Monday, July 18, 2016


It was a rough drive to the hospital. Every bump in the road caused her to cringe or yell out. She told me to take my foot off both the gas pedal AND the brake to make the jostling just a little easier on her.

"I don't know why it helps," she told me, "It just does."

It was terrifying, knowing that how I navigated each dip or rough spot on the road directly affected her pain level. My arms ached from gripping the steering wheel so tightly.

I sat in the waiting room with a book. We were there to see if they could get her some relief by draining some of the fluid from her abdomen. There was a lot of it, it caused her immense pain, and it was one of many parts of her body that was slowly, horrifyingly, getting worse.

The lady at the desk called me over. 

"They are ready for you to go see her. Room 6-B."

She was joking with a nurse when I walked in. When she told me that they didn't do the procedure, they couldn't do the procedure, because what everyone thought was fluid was actually her own organs, painfully enlarged, I needed to remind myself to breathe. 

We had reached a point where the doctors and nurses at the hospital couldn't help her. She was too sick.

I was shaking. I asked her, in as calm and normal of a voice as I could produce, "What do you want to do now?"

She took a deep breath, smiled, and said, "Let's grab some lunch!" 

I navigated her and her wheelchair through a sea of hospital workers. We needed to see all possible lunch options at the hospital cafeteria before we could make our selections. I rolled her past Saran wrapped sandwiches on paper plates, "No," she said.

I pointed out the pizza station, where the sad, droopy slivers sat waiting under heat lamps to be chosen. "No way, not pizza." She replied.

I steered her around the soup and salad bar, naming off the items that she couldn't see from her chair. 

"Let's see, there are black olives, chickpeas, some kind of cheese, maybe cheddar?" I reported.

"Chickpeas? Cheddar? Olives? Let's DO THIS!" She smiled.

We spent a considerable amount of time building her the perfect salad, with the perfect soup to go with it. We were a clumsy pair, her with trying to reach and assemble her salad from the chair, me with trying not to run over hospital workers with my less-than-stellar wheelchair steering skills. We bumped (and apologized), we dropped toppings, we laughed too loudly, we took too long making our choices. But when we were done, we had made it just how she wanted.

We got settled into a table and took a breath. 

"You have no idea how good it feels to have all of these choices," she said, taking a fork-full of salad. 

"I honestly can't remember the last time I got a chance to choose every part of what I ate and get it set up just how I want it. Thanks for doing that for me. I know it wasn't easy, but I'm so happy with this lunch! Perfection!"

I sat and stared at her for a moment, struck by how, over the past few years every single choice had been taken from her by her illness. She couldn't choose to be the wife and mom she wanted to be. She couldn't choose to make dinner for her family. She couldn't even choose to stand up and walk to the bathroom when she wanted. There was only one thing I could think of that she could still choose and she had chosen it that day. 

She had chosen to smile and be thankful.

I'm smiling today, remembering this particular day, and feeling thankful that she was mine. She was my friend, my sister, my role model. And I am who I am because of what she taught me.


  1. Here I am for the first time reading your blog. I have read several of them so far and have laughed at some and cried at some then I did both on others. All I can say is Thank you. I am blessed to have you as my cousin. Love and hugs to you and I will be waiting for your next blog writing.

    1. Thank you very much, Allison. I am very blessed to have you as my cousin too. Love you.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thank you for reminding me to be thankful for the little things.I admire your courage and strength

    1. Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment, Nicole!

  4. Thank you for sharing your experiences Andrea and for reminding all of us that life is full of choices to be appreciated. You ckearly understand the catharsis and joy of sharing beautifully painful moments. I can't wait to meet you and your clan some day soon.

    1. Thank you Brooke! I would love to meet you someday as well!

  5. Beautiful writing. <3 I cried and smiled at the same time.

  6. I had to remind myself to breathe as I read parts of this. Thank you, Andrea for sharing your experience, feelings, and thoughts so eloquently, poignantly, and humorously again.

    1. Aww, Donna, thanks for being one of my biggest cheerleaders!