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'Have you lost anyone?'
'Who hasn't?'

This is such a common exchange, one that I overheard recently between 2 women.  It didn't take me but a couple seconds to deduce that they were talking about breast cancer.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – it's also the month of my sister's birthday.  She would've been 52 this year.

Now that I've reached my 50's I've known many women who have dealt with this terrifying experience.  Happily I can say that most are survivors – and truly they are inspirations as well.  They've made it through the chemo, the hair loss, the mastectomies – some even doubles.  I bow before their courage to get up each day, make more choices and go forward.

Today I'm writing about the woman I lost – my only sister Stacey.  She was in her very early 30's when she was diagnosed with a lump.  I remember sitting with her the night before she was scheduled for a mastectomy.  She didn't feel prepared at all – she felt rushed and ungrounded.  She called the doctor's office and cancelled the surgery.  Nope, she said, she was going to try a different direction. She usually did.

Stacey made many decisions in her life that went against the grain of what others thought were right.  She had a child with a man who didn't want to be a father.  She chose to make jewelry and art that were true to her passion, even though she barely got by.  She often prided herself on being different – the black sheep of our family.  Her relationships were volatile, especially with the immediate family.  It seemed that getting close to her was always a struggle; an uphill battle.  

But she taught me things as well.  While our relationship would always be up and down, we had our moments of connection as sisters.  There were the things about our childhood that we could laugh about – memories that only we shared.  I will never forget on my wedding weekend, she and I put together about 100 goodie baskets for the guests arriving on Nantucket and then spent an afternoon, driving around the island in her old beat up truck, delivering them and laughing at the lengths to which my mom would go – always dreaming up more stuff for us to do to please others.  I know, now, what a lovely gesture it was, but I will treasure the lightness and fun we shared that day.  It was a rare time of connection and closeness.

Stacey's son Fred (see photo of us below), my only nephew, will be 20 in a couple months.  He was the sweetest little boy you ever saw and only 8 when she passed away.  We all adored him (and still do).  She was as devoted a mother as you will ever meet and while her pain pushed her to leave this world, her love of him kept her here longer than would be expected.  As Fred's mom, she found the one place where she felt unconditionally loved and could give that love back.  As we love him now, we get a small piece of her that lives through the amazingly grounded young man that he is.  God, she would be so proud of him!

And I can see today, how losing the only sister I had, even with the tumultuous relationship we had, has been a wound for me that's led me to create experiences for women that emulate the love, support and vulnerability of sisterhood.  Our scars speak in our lives, if we look closely.  They can hold us back, unhealed and still creating pain in this moment, or they can infuse us with courage and creativity to find ways to turn the greatest pain into our deepest joy.  When I go on retreat with a group of women, and watch and experience the love and respect and joy and sisterhood that emerges, I am healed once again in the loss of my sister.  

She would be happy I think to know how this part of her, through our challenging relationship, lives on, a legacy she didn't know she left behind.  

Victoria FittsMilgrim, PCC, leads True Life Coaching & Retreats.  Find out more at [Link Removed] 

Truelifecoach, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.


Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Lazylola wrote Oct 14, 2009
    • I am sorry for your loss. I have been fortunate to not have lost anyone to breast cancer, but I had a scare myself, fortunately it wasn’t anything serious, but for a moment there was that fear. I bet she would be happy to know she left a wonderful legacy that continues to carry on.

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