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Shannon R. Dalton 11/26/74 - 5/31/10

It's been a little over a year now and the pain is still fresh and raw. My beautiful, smart, loving sister was 35. She had a great life. Shan had been married for two years, had a beautiful little boy, a husband, a nice house and the job she always wanted. She was a teacher. A great teacher. I don't know if I can write this...

She had a mole removed from her leg some years ago. The doc never sent it out for testing. When the mole grew back he removed it again. This time it was tested and they found out she had Melanoma. This was her first round with this monster. She went in for surgery and they removed a few lymph nodes to see if it had spread. They saw two that showed they were malignant. These two were in her groin. So the medications and chemo started. She had to inject herself a few nights a week with the chemo drug, stay up all night sick as a dog and go to work the next morning. She pulled through it. A year later the doctor scanned her he told Shan she would be fine and she wouldn't need to be scanned again only a follow up would be needed. WRONG!! For three years she had follow up appointments. During that time she got married and gave birth to her son.

After Max was born she was so happy. She always wanted to be a mom. When Max was around 18 months old she started coughing. We all thought she had the flu. She began having pain in her lower right side and the coughing was worse. My mother brought her to the hospital. That night they found a tumor the size of a grapefruit had grown on her lower right side. Not far from where her lymph nodes had been removed. The doctor said the tumor itself was dead but that it was growing a hard shell around it. He said it was also possible that while she was pregnant the baby may have been resting against it. Her first doctor never did any CT or PT scans. Only blood work. Melanoma cannot be detected through the blood.

She was on oxygen to help her breathe. I went to see her and I found a cute pillow in the hospital gift shop. It says "World Class Sister". I have it now. It keeps falling off my bed.

So the chemo started again. This time she was taking five different types, two in the morning, three at night. Or maybe it was the other way around. It's hard to remember. She was in the hospital for a week at a time when she had these drugs administered. She lost all her hair in two weeks. My mom would take her out and they would look for wigs. I found a place close to my home that made wigs with human hair. She had one made. It's the one she's wearing now... Her blood counts dropped. So they would give her transfusions of red blood cell packs. Eventually, even this wouldn't help. The Monster was winning. Shannon became very upset. She wanted to refuse the treatments. She couldn't keep any food down, not that she wanted to eat. The chemo made everything taste funny. I went with my husband and son to see her for Easter. My husband and I sat in her room talking with her. It was so hard seeing her there. She looked so sad. She was still coughing and her face... I saw in her eyes how sad she was. She didn't want to be there. She wanted her home and her family. Her mouth turned down, I saw it all. I felt so bad. My heart broke. I'm the oldest. I should be sick, I should have been there. Not my little sister.

I had to go over there to help out with another family emergency. Just before Shan lost all her hair. I got to talk to her then. She had her days. Some good, some not so. Shan told me I had to go down there because I'm the only one any of them would listen to. I dunno...

She went home a few days later. My mom moved in full time with Shannon and her family. She helped cook and clean. Taking care of my nephew, Max. Oh the phone calls I would get. It was pretty bad. Shannon still couldn't eat. The coughing made everything come up. Shannon had to return to the hospital again. She had new scans done. The Monster had spread to her lungs, liver, her right hip and left arm and her neck. There was nothing that could be done. The doctor gave her a few months. She lasted two weeks.

By now Shannon had a full time hospice nurse and my mom taking care of her. She had a morphine drip for her pain. The drugs had her knocked out. She had filled up with a lot of fluid. Her hair was all gone. She could barely open her eyes. My other sister was here too. She and her husband and daughter came down. Erin sat there holding Shannon's hand. She had a broken foot, poor Erin. My husband, Juan read to Shannon. I never left her side while I was there. I talked to her, remembering things we did together. I hope I didn't bother her with my constant talking. Other friends and family came and went. Some prayed, some cried, others brought food. Lots of chicken. The night before she left us, I had to go home. My son was with his other grandma and I needed a shower and fresh clothes. I told Shannon I would be back first thing in the morning. I said, "Shan, I love you." She said, "I love you," that's the last time I spoke to her. The Monster won at six a.m. the next morning.

I miss Shannon immensely. Lately I've been looking at my phone expecting her to call me. Or I want to call her. I think sometimes that I'm handling things pretty well. And then it's like I get slapped in the face and it all comes back.

My husband and I want to have a real wedding ceremony. I want to honor my sister's memory somehow. I'm drawing a blank. If anyone has a suggestion feel free to write me.

Life's too short, make sure you tell your family how much you love them.
caitilie caitilie 41-45, F 3 Responses Aug 4, 2011

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I'm so sorry for your loss. My younger brother died of a brain tumor three years ago. He'd just barely turned twenty. It still feels like there's a gaping hole in my life. The experience did bring us closer and we put aside some of the crap that had come between us as kids. I'm glad that we got to do that before he passed on.

I'm glad you and your brother were able to mend things. Four years later and I still feel her loss. I don't know if I'll ever get over it. My sincere condolences to you.

Thanks for the great ideas! I really like the charity thought. Juan and I have been together for a long time and we have everything as far as having any kind of shower goes. <br />
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Writing that story yesterday took a lot out of me. It's the first time in a long time I could lay down and go straight to sleep. It was a relief! I still have a long road ahead of me, but there's some light here and there. Thank you!

My condolences on your's and your family's loss. I don't know how hard it is to lose someone that close, but I have lost people in my life that I have been close to.<br />
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Some thoughts I had were: maybe have a photo of your sister, in better times, enlarged and placed on an easel in the bridesmaid's area. See if the person officiating your sister's wedding would officiate yours. Depending on your financial situation, find a charity your sister had or might have wanted to endorse or one that supports something she was interested in and ask that all wedding presents be donated in her memory to that charity.<br />
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Be as active in Max's life as you can be and tell him about his mother from your point of view when he is old enough to understand (also depends on her husband's wishes).<br />
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Your story is a wonderful tribute to her as well. Thank you for having the strength to share it.