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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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my aunt

I talked with my aunt on the phone recently; she was diagnosed with breast cancer about fifteen years ago. Through chemo and various treatments, the cancer has basically been in remission for a long while.

It's out of remission now, and my aunt is not doing well. :-( There is another experimental treatment available, but is known to have terrible side effects. Having been through four other alternative treatments with terrible side effects already, my aunt isn't sure if she is up to going through another. She can no longer eat solid food; part of her esophagus is paralyzed, as well as her upper lip. One of her arms is in constant pain. She has stomach problems.

I find myself wondering what I would do, in similar circumstances, how I would cope. If I could cope.

When my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer ten years ago, we had barely two months with her before she was gone. She suffered terribly, and after she died I found myself torn by the desire that she had lived longer in conflict with relief that she was no longer in pain. And I felt guilty about being relieved.

It makes me feel incredibly helpless, seeing people like my aunt suffer, knowing that there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. Helpless and angry...the anger is unfocussed; there's no one to blame, I know. I'm not really sure where it's coming from, and I try to focus that emotional energy into something positive, but it's difficult.

But right now, all I can do right now is sit and feel helpless and think about the incredible bravery of people like my aunt.

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