Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sister Support

One day when I was about Katherine's age, my mom was up at our elementary school with my sister, Molly, for her play practice. Two neighborhood middle schoolers were babysitting us for their community service hours. It was a really nice day and my sisters, Robin and Margaret, and I were playing outside in our front yard with the sitters.

We were playing a game called colored eggs. The person who is "it" stands in the middle of a big diamond (that is a homemade baseball diamond in our front yard with bushes assigned as bases) and calls out colors. Everyone else stands on "home plate" which was our front stoop. If the person who is "it" calls your color you try to run to first base without getting tagged. If you get tagged your "it". To "win", you want to get all the way around the bases and back home without getting tagged.

We were having a great time. My sister, Robin, has always been a good runner. Robin was just about six years old, but had made it around the bases and back home. She was going so fast she ran into the storm door and she put up her hands to stop herself. We'd all done this hundreds of times before. Today though, Robin's right arm did not stop when it hit the door. Instead, the glass shattered and her arm went through it. The main door was open so it was not there to stop her arm. She had hit an artery and blood was spurting out of her arm like a broken water fountain. The babysitters immediately ran to get help. Leaving me at age 9 with Robin, who was in tremendous pain and bleeding uncontrollably and little Margaret, who was 3 and crying hysterically.

Our parents had always taught us that if we were bleeding to wash it off with water. I put my arm around Robin and led her to the back door and down the hall to the bathroom. We put her arm under the water in the sink. With blood spurting straight out and a gash in her arm from her wrist to the elbow where you could see down to the bone the water did very little. Luckily, very soon our next door neighbor, Ms. Grimm, came over and had me get an old towel. She applied pressure to Robin's arm, and with the help of another neighbor, got her to the hospital and got my mom. Robin had over 90 stitches inside her arm and out. Her scar has not grown with her, so now it goes from her wrist to about halfway up her arm to her elbow, but it is still there. I am not sure how much Robin remembers about that day. I remember all of it happening and then cleaning up after with the help of neighbors when she was at the hospital with my parents. There was a trail of blood on the ceiling from where we came in, into the bathroom.

Later on in high school, I was a senior when Robin was a freshman. Robin did all the same sports that I did that year. We did field hockey in the fall, basketball in the winter and then track in the spring. In track, I remember warming Robin up for races and then watching on the sidelines as she lined up. Watching her line up to run I had more butterflies in my stomach than I did at the start of my races. I thought at the time it was what parents must feel like when they watch their children compete. Now either because my children are not that competitive, or I have more perspective on things (or both), when I watch my children I am not nervous. I just want them to have fun. Watching Robin though in her track meets I knew what it felt like to run those races since I ran them too. I knew how nervous she was for some of them, and I really wanted her to do well. I felt like each race she ran was an eternity. When she finished a race I felt relieved and tired, and my throat was always sore from cheering for her so loudly.

Robin and I both still run. When we are in the same city we try and get out for a run together before our daughters all wake up. This summer though it was Robin coaching me through our runs since I was out of shape from the move (and as I now know, low oxygen from the cancer). Robin has been there for me each step of the way since I found out I have leukemia. She has been there to listen whenever I have needed to talk (or just cry). She helped me through the stretch in the hospital when I was most sick. Now that I am not running, Robin is running for me. There is a race in DC in April that is totally dedicated to raising money for finding a cure for leukemia and lymphoma and Robin has signed up to run it.

Below is a link to Robin's page on the race. Her goal is to raise $7500 for research to find a cure. If you are looking for where you want to give this year (or next) please consider sponsoring Robin for this race.

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) was founded in 1949. What Robin says on her website is that when the LLS was founded if you were diagnosed with blood cancer there was very little that could be done for you, and it was almost always a terminal diagnosis. For the form of leukemia I have, all they could do for you pre-1980 was remove your spleen (if they caught it early enough) which would boost your counts but would not reduce the cancer. Now though, there are lots of different drugs that can be used to treat leukemia and lymphoma that have dramatically improved life expectancy for people facing these diagnoses.
Thank you again to the many of you that have already contributed to helping save lives of people with leukemia and lymphoma through donations to the LLS (special thank you to my last work group the P&G-A.S.Watson team!!). Thank you again to all of you that have donated blood  (special thanks to the 35 people who gave at the blood drive at work on Monday!!).

A friend sent me a T-shirt from a LLS walk she was part of last month that says "I walk because someone's life depends on it".  We have been so impressed and amazed by the advances the medical community has made in this area, but there is still so much more to do. Thank you to all of you that are helping to be a part of continuing to help people with leukemia and lymphoma.


  1. You had me at Colored Eggs...

  2. Me too--well before the T-shirt reference (thanks!). Now onto make a donation. Have a great day. Irene