But my day, which I meant to be productive before we headed over to our friends' house, got derailed by some bad news this afternoon. My aunt texted me, wanting to talk. She's my mom's youngest sister, the one I spent every summer living with from the ages of 9 until 17. I always thought of her as an older sister since she's only 15 years older than me, but we're not as close as we used to be. Distance will do that.
It turns out that my other aunt, the oldest sister of the group who just turned 70, has breast cancer. She's the glue that has held the family together all these years, and frankly, the most grounded one of the bunch. I absolutely adore her. It was her house we stayed at when we went to visit in Michigan this past summer. She and her husband just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.
I spent an hour talking my aunt down from her crying jag. She doesn't know yet what stage the cancer is at, but I reassured her with a ton of statistics just how good survival rates for stages 1, 2, and 3. From the sound of it, it doesn't look like she has stage 4, though I know that's always the possibility. But this aunt is on top her health and aggressively does what it takes to better the health of all around her. She was told specifically she would not have to see specialist treatment beyond what they could get in Grand Rapids. I also talked my younger aunt through what I know from friends who have gone through it, as well as what treatment and everything was like for Craig's cancer all those years ago, and she seemed better for it. It ended on a good note, and she thanked me for helping, which made me feel good.
Then, just as we got to the party, my sister calls. She asked me to call our mom tomorrow because apparently Mom took the news really hard. She commented that she had no idea why our youngest aunt was dealing with the news so well, at which point I explained what I'd spent my afternoon before that doing, lol. So now I'm going to do the same for Mom tomorrow. Apparently, Mom said something along the lines of going up to take care of my aunt, and I told Sis that if she mentions that to me tomorrow, I'm going to tell her I think it's an excellent idea. Sis didn't necessarily agree until I laid out the reasons.
1) It'll force Mom to finally retire. She's 68 and still works a ton of hours as a geriatric nurse. She's had sciatica problems and other things over the past couple years, and work is *hard* but she just won't quit even though she should. This will force her to.
2) It will give Mom the sense of paying back to my aunt that she needs. When Mom got her terminal diagnosis eight years, this aunt was the one who refused to take it lying down. She dragged Mom to the Mayo Clinic, where they were actually able to help her, and then spent months helping her get better. While the aunt is one of those people who thinks that this is what family does for each other without any need for recompense, my mother absolutely loathes being indebted to anyone for any reason. This will be good for her state of mind.
3) It will take some of the load off my uncle if he has help. They are currently in the final throes of flipping a house--they do three or four a year--but he would put everything on hold for my aunt, which would make her feel bad and start a bad cycle all around. If Mom is there to help, he can still work on the house part-time and everybody gets to feel good.
I am horribly saddened by the fact that my aunt has breast cancer, though. After helping my younger aunt, I sat and cried for ten minutes to get it out of my system. It sucks, regardless of what the prognosis is. But then I put on my big girl panties again and faced the facts. She's a fighter. Odds are excellent with prompt treatment. And she has a ton of people in her corner, ready to help in any way. I'm going to be one of them, because this world is a better place for having her in it.