I am brave damn it! After all, I have two bracelets that say I am, I have people tell me I am all the time, I have kids who believe me to be brave, but the morning I had to climb onto the shuttle bus I wasn’t so sure that was the case. However, I climbed into the hotel shuttle bus that was going to take my baby sister and me into Tijuana to the clinic anyway. I had my brave face on for her, but inside I was screaming “It’s Tijuana for God sake get the heck off this shuttle while you can!!! I couldn’t tell if my sister was screaming the same thing inside her mind, but I was too afraid to ask. So I took my seat, held my sister’s hand and held back my tears. Something inside my head said, “you were the one who wanted an adventure, so here you go, a Tijuanan adventure!” I distinctly remember saying “screw you” to whoever was occupying my brain.
As we rode to the border, I realized my sister really is the brave one here, not me. She is calm, matter of fact and, well, brave. I told myself to put on my big girl pants and be brave too, you are the big sister for crying out loud.
The clinic wasn’t what I was anticipating. The shuttle driver stopped in front of a big metal gate, that very much said “Stay Out” and honked the horn. A little man came running out of a little shack and unlocked the gate and let this van full of people in varying stages of sickness into a large round courtyard. The first thing you see is the big white building with its two story wood entry door and a bird cage that was the size of my bathroom at home. This “bird cage” was home to 70 parakeets. I knew there were 70 parakeets in that “cage” because the man who was in charge of getting all the people their hospital gowns, was also the caretaker of the parakeets. As you waited for the results of your blood work, you could sit on this balcony and look over the city of Tijuana. The air was surprisingly clean, and the sun was warm and as we sat on that balcony with the slight breeze blowing, I knew my baby sister was going to be OK. The Doctors at this clinic had encouraged her to go ahead with the double mastectomy in addition to their tonic and supplements, and that made me feel less like we were in for a science experience and my sister’s comment of “throwing everything I can at it” made sense at that moment.
In the end, Mexico was an interesting adventure. We laughed, we walked 5 miles (well 4.5, but why be so technical) around the zoo and saw the elephants playing, we had spirited debates about traditional medicine versus holistic medicine and we laughed some more. We were nosey and ventured into parts of the clinic that we most certainly were not allowed. In another life the clinic served as a drug lord’s mansion and how could we NOT snoop around and we are our mother’s daughters who were taught to always snoop around when you can. But most importantly we, in those sunny hours waiting on blood work, agreed to respect each other’s opinions.
Through this brief journey of having a sister with breast cancer, I have learned a few things. First, it’s her journey, and she has a right to travel it any way she sees fit. It is not my place to direct her journey, but to be supportive of her journey and while it is incredibly easy for me to type that, it is not so easy to practice. I found myself on a few occasions wanting to direct her right past that bird cage, out the gate and away from Tijuana, but I had to correct myself. Secondly, I love my baby sister more than anything and these few days we had fun, there were no tears, there was great food, there was the zoo, and most importantly there were plenty of laughs. I can’t predict the future, (even though I had dreams on this trip that I was going to school to learn) this adventure will have lasting effects on me, and they will all be of the good kind. It was a time that two sisters had the undivided attention, support and love of each other.
After a comedy of errors trying to return the rental car at 5:00 in the morning BEFORE COFFEE, we stood at the airport shuttle line. We had just learned we were on different shuttles and had to say goodbye. I hugged my baby sister with all I had as if to send some sort of big sister protection telepathically and as I walked to my shuttle bus, I wiped a single tear from my eyes. I felt that quite possibly my baby sister is braver than I and finally I could complete a post without wiping my computer clean from the tears.