Saying goodbye to 2016
It’s been quite awhile since I last updated/kept up a blog. Part of it is because I’ve been caught up in my fancy corporate role for the past 4 years. And just last year, I left the Administration side to focus on a lucrative career as a Healthcare IT Recruiter. I made different goals… basically I wanted to make more $$$ so I can buy a house (by the beach) =)
The new role was very much rewarding throughout the course of 2016. Considering I probably had gone through THE most difficult year of my entire 33 years here on earth.
It’s still fresh in my memory that about a year ago today, we had to go into the ER to find out about Roma’s illness. Roma was my rival, my best friend at times, my idol when it comes to artsy things, and most important of all…. she was my sister. I have been lucky enough to have known her all my life. Finding out she had breast cancer just really turned my world upside-down.
You see… my fiance and I just returned from a holiday vacation from Chile a few weeks back. And not only did we come back belly-filled with fresh Chilean fruits and veggies… we also came back to the states engaged as a couple (FINALLY… after 11 yrs of dating!.)
2016 was going to be our year!
We’d be planning a bridal shower, bachelorette party, picking out a gown, venue, invitations, then BAM wedding.
Well… as I now look back at 2016 (along with the rest of the world)… it went down in history as THE most devastating year I have ever experienced. #Fuck2016 became the year-long hashtag throughout my social media posts… that along with #FuckCancer and #CancerSucks.
“Will I make it to your wedding?” — I remember Roma asking me this while she was looking up at me from her hospital bed. The hospital, which was situated in Anacrime, was called Anaheim Global Regional Medical Center (or something to that effect). Thank goodness she was transferred to a better hospital later.
Roma suffered so much in a span of 9 months. I felt sorry for her.. and I just couldn’t believe that she had to get up every single day in pain. The frequent chemo sessions, radiation sessions, and trips to hospitals became a norm for our family. My dad drove her everywhere. The hospital became a norm for her. I think the longest she was admitted at one point was 3 weeks. And for someone who never really goes on vacation to a different state/country… I just felt bad that a hospital room became her hotel room. My parents took turns spending the night at the hospital to make sure she wasn’t alone. And I just remember feeling so helpless. I was there most of the time… but I didn’t know how to make the situation better. And even til this day, I don’t feel like I did enough, or was there enough for her. She didn’t deserve any of that struggle.
And I couldn’t do anything.
I could’ve been there more for her. I’d get mad that not a lot of people came to see her while she was going through the treatments. She needed more people there. She needed someone to hold her hand, to drive her to her appointments, and people to talk to aside from me, my mom, and my dad. (I get sick of my mom and dad and I have an option to get up and go home.) She needed more visitors. Why weren’t they showing up like they should?!
But Roma wasn’t the type to get mad like I did. She was always nice, sweet, and thankful when people would visit her. She would thank everyone who made time to see her.
But I was upset because THEY all started showing up when it was too late. When it was time to take her home for palliative care/hospice home care. And of all the days… it happened to be my dad’s 73rd birthday.
Those 4 days under hospice care didn’t seem real to me. The first night, I bawled my eyes out… especially when I went into her room… OUR old room that we had shared since I was in high school up until 3 or 4 years ago when I moved out. I saw pictures of us, I saw all her Little Mermaid doll collections. I saw everything that we used to share… and she was downstairs in our living room. On her death bed, hooked up to an oxygen tank, sleeping/unresponsive. They told us that the morphine alleviates her agitation. I had seen her during terminal agitation in the hospital.
*Terminal Agitation — I learned about the term a few weeks after she died. So picture someone laying down, in a deep sleep mostly due to pain killers. And all of a sudden she opens her eyes, breathing heavily, reaching out her hands screaming in agony”Help Me! Help Me!!!!” So then you try to help her.. you pull her up from her bed… she gasps for more air, she scrambles to her feet… and she has no clue who you are. You ask her where she wants to go but she just keeps screaming “I can’t do it! Daddy help me!” all the while, she is giving you blank gazes. As if she’s somewhere else and she wants to escape somewhere… and you try to calm her down but it’s not working. Finally the nurse comes in to give her more morphine. And for a few seconds you hold onto her until she calms down and lays back down on her bed. I saw about 4 episodes of those. And I remember asking her to tell me how she was feeling… and she said “I felt like I was drowning.” That was the last coherent statement I remember my sister said to me.
She had visitors on her 2nd day in hospice care. By that time, she had stopped responding. She didn’t open her eyes anymore. And every now and then, you will see tears running down her eyes. The hospice nurses said it was her way of expression because she couldn’t use words. I made sure I wiped every single tear I saw. We were also told that her sense of hearing is the last to go… so anything we tell her, she will still be able to understand.
I made sure to tell her I love her and I was sorry for being mean to her, for arguing or hurting her in the past.
The following day, my fiance and I decided to say our vows right next to my sister. Right next to her death bed. I had borrowed a gown from my sister’s closet. I believe she wore it as a bridesmaid for someone’s wedding. (And til this day, I have yet to figure out who it was from.)
It was short, intimate, private, and… quite awkward. (My mom had her hair colored and it wasn’t time to wash it just yet…. so she looked ridiculous in the video with a plastic shower cap on and hair dye running down her foread…) All I wanted to say was during the vow exchange was “I do,” BUT we were asked to say something. Lol… I think I pretty much copied what Chris said but put it in my own words. Something about having mine and my family’s backs. My mom, dad, Uncle Rey, Millie, Gary, Danielle, Zapata, Yolly, and Alex were among the attendees. Miguel was also there =) Even though I thought it was pointless because my sister wasn’t responsive at that point anymore… It’s nice to say that she was there when we said our vows.
She did make it to my wedding after all.
Those 4 days felt like a viewing party. And I felt like it wasn’t something she would’ve wanted. She was quiet and shy. She didn’t want all the people there around her. But who was I to tell everyone to leave? I just felt like they all should’ve been there throughout the journey.
That Monday, October 10th, felt different. She looked different. Her hands and feet were colder. Her eyes looked different… and her breathing became shallower.
I never in a million years thought it would happen to my SISTER, the person I grew up with.
I never in a million years thought that I would see her breathe her last breath. It SUCKED. I can’t even say that it was sad/peaceful/a relief. IT SUCKED. And it still SUCKS. I’m not sure when it will stop SUCKING. I think about her every single day. I cry less… but the feeling inside my chest never stops. I know it’s not just emotional… I feel it physically too.
During her final moments on earth, I made sure I was holding her hand… but I don’t think she could even feel my touch anymore at that point. But it didn’t matter… I wanted her to know I was there until the very end.
I remember she would always say “Thank you Tigo” before I said good bye to her.
I want to thank her for everything.
As much as it’s been very sad that I can’t share this news with her… Here I am a year later from when we first found out about her illness… here I am 5 weeks and some days prego.