Thursday, August 06, 2009

An Earned Medal

Our family has forayed all over Oregon this Summer, but underlying the stories of all the good times, has been my concern for my sister Chris' health.
Two weeks ago, she was diagnosed with leukemia, and this week I've spent a couple of nights in the hospital with her.
A week ago, I was wondering if my stomach was going to be able to handle participating in this year's Cascade Lakes Relay. The relay is a 200 plus mile relay in which a team of up to twelve divide 36 relay legs into three sets of legs per person, and do their best to go the distance, and beat the heat and altitude of Central Oregon.
My stomach had been flip-flopping for several days, even knocking me out a good portion of the previous Monday. The temperature in Eugene made for good practice to run in the high heat that was predicated for the race, however, my body did it's best only running a couple of miles during the week. Not great practice before such an event.
I completed that race, with the help of God and my friends. Yet as slow, hot and ugly as it was to me, it's challenge helped prepare me for this time with my sister, I am certain.
During the time with her at the hospital, I experienced little sleep, and some heartache, as I heard and watched her suffer.
As I spent this time with her, some of the memories of all those times with she and her family started coming back.
My sister, shall I say, is a few years older than I am, a teenager when I was born.
I remembered a trip to the beach at a time when all the siblings lived under one roof. I was perhaps three or younger. We stayed all together in a cabin, presumably all eight of us. We have a photo of the "big girls" lined up on the beach in their swim suits, while my brother and I dig in the sand around them.
I don't recall Chris moving out of our house, but she became a young bride, moved to Texas, and had my nephew, Buddy, who is just shy of two years younger than me.
I'm sure she missed the rain of Portland, so living in Texas was short lived. When her family moved back to Oregon, she seemed to always have my brother, Jim, a year older than me, and myself in tow. Our mother worked, but my sister often and graciously, cared for us.
When I was with her in the hospital, my sister went through this "Chemo Hell." At one point she tried eating a Popsicle, but the chemo had burned the inside of her mouth and throat, so there was no relief.
I then remembered the nickels and the ice cream man.
When we lived on SE 83rd in Portland, I used to beg her (politely I am sure) for nickels to buy ice cream from the ice cream man. She'd always hesitate, making some sort of grunting denial, saying she wasn't made of money, but conceded by eventually producing four nickels for all of us kids.
It was all the Popsicles, picnics, BBQ's, walks to "town" that were rising from my memory.

What I also recalled at the hospital, I shared with her nurse in a little break down moment.

When I was in the sixth grade, I had pneumonia and was hospitalized a good portion of my Spring Break. I had been staying at my sister's house in Estacada, began getting ill, and since she didn't drive, we had to get on a bus, and return to my home in Portland. I threw up the entire, windy, bus ride, but she held that bag for me.

I couldn't help but think of her while I was running that Cascade Lakes Relay. I'd been unable to see her in the hospital before the race because of my stomach ailment, I didn't want to risk exposing her. I wondered if I should have dropped out of running the race to be with her in Portland. But she has always been encouraging of my running. She was there that first road run, when I was twelve or so. It was in the pouring rain, yet when I finally came in, there she was cheering me on. I didn't realize until now, that she probably stood in that pouring rain waiting for me until the end of that run.
Years later, when I ran in the state high school cross country race, there she was, again.
Last Friday, as I ran that first leg of the relay, after only a mile in the ninety something degree heat, I kept comparing that yucky hot run, to what my sister was going through. It was nothing like she was going through, but the difference was the choice of one painful step after another. I had a choice to quit. She couldn't and didn't quit.
On Monday, I gave her my medal from the relay. She's got it hanging on her cart of medicine she has to drag around with her in the hospital. I told her she helped me get through the race.
Not taking credit for her own kindness and support she'd given me through the years, she said, "We all helped you get through it."


thebookbaglady said...

This is such a touching story. Thanks for sharing.
Love, Gretchen

Matt and Elsa Nelson said...

Aunt Nan,
What an amazing sister you are....truly the glue in the family! I love that you gave her your medal. So touching! Hang in there....we're praying.