We got the word the first week in July: my 38 year old sister-in-law, Kym, had breast cancer.
After weeks of tests, re-tests, and second opinions, surgery was scheduled in Atlanta for last week. (Kym and Brad live in Adel, 3 hours south of Atlanta.) My dad and step-mom kept Kym and Brad's almost-2-year-old daughter, Lydia, for the week. And Kym's mom, unfortunately, was in the midst of chemotherapy treatments for her own battle with breast cancer. Because we live in Atlanta, my husband Allen and I were the family designees for Kym's hospital stay.
With an 8 hour surgery on Tuesday, another unscheduled surgery on Wednesday, and a bout with the flu for Brad, my brother and his wife needed lots of help along the way. Like it is for most of us, it was hard for Kym and Brad to ask for help. But they did. They needed help and they asked us to do what we could....which we were glad to do.
Kym and Brad were very grateful for the help we gave. They thanked us often. But it felt odd to receive their thanks...offering thanks for the experience seemed more appropriate.
Brad and I didn't grow up together. (We have the same dad, but different moms.) We probably spent more one-on-one time together last week than we ever have. In hours of talking, listening, and just sitting, we discovered that we have a lot in common-we both like words, reading and writing them, we both like music, we think a lot alike, and (sadly, for those around us) we have similar senses of humor.
And the woman he married...not only does she have a phenomenal name (!), she's an amazing human being. I don't know that I've ever known someone to be so positive about a cancer diagnosis. She's very realistic, but also optimistic. Kym is learning as much as she can from this cancer experience. She's relating to God in more real ways. She's reaching out to others and is staying connected.
Kym went home from the hospital on Monday. Brad has recovered from the flu. And Lydia turned two yesterday. Happily, life continues for my brother and his family.
As I reflect on our week together, I find myself being very grateful. Because Kym and Brad asked for help, I got to know my brother and sister-in-law much better. Because they let us, in our small ways, help them, I was able to experience family in a profound way. In receiving our help, Kym and Brad gave us a powerful gift.
As Mitch Albom says in his new book, Have a Little Faith, "As is often the case with faith, I thought I was being asked a favor, when in fact I was being given one." Indeed.