrant.
Then in the summer of 2006 after a routine mammogram, they found breast cancer. She had battle breast cancer before in her mid-thirties, but they had gotten it all out with a lumpectomy, and chemo. Her scans for years had come back fine.
The week that they discovered the abnormality, she was scheduled to go to Slovakia to visit the orphanage. The doctor’s assured her it should be fine, and that when she returned they would schedule the surgery and begin treatments.
When she got home from her trip, she was helping her neighbors plant flowers in her garden, got dizzy and fell down. It wasn’t the first time that this had happened. Her neighbor convinced her to go to the hospital.
Nothing was the same after that.
She was in the hospital for several days. CT scans, MRIs, tons of blood work. The ending diagnoses was that she had brain cancer, a fatal form, and that she had six to eighteen months to live.
We all came to visit over Labor Day that year. She was already fading. Walking with a walker. Banned from driving. She had just gotten a new “fun” car, a Pontiac Solstice, and she couldn’t drive it. She drove it once before getting diagnosed.
We all visited with much more regularity. We all took turns travelling to the Chicago area. We spent Thanksgiving there, we had family photos taken of all of us while we were there. My parents visited about every other week. My sister and I tried to go on their off weekends, so that one of us was there all the time.
We always did Christmas with this part of the family on Thanksgiving. We all wanted to do something really special for her. My parents bought her a beautiful necklace, (which we believe a home health aid stole at some point after that.) I can’t recall what my sister and BIL bought, but we had a star named for her.
The star is named, Queen Jan Can. The quote underneath stated, “An inspiration to us all, if Jan can, we all can.”
After going through all the things that she had been through in the last few years before being diagnosed, this was so true. I look up to her especially now knowing all that she went through and persevered through. She was an amazing lady, and was taken from us all too soon.
We had the certificate and the map of where the star is located matted and framed for her Christmas gift that year. After she passed away, we took it back home with us, it is another thing that I can look at and know that she is smiling down on my somewhere.
What I can tell you is that cancer is a mother-fucker. It steals loved ones away from us, and leaves us hanging. It is painful, both physically and emotionally.
Although it is hard to see someone you love suffering through the treatments, and emotional shock of cancer and being the victim of this horrible disease, it is important to be there for you family, being uncomfortable is nothing compared to what these friends and family members are going through.
I have a few keepsakes, some that I see or wear every single day. I have this, which never comes off of my finger, which reminds me like crazy of my Aunt. I have the framed photo of her star. I have photos and memories times eleventy-billion. Time helps to remember the good, and to forget the bad that sometimes circles in my head.
Cancer, it is a mother-fucker. It steals people, and hurts families