15 Sep Saying goodbye doesn’t mean you are gone! By Bekah Razza
The last words you say to someone are for YOU to remember, and for you to cherish. But to you mine were about trifle!
If I rewind to 2013, 14-year-old me would tell you that I have an “awful” life; two annoying sisters, parents that make me unload the dishwasher and a school life that fills you with dread every day you walk into the school gates. But oh how wrong I was. That was far from the truth as living through 2017 and into 2018 is potentially the most devastating, difficult and life-changing year of my life. Let me put this all into context. In 2013 Alice (my 11-year-old sister at the time) was diagnosed with an embryonal liver sarcoma, or to a 14-year-old CANCER.
It’s funny what you remember when you look back to some of the most devastating times in the journey. For me, it was, “the phone call”. Dad called me, I was stood in the PE changing rooms, and he said, “we are coming to get you, Alice needs to go to Southampton, to the kid’s Oncology ward.” I vividly remember turning to my friend and asking, “what does Oncology mean”.
And that’s when my whole life changed
She said, “Bekah who is on the phone, Oncology means Cancer”. Well, let’s just say ‘the floodgates sure did open then’. I was not one for all the attention being put on me, but all of a sudden, what felt like 10,000 people (when we only had around 900 in our school) were watching me run out the school gates.
And from that moment on, my life changed. I often used to sit and watch films like; ‘ my sister’s keeper’, ‘the fault in our stars’ really any generic soppy cancer-related film and not understand how much strength a family needs to get through this battle. My Oh my, Alice was not going sit and watch the world go by. If she wanted to climb Mount Everest, my word she would be up there. Nothing prepares you for what you are going to witness. You think that the copious amounts of revision your brain retains from watching these terminal romance cancer films would give you some inclinations.
But let’s just say, the pain that flooded through my body the moment I stepped through the doors of Piam Brown Ward (the paediatric oncology ward in Southampton) is a feeling that will never shake.
Let’s fast forward a few months, the corridors of Piam Brown became a home, we knew all the families, we knew all the rooms. I knew the shortcuts to the canteen and most importantly the way to the SNACK CUPBOARD!
She stared chemo pretty much as soon as she was admitted to the ward, so pretty swiftly her hair began to fall out. She was so accepting of all that cancer threw at her. She attempted a wig but I guess it was very itchy and when you look so cracking bald as she did you didn’t need one.
It was a massive knockback to my confidence having Alice in hospital
I wasn’t the girl to walk around school talking about my life, so Alice having cancer was definitely a talking point for the girls at school. I was immensely proud of all she was going through, but at the same time I hated it all so much I wanted to live a seperate life, I didn’t want to accept it. That meant I went to school, avoided the topic and HATED visiting the hospital. And that is something I will regret for the rest of my life.
Months and month went past, she wasn’t getting any better; blood transfusions, surgeries, hair loss, bruises, sickness, weight loss, chemo, more chemo and even more chemo. Then the words that you never want to hear are spoken. “I’m afraid the chemo hasn’t worked, there is nothing else we can do!”. Me and Emily (my older sister) stayed at the hospital that night and for the first time in my life,them I wondered what life would be like without her.
But things changed, she got on the transplant list, got a donor liver (WE ALL NEED TO BE ORGAN DONORS BY THE WAY), and she was in remission. Two and half years went by, only minor complications went on but we all got back to ‘normality’. Arguing over the TV who sat where at the dinner table, and why Nan still sent Alice £50 for sweets.
Just when life is back on track, I had settled into college, was in a good job, and everything was on track. A pain in her ribs emerged. It turned out that the sarcoma had spread to her ribs. I am going to cut a long story short. From her ribs, they took out the 6th, 7th and 8th rib out, filled her with cement and chicken wire and all seemed okay. A few more months went by and things were okay, thenit hit. And as cancer likes to do it multiplied and multiplied and relocated into her lungs.
The word I used to describe cancer is SAVAGE
It is ugly, it is indescribable and it lingers like a bad smell.December 2016 we got the news that her cancer was terminal and it was our mission to fill the last 5 months of her life with joy, family and true AWESOMENESS!!! From the Centre Parcs tree house to Ed Sheeran, watching the new years eve fireworks in London to numerous spa days. And driving around in vintage sports cards to scrap booking on the living room floor we made her last few months fun, comfortable and epic.
December 2016 we got the news that her cancer was terminal and it was our mission to fill the last 5 months of her life with joy, family and true AWESOMENESS!!! From the Centre Parcs tree house to Ed Sheeran, watching the New Years Eve fireworks in London to numerous spa days. And driving around in vintage sports cards to scrapbooking on the living room floor we made her last few months fun, comfortable and epic.
She died peacefully on the 4thof May 2017 with all of us around her, and that’s how it was meant to be. Alice was brave, she was strong she was a champion (as Katy Perry would say).
She fought battles no child should ever face
Yet she bought this aura about her. This beauty! She was fierce, she was determined and believe it or not she made us all happy! Having shared 15 years with this truly epic girl I know I am one lucky woman. Life will never be the same without her, she won’t be at my wedding, won’t meet my children or be around to cause mischief – but she will always be known in my life.
She will be the courageous Auntie, she will make it shine on my wedding day, and she will be there to pick me up when I am down by the many memories we share together. You aren’t gone and never forgotten, as I know that you are right by my side.
The past 5 years have taught me strength, resilience, maturity (and how to use a washing machine)
I have had the emotional backlash of life, my mental health has been pushed but as you do you deal with what life throws at you. Your life story makes you who you are. I am who I am because of Alice and for that, I am eternally grateful.
I am not ashamed to talk about how I became who I am today, and Alice’s story will live on with me forever. Talk about it and there are people who want to help, people who have had similar life paths. And people who need to read this and realize to treasure everything you have. As I know I have!