February, for most people, is the month of Valentine's day. A month to declare your love for someone... whether a new flame or an everlasting flame. For me, February is a month filled with hard memories. A month marked by the loss of one of my favorite people that ever lived.
Let me take you back two years. My effervescent sister-in-law, my partner in crime for over 25 years was diagnosed with anal cancer. Her cancer was caught early... actually before too many symptoms appeared. She had fallen and broken her tailbone. When the symptoms persisted, she went to see a doctor who immediately ordered a colonoscopy. Much to our chagrin, they discovered her cancer.
Being typical Laurel, she attacked her diagnosis with positivity and planning. She was a major planner... just like me. She was scheduled for radiation and chemotherapy. She met each appointment with positivity if not a little bit of apprehension at the discomfort and unbelievability of it all. I mean, she was not even 50! Her chemo was the kind that you had attached to you for a week and then had a few day's break. She endured this for 8 weeks.... and then she was declared cancer-free!
She had one more obstacle to overcome before she was done with the whole mess. She was scheduled for an operation to remove any remnants of her cancer. She was so young they wanted to ensure that nothing was left. She had so many things left to do... why not make sure it is all out. That surgery was scheduled for February 1st.
I remember the morning of her surgery, I texted her a picture of the chicks that had just hatched in my classroom. Just trying to keep it normal for me and her. Surgery went well, she came out with what we thought were flying colors. We even joked with her afterward about what a pain in the ass she was... like literally now. She sounded tired but so good... and of course, thought the whole joke was funny.
Unfortunately, the rest of the story is not unicorns and rainbows. Somewhere along the way, Laur developed complications from the colostomy bag that was attached during surgery. She spent too many hours feeling horrible, vomiting, and not being able to eat. She went to the doctor numerous times and finally to the ER. She waited in the ER for way too long, too much time was wasted on trying to figure things out. My fun, kind, never met a stranger sister-in-law was now in Septic Shock. Just the sound of those words fills people with dread. For those of us that loved her, they have become the equivalent of really bad four-letter words. Like think of the worst one you know.... Septic Shock is worse than that!
She lost her battle with sepsis on February 13th. Her body couldn't fight off the infection but boy did she try. She would write notes to have the doctor answer her questions or to comment on how she was feeling. She died surrounded by the people she loved most in the world.
So see, February is not my favorite month. Each thing I do I remember what I was doing that last February. When the kids do readers theater, I think about how I took those calls from my mother-in-law in the hall. Of how I had to leave school during their plays. February brings the start of Lacrosse, but all I think about was the boys missing practice to go to Florida. I love my class's chicken project, but when they hatch I think about those texts with Laurel on February 1.
I know that time heals all wounds and maybe February will become less painful as the years go on. But for now, I will try and focus on the positive, good memories I have. I won't focus on the excruciating details of her last February but on all the times before. Maybe those of you whose February is the month of love will hold yours just a little bit tighter this year.