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All in the Family

usakat's picture
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

Yesterday morning I received a phone call with the news that my cousin died Sunday afternoon of breast cancer that had metastasized to her lungs. Apparently she was diagnosed a year ago, but had decided against all treatment and opted to keep it quiet. The family doesn't know if her cancer was treatable when she was diagnosed. Her children and the cousins are quite sad by her death.

I was not close with this cousin, but the news is still shocking. Shocking because my mom spoke with her right after my cancer diagnosis in May and she never mentioned her own cancer and failing health. I feel badly that in the midst of her struggle she had nothing but encouragement for me. I wish I had known she was sick.

The saddest thing, other than her death from cancer, has been the acrimony in her family since her father's death from cancer a couple of years ago. The adult children of my uncle fought over money and my three cousins ended up hatefully estranged from one another. My cousins were so out of touch that they didn't know their sister was sick for nearly a year. Once close, the siblings parted angry because of money, money they never earned themselves, and my cousin died alone.

Two of the stock questions on the CSN Personal Pages (go ahead, create yours today-please) are what have you learned and what are positive things from the cancer experience.

Thinking of my cousins' sad, ridiculous fight made me thankful for the reconciliation with my father after my cancer diagnosis. We had been estranged for most of my adult life, but completely out of touch for over nine years. I guess we can be kind of stubborn (can a person be genetically stubborn?). There was nothing specific with my dad and I being distant, just stupid, petty family squabbles. Truthfully, we just never really see things eye-to-eye. What I've learned is we don't have to and I'm glad my dad and I are getting reacquainted.

The positive thing I'm learning is that it is better to accept and love people for who they are, rather than avoid them, or worse spend time hating them, because of who they are not (unless of course the relationship is abusive). I hope my cousins can learn this too.

Life is too short. Think about it - call your parents, brothers, sisters...you might actually like them!

spongebob's picture
Posts: 2598
Joined: Apr 2003

Kat -

What a great posting. My sympathy to you and your family for your cousin's loss, but even more, I can't help but wonder how her sibs are doing considering the way they parted.

Funny you should mention your reconsilliation with your dad after your Dx. Same thing happened here (in my case, getting divorced had a lot to do with it, too).

You really hit the nail on the head about life being too short to not just accept and love people for who they are. Shame more people don't think that way.

Have a wonderful day. I'm going to try very hard not to melt (high here in DC today = 102) - PERFECT day to be walking around in wool uniform pants and hat, don't you think?... UGH...

Thanks again for sharing.

- SB

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

Aw, Katie...you are so good to point this out. I am sad for your cousin...still in disbelief that anyone these days can actually LOSE the fight to breast cancer!!!!!
My sister and I didn't talk for a long time till she found out about my rectal cancer, then she was on the net looking for treatments, docs, surgeons, everything. We had quite the discussion over the phone when my resection became 'elective' and I had to make the choice!

My feeling is: be good to everyone, part in friendship, say the things your heart wants to say, you NEVER know when it is the last thing the other will ever hear!

Hugs, Kathi

usakat's picture
Posts: 625
Joined: Jul 2006

Thanks SpongeBob and Kathi. Cancer is scary and certainly life altering for sure, but what I didn't realize until my own experience is the polarizing affect it has on people, both good and bad. It all runs very deep.

Sorry to hear you're sweltering SB. KathiM and I know all about that here in Southern California, but thankfully we finally have relief this week with a nice morning marine layer. For relief from the heat in your neck of the woods, may I suggest a nice movie at Hoffman Center? The theatre there was one of my "flagship" projects and I'm very proud of that one. It would be the perfect place to see Pirates of the Caribbean, which is good fun. It's a hot day AKA a great day to play hooky. Have fun...

alihamilton's picture
Posts: 348
Joined: Jan 2004

Really a great post! I am sorry to hear about your cousin's death and understand your concern that she did not disclose her illness. But everyone has their own way of dealing with things. Maybe her father's death from cancer made her decide against treatment. Maybe it was the acrimony that existed in the family that prevented her from telling anyone.

The most important point you make though is the fact that we should never leave this world estranged from anyone, especially those who are close to us. I can never understand how sometimes something so petty will cause a family member to disown another. Even among friends, it should not happen. None of us know how long we have and therefore each day should be spent in loving contact with everyone we know or meet. This does not mean that we should tolerate abusive behaviour and we should distance ourselves from such situations. But living with feelings of hate is so self destructive and it is healthier to forgive, let the feelings of resentment etc. go and move on. When my husband was dx three years ago with rectal cancer and now, I have been dx with lymphoma, we found such love from family,friends and even some with whom we are not normally so close. There is so much goodness in the world that why would any of us want to add to the evil?

lfondots63's picture
Posts: 822
Joined: Jan 2006

Hi usakat,

I agree with the others. I hope what has happened might make your cousins family rethink the estrangement. I agree with life is too short to be caught up in petty thinks. My SIL has kept a grudge against me for 3 years. I thought it was water under the bridge. I was upset when I found out a few weeks ago but now my motto is that it is her problem not mine. It is a shame that she will not come over my new house with her family but I also figure I don't have time to "sweat the small" stuff. You can only hope that people learn that life is to short, you can't make them think that way. Sigh. HUGS to you.


scouty's picture
Posts: 1976
Joined: Apr 2004

Nice post!!!!!

Money seems to bring out the worst in some people. And you are so right about getting back in touch with your family. 4 months after my dx in 2004, I had a b-b-q and my Mom, Dad, 5 siblings and I were all together for the first time in 35 years. I tear up remembering that they all attending and got over the BS to support me. It was so good, we have done it several more times since and us kids are much closer now. I have to say my cancer has been a very good thing for my family. 18 of us will be on our now annual family beach trip in 2 weeks and we will have great and sometimes silly fun.

I am sorry to hear about your cousin but without the specifics, it is hard to judge her decisions. I like that you are processing and learning from this all. I think that is why I prefer to call my experiences, "my cancer journey", it never really ends.

Keep learning and please keep posting!!!!!

Lisa P.

Posts: 553
Joined: Mar 2006

You are so right. I think most of the time we take our loved ones for granted. We are all guilty of it at one time or another. Life is too short to hold grudges. I am so sorry to hear about your cousin. Sometimes when we or our loved ones are ill, we realize what little time we have on this earth and how quickly time goes by. We need to cherish every moment we have with those we love and let go of silly grudges.

God bless you,


Kanort's picture
Posts: 1275
Joined: Jan 2004

A beautiful post. Thank you for so eloquently reminding us to love one another and get past our differences.

Being an only child who is struggling with being the only caregiver for my ailing mother, I long for a sibling. When the third graders I used to teach would have squabbles and complain about their buddies to me, I would listen attentively and then advise them to "feel it and let it go!" If only we as adults could so easily get over our differences, life would be so much easier.

I am so sorry for your cousin's passing. Thank you again for sharing your story.

I'm thinking of you and wishing the best for you and your mother.



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