It was my birthday. I should have been celebrating but I was in “sister / waiting mode.” My sister Emily was expecting a call from her pulmonologist* with results from her lung biopsies. This could not be happening to our family. Not again. Both my deceased parents had lung cancer. We had just lost my mom, Mimi, eleven months earlier.
The phone call was not good news. Emily does have lung cancer. Immediately, I switch from sister mode to dietitian mode. Health care questions randomly pop into my mind: Where does Emily want to receive her cancer care? How can she get a second opinion? (This CANNOT be happening again to our family.) What is her nutrition status? Is the tumor near her digestive tract? Will she have trouble swallowing or digesting food after receiving treatments?
As a Registered Dietitian and healthcare professional, can I be helpful to family members? Yes, I would say. Will my experience in working with cancer survivors in my professional life be valuable to my sister? Absolutely. Will my personal experience of family members with cancer be beneficial as I assist cancer survivors in my work life? Positively yes! When people you love have cancer, you learn to listen for the little things with clients that make a difference. Can they carry groceries? Are they able to stand to prepare meals? What are the barriers to eating this week? Having a sister with cancer (and 2 parents) makes me a better Registered Dietitian and hopefully a better sister.
It was the worst birthday ever because of the news of Emily’s cancer diagnosis. Yet, it was still the best birthday ever because Emily had options. She was a candidate for treatments for her lung cancer there was hope! We were able to have another birthday again this year with Emily, and it really was the best birthday ever!
* A doctor who specializes in treating and diagnosing diseases of the lungs.