Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My sister’s fight with cancer.

Padre James, and son Francisco-Xavier with their matching crew-cuts in solidarity with sister/aunt Sharon who is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer

Benjamin Disraeli, 19th Century British Prime Minister and novelist once said, “Sweet is the voice of a sister in the season of sorrow.” Charles M. Schulz, the author of the “Peanuts” (Charlie Brown) comics added his five cents worth with, “Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life.”
I have two older sisters, one who has been like a mother to me as well as my teacher of serious art, philosophy and sophistication; and one who was the light relief from the eldest sister, teaching me about popular culture and the mini-golf and bumper boats as a break from the museums and galleries. I enjoyed both in traditional Gemini tradition. Both have been my bosses at different periods of my life. Both will most probably say that I make a better brother than employee or subordinate. Both, along with our mother have been inspirations in my call to serve the community, through their own work.
Both of my sisters are strong women. However, they have cried on my shoulder many times.
While I had been supportive of my sisters’ work in the past, it was always with the understanding that serving the community and working for peace, justice and equality was something we were raised to do with only the contexts and scope of our work being the difference.
In November last year, my sister Sharon was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Like the father’s daughter that she is (as our mother and I often concur), she felt the fear, but dealt with it and the disease head on. The positive attitude she has maintained during her healing period has surprised many people, from colleagues to friends and family.
Many of us, when we discover ‘a lump’, growth or something unexpected with our help are so frightened that we prefer not to know. We refrain from seeing the doctor or convince ourselves that it will go away. Sharon’s decision to have a biopsy and find out her true medical condition and on finding out about the breast cancer, agreeing straight away for a mastectomy was the most courageous act I have seen in a long time.
There are many like Sharon who have made the same decisions when faced with cancer. Unfortunately far too many people either don’t bother with self examinations and addressing the problems straight away. Their inaction often costs them their lives.
A few weeks after her mastectomy, Sharon began journaling her experiences and feelings during this difficult time in a web log or blog titled: A Somewhat New Sharon. In her first journal entry she wrote:
“Three weeks since my mastectomy Monday (November 29) and as I amble along the seawall (admitedly I’m not walking as fast as I would right now) I am reminded to take it easy.Yes, I am resting especially when there is still some post-op tenderness/soreness to deal with but mentally, my mind is (uninduced)a- buzz thinking ahead about arrangements for what will be a very new year… The morning had started with another morning walk with Sian and we got caught in the rain but as we looked around at the silvery greyness we spotted a rainbow in solitary glory.That was fairly significant as I have to admit it’s not easy taking a break from work and I don’t mean editing stories or reading reports. It’s probably what’s been suggested to me – focus on yourself, not on some of the operational matters which yes do continue to tick over but I am sure there must be a way collectively press the “pause” button and take time to smell the roses so to speak, not worry about meetings ….or certain emails. Meanwhile I have to admit, it is very easy to spot the people who know I know I have had a mastectomy ….they tend to speak to my left breast! Otherwise, I am quite normal really!”
After the mastectomy, Sharon found out that she would have to undergo both chemo-therapy locally and radiation therapy abroad. In February, Sharon began her chemo-therapy. Again in her blog there is the positivity, that I believe is essential to the healing process and our wellbeing, especially after getting a “post-Mastectomy-Monday-all-new Amazonian woman-look up a notch to the GI Jane style ala Demi Moore (but sigh not the physique just yet).” The crew cut (number two on the clippers) was “really spurred on by a more noticeable flimsy loss of hair.” She adds, “Aside from one shop assistant’s stare I didn’t notice much else…..the stares that is – maybe it’s just regarded as yet another style-statement, which yes technically it is.”
From her sharing and her blog, I have been given an insight to how Sharon is coping with breast cancer, how this has brought her main caregiver (her daughter, my niece) Sian even closer together, and how her faith and her friends and family have been a source of strength to her in this difficult time. It has given me a real appreciation for those who live and battle with cancer in all its forms.
Sharon still works, and works hard – except for the days of and a few after her chemo-therapy. She’s travelled locally and abroad determined not to let the cancer get the better of her.
Last week my son Francisco Xavier and I got our hair cut to match Sharon. Perhaps this was the biggest gesture of solidarity that as males we could make to her. As my hair was being cut, possibly by the same pair of clippers, a hymn came to mind:
Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.
We are pilgrims on a journey, and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other walk the mile and bear the load.
I will hold the Christ-light for you in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you, speak the peace you long to hear.
I will weep when you are weeping; when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow till we’ve seen this journey through.
When we sing to God in heaven we shall find such harmony,
born of all we’ve known together of Christ’s love and agony.
Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.
Read Sharon’s story on and take time out to find out about cancer and how it affects both men and women.
May the rest of your week be blessed with light love and positive peace.
Rev. J.S Bhagwan is the Circuit Minister of the Dudley Suva Circuit of the Indian Division of the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily contain the views of the Methodist Church or this newspaper. Email:

No comments:

Post a Comment