She sleeps. On a plane — she sleeps. A pink flowered mask over her nose and mouth, tightened by the straps behind her ears. This hopefully prevents unwanted germs from entering her body that’s fighting each and every day. A nude colored sleeve squeezes her right arm and a super tight glove covers her right fingers and hand. This is worn to prevent excess fluid from accumulating in her arm now that she has no lymphatic system in there. A light long sleeve shirt over a body now full of scars, that just five years ago were nonexistent.
From the top of her shirt you can see the prosthetic breast that rests against the caved in chest where her real breast used to be. Her hair softly blows from the re-circulated air coming from the vent above our heads. Hers and mine — both blowing on her because she is too hot with the mask on. Being forced to become postmenopausal in your thirties wreaks havoc in one’s body.
Her head rests up against the window and her eyes closed peacefully. I wonder what her thoughts are. She told me she enjoys flying because each of those lights below us represents a person. “This world,” she says, “is so large, and flying reminds me how small we are.” “Rest,” she said to me, “I’m going to just look outside and contemplate this life.” But then she drifts off asleep and I’m left with my thoughts.
Tears roll out of both of my eyes. And I wipe them. I’m here with her now. I’m taking in this time. This minute. This second.
The seat to my left is empty and I could move over, but then I’d miss this time when I feel my leg against hers. Our arms touching. I have her here now, next to me and I don’t want to miss a second of it. I told her that right after she told me I should nap. Her body twitches. I hope she’s dreaming peaceful thoughts. I hope she’s in a good place. Because this reality is a nightmare. I find myself looking at her. Trying to memorize every part of her body that has cheated her — and us of lifetime of growing old together. Tears roll out of both of my eyes. And I wipe them. I’m here with her now. I’m taking in this time. This minute. This second. Because one day, all I will want is another second, another minute, another trip. Cancer is an ugly, unwanted, selfish and entirely maddening entity.
I am forced to watch my sister and my best friend continuously adjust to new norms. Having her blood drawn, sometimes more frequently than I see her. Forced to have surgeries to correct the damaging effects this monster has had on her body. Dreams she’s held and hopes she’s had, ripped away. I have watched her body morph into something she hates.
I have watched poison go into her body in an effort to somehow battle this beast. I have held her hand as it squeezes mine when she’s trying to take away the pain from needle pokes and biopsies. I have rubbed her back when it’s sore from laying down because she is exhausted from fighting. I have kissed her face as she’s taken to yet another surgery. I have sat with her in her hospital bed and listened to her (only once) ask, why me? I have fought back tears when she said, “what if that was my last Christmas? My last holiday?” I have seen the sadness in her eyes when she says, “I’m killing Mom and Dad.”
I have felt every breath she has had when I embrace her in a hug. I have memorized her smile, her laugh and the ways she sits cross legged on the couch. I sometimes call to hear her voicemail — I want to record it. I video tape her. We don’t do that enough. How could we, when there will never be enough time?
As I peak over at her, the moon outside catches my eye through the airplane window. It’s a white sliver and I can’t tell if the darkness of the night is pushing the moon down, or if the moon is pushing back — determined to not let the darkness win. It’s a fight of good and evil. It mirrors the battle that’s happening inside of Kara. But what’s poetic is how even the tiniest sliver of the moon somehow illuminates the city below. All of the lights that each represent a person, being lit up by good!
Despite the darkness that’s invaded her, Kara is far more than good. She’s a hero, a fighter, an educator, an inspiration. She’s everything that’s good in this life. And like the moon, she lights up all of our lives. She has always been the peacekeeper, the problem solver when others are hurting. She’s thoughtful and loving. Kind. She’s Kara. My sister. My hero. My inspiration.
And she’s absolutely irreplaceable.
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