Saturday December 7th, 2013, I was surprisingly happy. First off, it was a Saturday so no school. Secondly, Dad was finally going to finish the closet in the bathroom and things would finally stop lying around. Lastly, I had a one hour gymnastics practice in the morning, and the rest of the day was mellow. My mother had a volleyball tournament so there wouldn’t be any housework to do either. Never could I have guessed the events that followed. Emilie and my father had left for the hospital a couple minutes after I’d come back from practice, but I hadn’t given it much attention: if anything, they’d come back with medication, something to lessen her pain.
I think it was about 5 or 6 o’clock when my youngest sister, woke me up from a much needed afternoon nap. She had the phone in her hands.
“”Who is it?” I asked, drowsy.
I answered the phone.
“Anne-So, you’re going to have to pray for your sister.”
I hear his voice crack at the other end of the phone. He’s crying.
“Why?” I enquired, my own voice suddenly shaky.
“Your sister might have to undergo chemo. They think she might have cancer.”
I started crying. Cancer? No. That can’t be true. No he’s joking. It can’t happen to us. Chemo treatments... She’ll lose her beautiful hair. Oh no this isn’t true.
“Dad is this a joke? No Dad this isn’t real.”
But it was. He wouldn’t joke about that. Nobody would.
“Anne-So you need to pray alright? Your sister needs it.” I nodded my head, even though he couldn’t see me. “If your mother calls, tell her to come and join me at the hospital okay?”
I hung up, my heart heavy, my eyes filled with tears. Cancer. Mimzy could maybe have cancer. Sobbing, I went upstairs. My older brother was at work so I went to see Andreanne, my 11-year-old sister.
“Anne-So? Why are you crying?”
Her own eyes filled with tears when she saw me. I shut the door of her room behind me, making sure my 9-year-old younger brother wouldn’t hear us. I hugged her tightly. Through wrecked sobs, I managed to tell her:
“Dad called me to tell me that there’s the possibility Emilie has cancer.”
She immediately starts weeping, also hugging me tightly. We stayed like that for several minutes before I pulled away and tried calling my mother. Maybe I would succeed in contacting her?
“Mom!” I exclaimed when she picked up. “Dad needs you to join him at the hospital.”
“It’s alright Soph; I’m already on my way. Take care of your siblings please.”
She’d been crying too. Her voice didn’t possess its normal serenity. Tears started trickling down my cheeks once more. Not knowing what to do, I decided on filling up the dishwasher. Andreanne helped me. We couldn’t stop crying.
I wanted my brother, Alexandre, to come home soon. I wanted someone to comfort me. But I had nobody. I needed to be the one to do the comfort.
My mother’s mother arrived a few minutes after I’d ended my call with Mom. I was annoyed but relieved at the same time. She held me in her arms and told me it wasn’t sure Emilie had cancer yet. She wanted us to have hope. But I had lost it for awhile already.
When Alex finally turned up, my sister and I ran at the door to greet him. He was frowning, clearly wondering what was up with our grave, tear-stained faces and my grandmother’s presence.
“You can tell him Anne-So,” she told me.
“Tell me what?”
“Alex... Emilie might have to undergo chemo treatments,” I dropped, more tears flooding my eyes.
“But it might not be that bad,” my grandmother reasoned.
“Chemo treatments? She has cancer? Yes it’s bad.”
He didn’t cry. He only looked annoyed. I was confused. Why isn’t he reacting? Honestly, it kind of upset me he hadn’t reacted more than that.
That evening had been long. We were all waiting for some news about Emilie. I think at that point, Nicolas, the youngest of all my siblings, doubted something wasn’t right, but I don’t believe he knew exactly what. I jumped when Mom called.
“Can you make a bag for Emilie? Pack her pyjamas, her stuffed dog, clothes for tomorrow and a few personal items. I’m coming to pick them up.”
She came in late that night but I waited for her, making sure Mimzy’s bag was filled with the demanded necessities. I remember sliding in some candy in the front pocket of her bag. Hospital food wasn’t really eatable.
I hugged my mother tightly in my arms when she arrived.
“Is everything going to be alright?” I murmured in her shoulder, warm tears staining my cheeks.
“I don’t know Anne-Sophie. They don’t know what she has just yet. Maybe it isn’t cancer. Maybe it’s just a virus.”
“I hope it’s a virus.”
My pillow was drenched with tears that night, more than any other night I’d cried over my life.
The next morning, Dad and I had gone early to church to go see Emilie at the hospital as early as possible. He cried when he talked with Him. I knew exactly what he was thinking about and honestly, I wanted to cry too but it seemed as I had cried all my tears yesterday.
Ultimately, Dad and I only managed to go and visit my sister at the hospital towards 4:30 PM. For the whole morning I thought about what I was going to tell her. Hey dude, what mess did you get in this time? What are you doing here sis? Are you okay Em? Eww no you’re so stupid Anne-So...Clearly she isn’t well if she’s at the hospital. I recall my father telling me I needn’t cry when I’d see her. When I entered her room, I completely forgot what I’d wanted to say. Both of us started to cry. With a knot in my throat, a simply sat on the little bed beside hers with my parents, unable to talk. She’s the one that began our conversation.
“Are you okay Anne-So?”
“Better than you that’s for sure...How are you doing Em?”
“It hurts less.”
There was a brief moment of silence.
“Anne-So, did you know I maybe had cancer?”
“Em I’m sure it’s just a virus,” I replied, trying to lighten her mood. Trying to convince myself.
Our parents left to fetch some food and I found myself sitting on the hospital bed beside her. Mom and Dad had told me she needed to eat her hospital food so I encouraged her to eat. I left her bed when two of her friends came to visit. I felt so much pain when I realise she seemed happier to see them then me. I envied them. I’m such a bad sister. My parents and I were crying while Emilie also cried in her friends’ arms. My uncle, her godfather, also came to visit a couple minutes after the departure of Emilie’s friends. When the moment came for me to leave, I burst into sobs. I had barely managed to talk with my sister during the three hours I’d spent with her. I felt horrible.
“Take care of yourself alright?” I cried, hugging her one last time before I left.
“You’re a great older sister,” my uncle told me as we left the hospital with my father, leaving my mother with Emilie.
The problem was I didn’t feel like a good older sister. At all. I cut myself that night.
School the next day was a puddle of tears. My friends couldn’t understand me but they tried to comfort me in vain. I was lost.
“Emilie is at the hospital. It’s my fault.”
Ten days after Emilie’s biopsy, we had the results. Emilie had cancer. An anaplastic non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My stomach, my thighs and my arms were pampered with cuts that night. Deep ones. One’s that would last.
“Em has cancer. I feel so horrible...The number of times I told her I didn’t love her...”
Jealousy started to invade my mind. I told myself I should’ve been the one with cancer, not her. That way, I wouldn’t have gone to school. I would’ve let myself drown in depression. I would’ve wanted the cancer to beat me. I wanted to die. I didn’t see a positive future for me. Emilie was the one who deserved health. Not me. I envied her, even though she had cancer. She had lost 20 pounds in so little time, while I didn’t stop getting fatter. What I would’ve given to take her place... People would even have care about me for once.
There was also the fact that we would need to change many of our house habits for Emilie that got on my nerves. Lots of sanitizing, no coughing and such...All I could see was darkness surrounding me.
“Mom told me to stay strong. But mom I’m not strong. I’m weak. I’m fucking tired of living all these deceptions.”
“Everybody tells us that our best years, we’re living them now. Well that fucking makes me want to keep on living if my years are only going to get worse...”
School was hard for a while... I always wanted to give up. Forget being focused during exams: my sister occupied my mind. My math teacher, unaware of my situation, wrote a message to my parents about my saddened attitude. Mom told her about Emilie. So she came to talk to me again and obviously, I started crying again. But I was thankful for the fact that she seemed concerned. None of my other teachers had talked to me about it. Hell, even my ethics teacher had made us watch My Sister’s keep in class, the story about a girl who has leukemia and her sister gives her parts of her body and at the end she ends up dying. I cried in all my classes, from French, Science, English and History yet nobody asked a thing. Crying was all I really did. Why did so few people notice it?
A little before the Christmas vacations, my sister’s English teacher came to me.
“So what does your sister have after all?”
“Well she has cancer.”
Tears flooded my eyes.
“Hold on,” he told me before leaving.
Only two or three girls of my cheerleading team whom were around to witness the scene came to see me when they noticed I was crying. It’s crazy but when one asks how you’re doing, they don’t want to know if you’re not okay. They don’t care, because they have their own problems to deal with. They pretend for a little while that they’re concerned, but then it’s as if all was okay.
Christmas hadn’t been the same that year. One of the few positive aspects had been the food so many friends and family had given us during the holidays. Always at the hospital, my parents didn’t have the time and it’d be a salvation many times. A part from that, Emilie was weak and I think she wanted to go back to the hospital to have some morphine to lessen her pain. I didn’t blame her.
On New Year’s Eve, we were supposed to receive guests but Emilie had to stay at the hospital after all due to the fact the chemo treatments were to begin soon. We decided to order some pizza and we went to eat it with her before playing a couple games together. It was about 10 PM when we left for home, my sister too tired to stay awake till midnight. Not my happiest countdown that’s for sure.