I am one of 6 children in my sibling set.
Three boys, followed by three girls. It looks like this:
Vito — he’s the oldest
John — the “middle” child in the boys
David — the “baby” in the boys
Carolyn — the “middle” child in the girls
Jennifer — the “baby” period.
Our parents divorced when we were all very young. Vito lived with my mother and “the girls” and John and David spent most of the time living with my Dad and stepmother Carolyn. Growing up and I am not sure where it came from other than necessity, that Vito was the caregiver, and when he moved out, the role fell to me. If I am being honest, and I try to be, there are many days where I felt, and still feel resentment for having been put in a place to be a “mother” to Keri and Jennifer.
But more days than not. Most days. Like 99% of them I am so grateful for the bond I get to share with my sisters. My first friends, my last friends.
Today I want to talk about Carolyn (Keri).
You see, the unimaginable happened to our family today. To Keri. She’s been diagnosed with Paget’s disease breast cancer. It’s rare. It’s slow. It’s scary.
Keri is the one in our family with the biggest heart. I’m not sure, but, think my siblings would agree, Keri is the biggest heart. She always has. She always will.
She’s seen more heartache and hurt than any one person should ever have to face. She lost her first boy still born in 1996. It was the summer that two of my sisters-in-law and myself were pregnant. The unimaginable. To this day, Keri still celebrates, Taylor Scott, her first born, her baby boy. It’s been an incredibly difficult journey for her. She moved to Danville, IL shortly after to help her then husband care for his bed ridden father, and for years and years, she was Bill’s primary care giver. She’s worked as a CNA, she’s cared for my grandmother in her later life. Keri has a gift for caring for people that amazes me. Lately, she’s been working as a school bus assistant for children in the Danville, IL school system. She thrives with younger children, children with special needs, children that are sometimes overlooked or not considered Keri sees. Every. Single. One.
Keri is married and she and her husband Jerry get along just fine. They are a perfectly suited match to the other. They get each other in the ways most envy. Little collaborators, partners in every sense of the word. Jerry and Keri are just good for each other, though this battle, the one that’s coming, the one that’s already here will test them in ways that are unimaginable.
Mastectomy and radiation.
A mastectomy and radiation are required on her treatment plan. So travel is booked. Vito, Jennifer, Dad, and I arrive on 8/27 and spend some time with Keri before surgery on the 29th. And I can’t imagine it. The fear, the angst, the heartache, the identity, the pain, the recovery, and all of the other things that my sweet sister will be battling in the coming months.
You are not alone. You never will be. Jennifer and I are your sisters, we’re tied to you, permanently, forever, to be old ladies sitting on a porch remember the days when. And I want you to know I am mad right along with you. I am scared with you. And I will walk this journey every fucking step with YOU. We are our first friends, and we will be our last friends. I love you and I don’t think I tell you that enough. For every good, every bad, every fight along the way… I love you.
If baldness comes let it. We’ll call the shots. We will walk step by step by step. We’re Italian, we won’t go down quietly and we certainly don’t go down without a fight, so bring it. We’ll fight.
Fight. Like. A. Girl.