Remembering My Sister Who Had Hodgkin Lymphoma


I remember the flip flop of mother’s house shoes cross the kitchen’s red linoleum floor.

I remember them as the fastest house shoes in the west — from her foot to my behind

in a split second.

I remember the smell of Lux in a white enamel and very noisy washing machine on the screened-in and tarp-darkened back porch.

I remember the pear tree nearest our house and the smooth bark of my favorite lim, the one that transformed me into Jane or Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

I remember black patent shoes that ate lace-topped socks like their soles were starved.

I remember little red rocker to cuddlee Sally, my doll, and Chris, my baby brother.

I remember summer’s sweat-dampened sheets from nights with only an attic fan to cool us.

I remember attempts at banishing the dark… Gypsies stole sleeping children.

I remember hearing conversations of my sister’s illness.

I remember mother leaving and leaving and leaving.

I remember sleeping in unfamiliar beds or on the floor.

I remember looking for whoever was to be my ride from school.

I remember crying…

Crying… crying… crying.

I remember crying silently.

I remember tear-smudged school assignments.

I remember third grade’s Mrs. Wildman asking, “Is Barbara sick again? Is your mother gone?”

I remember her hand on my shoulder as she assured me, “She’ll be back soon.”

I remember not knowing when soon was.

I am a surviving sibling of a patient with cancer: my older sister Barbara Ann Drake. She died May 21, 1954, the eve of her high school graduation. She, though sick and going through radiation (the only thing available then) and three surgeries, was salutatorian of her Malakoff High School class of 1954.

That she lived nearly nine years after her diagnosis of Hodgkin lymphoma is a testament to her strength of character, my mother’s persistence with doctors and treatment and my father’s steadiness and strong work ethic. I’m not sure that my younger-by-five-years brother and I did anything toward her living as long as she did. We were, however, marked with all the negatives that came with being healthy siblings of a dying one.

The 1950s are not remembered for the availability of family counseling. Both my brother and I have had counseling as adults. The abandonment I felt as a child has followed me through life. If a child has no concept of a word like abandonment, it may make that issue even worse to deal with. Today, my heart aches for siblings of the sick. Cancer affects the whole household.

This post was written and submitted by Donna Drake Farmer. The article reflects the views of Drake Farmer and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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