Posted by Aimee Bruner on Aug 07, 2011
I'm a big sister. For the first decade of my life, I spent most of my time carting my little sister, Andrea, around as if she was my doll. She came everywhere with me - like my shadow. We were the best of friends who fought like only two sisters could. When we were teenagers I became the protective older sister (I may have also been a bit bossy from time to time). I spent our entire teenage years worrying and looking out for her. As we entered university, I did everything in my power to protect and take care of her. She didn't need me to do it but I needed to do it for myself. When I was 32, I became a mother for the first time. My sister, who always tried everything first, already had an exquisite little girl named Gracie. Like all new parents, Mishi and I were like overtired deer caught in headlights for the first few weeks (who are we kidding, months) of Stella's life. I remember on day 3, looking a Mishi and saying "how the hell are we supposed to function on such little sleep and remember to do all of the things parents are supposed to do at the same time when we can't even find time to take a shower?!" Just then, my front door swung open and my sister blew through it like she owned the place. She unloaded a new, deluxe, bottle sterilizer and a case of formula that you didn't need to add any water to. She set it up and said "here, start using this." It occurred to me right then and there, that my little sister was now taking care of me.
She is my hero. I've looked up to her for as long as I can remember and she's taught me more about strength, determination and humanity than I could have ever learned on my own. From the moment Stella entered the hospital, back when we thought we might be dealing with an ear infection or some other trivial thing, Andrea was there. Not realizing the fate that lay ahead of us on that June 24th afternoon, I tried to convince Andrea not to come all the way to Sick Kids because we'd likely be out in an hour or so. She said "Aim, I'm coming. I just want to give Stella a kiss." She arrived 45 minutes later and she never left. It's been about 6 weeks since that day my entire world fell apart and she's been at my side ever since. She's created a specific care plan in her head for Stella, Mishi and for me and she works away at it every day. The first and last phone calls I get each day are from her. She shows up at our house and always asks us what we need. I often find her emptying the dishwasher, organizing the recycling or tidying the house. All she has to do is look in my eyes or read the energy in the room and she knows what to do. Sometimes it's taking Stella out so that Mishi and I can sleep or have a good cry or sometimes it's reading the tone of my voice over the phone and then calling one of our friends who lives close by to come over to make sure we're ok. She gives me back rubs, buys groceries and brings us dinner. After suffering through a horrible migraine and a really bad back this weekend, Andrea still came up to the cottage when she should have been in bed. I know why she came. She wanted to be there to wake up at 6:00am so that she could help out with Stella in the mornings, she wanted to be there to make sure that Mishi and I were ok and she wanted to be there to hold Stella - and she did. Those of you who know my sister, know that her tough exterior is no match for her huge heart and her innate nurturing ability. She is my best friend and I would never get through life or this horrible reality without her.
Mishi is lucky enough to have an older sister, Heather, who is equally as nurturing and who's incredible strength and courage is undeniable. Every morning sometime between 5:00am - 5:45am, Stella wakes up and calls for her mommies. Mishi and I take turns getting up with her while the other one sleeps in. Without fail, every single day of the week, one of us will stumble into the kitchen to turn on the light and get Stella's bottle ready only to find Stella's Auntie Heather sitting on our couch. She comes over before we wake up so that she can keep whoever is up with Stella company or to take Stella so that we can go back to bed. Heather hasn't slept past 5:00am for over 6 weeks. As the apple of Stella's eye, Heather never fails to bring a smile to her face. She comes over to visit multiple times a day and ignites sheer joy in Stella as she walks up our front steps while Stella shrieks at her through the window. Heather is always there right when we need her. Just when we couldn't imagine how to get through the next minute, Heather calls and says I'll be there in 10 minutes to take Stella swimming. Without her, running our household, taking showers, eating, making dinner and sleeping would not always be possible. Heather also has the incredible ability of knowing just how to take care of Mishi. She can make her laugh at the drop of a hat and she works so hard to make it possible for Mishi to take time for herself. I can call her in an instant and she'll be there to hold Mishi's hand, cry with her or hug her while she's sleeping. The worry that I have for both my wife and my daughter sometimes consumes me but when Heather is around, it's like a weight has been lifted off my chest.
The friendship that Mishi and Heather share is like no other. They've always been there for each other and their bond couldn't be stronger. I've always admired Heather for the human being that she is but now, through all of this, I've never felt more lucky to have her in my life. The incredible toll that Stella's diagnosis has taken on both of our sisters is immeasurable but each day, they put on their armour and go to war for us. Mishi and I will never have the words to express how eternally grateful we are for the love and support of our sisters but I can assure you, we would not be the people we are without them.
Thank you Andrea and Heather for holding us up and helping us get through each day.