My only sister has thousands of sisters I’ve never met.
My only sister has brothers; many, many brothers. I’ve never met them, either.
My only sister is 1 of 8, and our parents had only two daughters and no sons. We have no brothers in common.
One of every eight women you meet will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life. One of every 1,000 men face the same diagnosis. My only sister is one of them.
For the past few years, my only sister has fought breast cancer. She’s done it her way and on her terms. I don’t understand…no, can’t understand…what she’s been through. I can only imagine how much effort and courage it took her to hold her head high and walk with grace from the doctor’s office the day she got the news. She, like many other women, chose not to make a big deal out of this. She told few, kept her confidences close, and took this fight on with something I call “pignity” or pig-headed dignity. I mean, she’s my sister, and she’s been pig-headed all her life. It’s served her pretty well, too, all things considered. I know this wasn’t easy for her. The emotions; the complications; the treatment – they all take a toll on a person. She didn’t tell me much, but when I least expected it, these little pignity things would pop out of nowhere, like the t-shirt that proclaimed her “real ones tried to kill her.”
During that time, I respected her choice to tell few. I hated it – mostly because I didn’t understand it. But it wasn’t about me, and the best I could do was be ready if and when she called. Through it all, I was both surprised and not surprised at what I saw.
I really wasn’t surprised at all by her choice to circle up her wagons. I’m pretty sure a gnat couldn’t have gotten through her defenses. The trusted few who knew anything said absolutely nothing. My only sister was determined that no one was going to be in charge of her except her. In truth, I wanted to kick her in the butt for being stubborn, but I was very quietly proud of her and the courage she displayed.
The biggest surprise was the woman who came out the other side. That woman was fearless. She was probably scared shitless, but she was absolutely fearless. Before the big c, she cared about others, but now she cares more for herself than she used to. You need to do that, or you can’t be there for the others like you want to be. She values the little moments more. I mean, she appreciated them before, but it’s different now, and you can tell.
My only sister and I go months without speaking a word. That’s on both of us – we’re in different cities with jobs and families, and different priorities in our lives. I don’t tell her enough how really proud of her I am. Now you know, so let’s keep this our little secret. I’d never be able to live with her if she found out. She is still my only sister, and I will always, always have her back, even when I want to smack her till her teeth rattle…just nobody gets to smack her, but me.
In honor of my only sister, and the thousands of sisters and brothers that she has who aren’t also mine, I’m launching the Abandon All Fears Photo Tour. I’ll be spending one weekend a month this summer in a city somewhere to photograph the women and men who are battling and have survived breast cancer. For those who would like to participate, select images from the shoot in each city will be published into a calendar for sale to raise awareness. Other select images from all the events will be compiled into a gallery exhibit and photo collection. Up to 50% of the profits from these events and 100% of the profits from the calendars will be donated to agencies selected by the participants.
I hope you’ll join me in paying tribute to my only sister by sharing this message and helping me plan the cities on this tour. Breast cancer sucks. We need to show it who’s boss.
Cancer won’t like it if I have to send in my sister. You can count on that.
2017 Abandon All Fear Photo Tour