No ifs, ands or buts about it: my sister is an inspiration

Marc Lalonde
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Fighting breast cancer on her terms makes West Island native a hero

parenting

 

My daughter thinks she's got it pretty rough. Her bedtimes are sort-of enforced, her candy consumption is regulated, especially these days, and I don't let her watch as much television as she would like (to clear up, the amount of TV she feels is fair is 24 hours of every day). All this adds up to some regular pouting, some occasional crying jags and, every once in a while, the ‘you're being mean,' declaration gets thrown out there.

There are times when she'd like to drop her homework and move on to something more enjoyable, but she is told to move on when her work is finished.

"But this is tuuuu-ffffff," she'll half-moan to me, in that dramatic way that kids do when they're convinced their world is ending, stretching out the word from one syllable to two very long ones.

That's when I tell her, ‘kid, you don't know what tough is.'

Now, my sister, Lisey? She's tough. We throw that word around in the media a lot, to describe athletes who play through injuries, adults to make themselves into leaders in society despite having few advantages and even cuts of meat - and they can all be accurate.

But my sister? To use a hoary media cliché, that woman is as tough as a two-dollar steak.

Lisey, the second-youngest of my three sisters, grew up in the West Island, and carved out a name for herself as a tenacious and, yes, tough, soccer and ringette player.

But last October, mere hours after giving birth to her second child, she and her husband Jason were confronted with news no one ever wants to get, let alone the same day your child comes into the world.

"I'm sorry. You have breast cancer."

At the age of 30, the lump on her breast that she and doctors had hoped was merely mastitis during pregnancy was indeed malignant, and she commenced chemotherapy treatment days later. Lisey and Jason both grew up in the West Island, but now live in Golden, B.C. - a small, isolated mountain village far from major treatment centres. When it came time for radiation treatment last summer, Lisey had to travel daily to and from Kelowna, B.C., and because the young couple with two children really couldn't afford to rent a hotel room for the summer, Lisey, three-year-old daughter Reve and now-seven-month-old Ryeder camped in Kelowna rather than make the five-hour trip back and forth from Golden, while my brother-in-law stayed in Golden for work. I can barely camp for one night.

She's amazing. Imagine living your summer in a tent with two children under the age of four, all the while enduring hours upon hours of exhausting and painful radiation treatments.

It's an especially poignant story given that Lisey and Jason's lives were impacted by a form of cancer that is so rare it us almost unheard of for a young woman with no history of breast cancer in her family to have to deal with it.

But deal with it they did - together and as a family, in a 12-month period that has given me new respect and admiration for those who have managed to battle and conquer the disease.

Geographic location: West Island, Kelowna

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