Perspective Of Yet Another Night Owl


God Called Her Home
October 4, 2014, 2:24 pm
Filed under: Blood Cancer, Family, Sisters | Tags: , , , ,

So where do I begin? I suppose I should start where I left off, but that was over 6 years ago when I “fell out” of blogging. Trying to write about the last six years would be more like a book than a blog post, so I suppose I will just start writing and see where it goes. Being that today marks three years since I lost my beloved little sister, Tara. I guess I will start with where the realization that I may lose my baby sister began.

In August of 2009, my sister Tara and her husband Pete renewed their wedding vows for their 10th wedding anniversary. She had a beautiful ceremony on the beach in the Outer Banks. It’s where she always wanted to have her wedding there and we were all so happy that she was able to this for her anniversary.  My sister looked beautiful, absolutely stunning. Her strapless white dress had just enough sparkle on the bodice to make it classy and not overdone. The train was the perfect length.  My nephews looked adorable in their little plaid shorts and white golf shirts. My brother-in-law looked amazing in white linen pants with a light blue shirt. Unfortunately the weather did not want to cooperate with the evening ceremony on the beach so we ended up moving it into the beach house, but that didn’t dampen our spirits. My sister was surrounded by her family and best friends and I believe it was everything she had dreamed and wished for.  I couldn’t have been happier for my sister and her family.

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Sadly, our good spirits were short-lived.  In late September, early October of 2009, my sister was plagued with terrible joint pain and just an all over feeling of being severely ill.  I can remember her calling me on her way home from work one day, unable to explain how she was feeling, she told me that she “felt like there is poison running through her veins.”  Although she had been to the doctor and had run blood tests, we still didn’t know what was going on.  I can remember thinking to myself that my sister had always been a bit of a hypochondriac and that her Lymes Disease must be acting up.  What happened next never even crossed my mind.

A week later, my sister found herself admitted to Reston Hospital, being transferred to Fairfax Hospital.  She had been vomiting up blood and generally could not even care for herself.  It was the fastest decline of one of the strongest women I knew.  She was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.  At this time, her cell counts were so bad, she was close to death.  Immediately she began chemotherapy treatments and her family, friends and co-workers pulled together to help her raise funds to cover the un-covered costs of her medical bills.

Over the next two years, our lives and especially hers and her family were like roller coasters. One minute high in the sky and on the road to recovery, then just as quickly, plummeting towards the ground at speeds unfathomable to many. Tara found herself in remission from Leukemia twice during that two year period. She had lost her hair, lost weight, gained back that weight and then some, been poked, prodded and ultimately it was decided she needed a bone marrow transplant. Once again, her family and friends rallied to help and we were all tested to see if we could be her bone marrow match.  Sadly, none of us were a suitable match for Tara.  My younger brother, Michael and I were a great match, but only for each other. How both our hearts broke when we realized we couldn’t help her. That is when we turned to the National Bone Marrow Registry.  We were blessed that an anonymous donor from the U.K. was a good match and agreed to donate their marrow to save my sister’s life. Blessings from strangers make your heart swell with love and thank God that there are selfless, kind-hearted people in this world.

In February of 2011, she received her bone marrow transplant. Now there was a whole new set of issues to worry about. Graft versus Host Disease (GVHD), Anaemia, Infection, Risks of Bleeding, Mouth Ulcers, Infertility and Fatigue. Tara did develop some early signs of GVHD and severe fatigue, but she was on the road to recovery and her hair had even started to grow back in.  We were so hopeful that we had this beat.  Through Spring and Summer, she was getting back to being able to play soccer with her boys, coach their teams and live life almost “normally” again.  It was a blessing to all of us and nothing short of a miracle.

During late September of that summer, just after my 40th birthday, Tara began feeling short of breath and more fatigue. She had a follow-up bone marrow pull to see if the cancer was back. Meanwhile, she was admitted to the hospital once again.  It was around the end of that month that we got news we had hoped to never hear.  Tara had developed severe organ failure.  Her kidneys, liver and her heart were shutting down. Her poor body  had enough.  To top it off, the Leukemia was back with a vengeance.  By October 1, she was comatose and on a ventilator to help her breathe and the hospital was grasping straws as to how to help her.  They even at one point flipped her over (for lack of a better way to describe this) onto her stomach to relieve pressure on her heart and hopefully help her breathe easier. I will never forget when they told me that this was a “last ditch effort”.   We were told that they could only treat one issue at a time and while doing so, the other three would probably kill her, if the treatments they were trying did not kill her first.

On October 4, 2011, we made the decision to take my 35 year old sister off life support. Her husband, boys, family and close friends were by her side. We all got a chance to say goodbye to her and her husband signed the consent forms to remove the ventilator and medications that were keeping her alive.  She finally looked more peaceful without all the tubes and machines attached to her, although you could tell she was fighting for her life and struggling to breathe. I whispered in her ear through tears, knowing in my heart of hearts she could hear me. I let her know that I loved her. I told her it was OK to let go and that I would miss her being the “pain in the ass little sister” that she could be. I reminded how much we all loved her and how she left a mark on this world whether she knew it or not. (I think she knew!) I told her that her boys would be OK and that none of us would ever forget her. I also asked to hug our Daddy when she met him again. I knew he would be waiting for her and would take care of her.

So, today marks three years since God called her home. Her spirit and fierceness still live on. Her boys are prospering and growing into fine young men. We have all continued on with our lives, but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t still want to pick up the phone to call her or jump in my car to go see her. I know she wouldn’t want us to stop our lives because we lost her, so in that spirit, we continue to carry on.

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Tell your loved ones that you love them every day. Hug your parents, kids and friends daily.  Life is full of surprises, some good, some not so good. All that is guaranteed in life is that you get just one chance to live it, so live your life to the fullest.

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