My Sister

Breast Cancer: Personal Stories

My sister is the cleverest funniest person I know.

She was born when I was a spoiled two-year-old. They have told me so often I think I remember pushing the chair to the front window and climbing up. I shouted out to every passer by “I’ve got a baby sister and she’s got black hair just like my Dad and I’m going to call her Jolly.”

She was born at home. She was born in my single bed with the mauve wrought iron. They took me in to see her. There was Mum holding the bundle with the black hair spiking out at the top. Closer. She was tiny and her eyes were slanted and her lashes were thick and dark.

I loved her from that moment.

They called her Jolie.

We grew and became people. Me, the “shouty attention grabber.” She, the quieter, more sombre plodder.

When I was 13 our father died.

I screamed and became hysterical. My grandparents reached for me and wept as they squeezed my arms. I threw myself on the floor and aunts scooped me up and held me crushingly close while uncles pressed glasses of whisky to my lips.

I think she sat quietly to one side as tears welled through those thick black lashes. She was 11.

My sister is the cleverest, funniest, meekest person I know.

By 16 I was wild and dangerous. Mum waited up all night for me to come home. I bothered if it suited me. The family sat me down and chatted. I nodded and smiled and planned my next big night out.

I think she just went to school. She slipped in and out of the house at reasonable hours and scuttled for cover each time she heard yelling in the kitchen.

She was 14.

My sister is the cleverest, funniest, meekest, truest person I know.

Then I got pregnant and went to Australia. She became the only child.

She was 16.

My sister is the cleverest, funniest, meekest, truest, craziest person I know.

She dressed in gorilla suits and dashed through maternity wards yelling “I’ve
got to push.” She became a strip-a-gram and a nurse and a midwife. Suddenly she was a mother and a wife and a homemaker.

I had captured the family’s attention with my escapades. She earned it with her wit and tenacity.

Then at 45 I got breast cancer.

She came and wheeled me down for radiotherapy on the tumour on my spine.

She shaved my legs and painted my toenails and plucked the hairs around my nipples.
She looked at me with so much love through those lush dark eyelashes.

She was 43.

My sister is the cleverest, funniest, meekest, truest, craziest, and most wonderful person I know.

- Lyn, Australia

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