Three years ago today, when I was exactly 37 weeks pregnant with my second daughter, I stood together with my cousins and my aunt, and we held my uncle’s hand as he slowly passed away.
Maybe one day I will be able to describe what it feels like to help someone you love dearly to leave this world when you are on the cusp of ushering another soul into it. It’s been three years since it happened to me, and I still can’t find the words I need. All I can say is that, before the moment of my uncle’s death, I had both seen life end and brought life forth and neither of those experiences touched me as profoundly, as radically, as that moment did.
It was cancer that killed my uncle. It seems like it’s always cancer in my family. Before it took my uncle, it had already taken my mother, my grandfather, and my other uncle. Cancer stalked and killed four-fifths of my mother’s family. That may sound melodramatic, but it feels true. Cancer took my husband’s mother too, and his uncle and a grandmother as well. It has been such a huge part of my life, that sometimes I forget I am not a survivor of the disease myself.
Or maybe I am? I am a survivor of those who have fought the battle and been overcome by a disease that seems never to pull its punches. Really, so is anyone who has lived through even one day of the fear and the pain; the chemo and the radiation; the treatments that are even worse than the disease, whether they won or lost that final battle. My whole family, then, both the living and the dead, are cancer survivors.
So this post is for them all, because I love them. But mostly it’s for my Uncle Bob, the best uncle a girl could hope for and one of the finest humans I have ever known.