Often, when I meet people, they ask me what it’s like to have a life that’s so public. They’ll ask me if it’s weird to have you know so much about it. Usually I smile and say the same thing. It’s not so weird, you only know what I tell you. There have been things, over the years, that are too private, or things that concern people i know who aren’t bloggers and don’t want to be bloggers, and don’t want me to tell you things about them – things that are their stories, not mine. The last two months have been like that. My sister Erin has been going through something, and the family has been playing it cool, helping her to keep it private until she was ready to be public.
Erin’s done the rally a bunch of times. She did it before me, actually – she wrote a great blog post about it here. She’s been a Team Leader, and she was great at it. Erin, like almost everyone who experiences it, loves the Rally. It’s been a few years since she’s ridden it, she’s got a business and she was newly married and Hank’s a teenager. (I won’t say anything more about that, but if you’ve ever raised one, you know that some summers, you just don’t leave a teenager in your house while you ride your bike to Montreal.) This year was going to be her year, but it’s not.
Two months ago, Erin was diagnosed with breast cancer – or, as she so eloquently put it, her left breast is a homicidal maniac trying to kill her. She’s had surgery, with really great results (if you only care about cancer, and not really breasts) and there’s more treatment ahead of her. What, we’re just not sure yet, but the upshot is that my wild and crazy sister is spending this summer lying around (not her thing) not able to do much (not her thing) and wearing comfortable, but not very sexy bras. (Also, not her thing.) We’re pretty sure she’s going to be okay. She’s been very brave, and very fierce and I’m unbelievably proud of her.
I also feel terrible. I feel bad about any fun I have, knowing she’s not having much. I feel guilty out on my bike, riding along without her. Erin wouldn’t ever want me to feel that way (except maybe a little. She’s told me that if she becomes bald I have to shave my head in support, and it has been more than suggested that I get matching radiation tattoos. I guess I don’t feel bad enough about it all though – because I’m not gonna. She’s not that sick.) Mostly what I feel bad about is what being sick is taking from her. For starters, she doesn’t get to keep all her body parts, and that’s a big deal, but also it’s taking a lot of her choices right now. Things she can’t do because she’s not well enough yet, places she can’t go because she has to be here for treatment and appointments. She didn’t get to dance at Megan’s wedding, and she isn’t going be able to raise money for a cause she adores on a year when the Rally really needs it, and I’ll ride into Montreal without her by my side.
Erin’s been graceful about all of that. She’s been graceful about the whole thing, actually. Stuff keeps happening that would have me raving, and I’ll look at her and think, that’s it. She’s absolutely going to snap. This is it – but then she doesn’t. She cries, she’s sad, and then she quite simply does what she has to do. She’s accepted that things are going to be crap for a while, and then they’re going to be good again. Different but good. This lousy scene is probably only getting a chunk of breast and one summer from her – and she’ll get her choices back, and we can ride together again.
I’m going to miss her, but I guess I’m going to have to do it for the both of us. So I will.