I have a big sister. Karen is four years older than me. Before I was in junior high, my brother and I had re-named her “Kane” and the name persists today.
About a million years ago, my sister and I played with dolls together. Hers was always clean and neatly swaddled; mine was grubby and sticky with the bandaids I’d generously applied (I’ve been a nurse a long, long time). We always explained the absence of our dollies’ daddies by declaring “they’re in Korea.” This seemed reasonable, since at the time, our Daddy was stationed in Korea and we missed him something terrible. It didn’t occur to us to just assume our baby daddies were off at work for the day. When our Dad went to work, sometimes he left wearing a flight suit and carrying a suitcase, and sometimes he stayed there a long time.
Kane taught me how to set my hair on slippery round rollers so that my flip would flip. She told me all about what it was like to get your tonsils out (“I was asleep, doofus, I didn’t see anything”). She showed me how to use those belt lady-thingies that, back then, had a clip that you had to wrap the end of the pad around; there was no such thing as an “adhesive strip.” You had to do it right or the tab end would get stuck you-know-where and bug you all day.
Yeah, if you’re a girl and alive back then you know what I’m talking about.
I was Kane’s bridesmaid. Taller than her maid-of-honor by a few inches, I hip-checked Renee and grappled savagely over her head for the bouquet. It was mine.
My sister led the way in motherhood, delivering two of her brood of four before my twins were born. She got me through rough nights of reasonless newborn wailing. She diagnosed my mastitis, told me to go get some antibiotics, keep nursing the baby, and stop howling in her bathtub, I would feel better soon.
We drove two hundred miles roundtrip to shop at outlets. We stayed up all night to watch all the VHS episodes of “Anne of Green Gables.” Once, we got my Hyundai stuck sideways in my garage when we were trying to drive it out of there. We are sisters.
Kane called this morning to tell me she was just diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. She is disbelieving, shaken, and scared. Just as I was eight months ago when I had my own breast cancer diagnosis. Today, I feel it again.
Now, we are sisters with breast cancer. We will be OK. People survive, and we will be among them.