Two women kiss their sister on the cheek

Lucky to Count a Sister-friend Among My Caregivers

I have one biological sister, but I have a lot of sister-friends, and I was lucky that one of the sister-friends and my “birth sister” live in the Boston area. They are close to where I was treated, at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, so that I ended up having two sisters by my side.

Divorced at the time of my diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia, in 2003, I didn’t have a husband to help me get through it. My mother was a big support, but it was my sister who really assumed the “husband,” or “partner,” role.

Diane worked full time and obviously couldn’t be there all the time. That’s where my sister-friend Margaret came in.

The two sisters took turns sitting with me in my hospital room. I have already sung the praises of my baby sister, so I’ll talk about my friend/sister here.

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My sister-friend, Margaret

Margaret would bring her lunch to have with me. I’m sure it wasn’t easy: She had to keep a mask on and take bites beneath it. Sometimes if she had more time, we watched a movie.

While my sister and I were born from the same mother, Margaret and I were birthed from the same journalism school.

We didn’t know that we had gone to the same school when we met at a (sadly) now-defunct daily newspaper in Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1979. But in talking in between writing and filing our stories, at the Transcript-Telegram, or T-T, we learned that we had both gotten a master’s degree from Boston University’s College of Communication. We had been a year apart. And we learned that we had the same mentor, a former newspaper reporter and a cranky, colorful character who scared good deadline writing into us by barking at us if we messed up on the assignments he gave us.

The two of us actually resembled each other more than my biological sister and I do. And we definitely had a lot in common.

An extension of our bathroom talks

Meeting up in the bathroom, taking a break from pounding out stories on electric typewriters, we talked about what we were working on and what we had to complain about. I got so nervous at deadline, as my editor paced the floor, that I hyperventilated. We each paired up with an editor. We had a fun, interesting group. At a hole-in-the-wall bar after work, editors entertained us with stories about crazy things that legendary editors had done. We had some memorable New Year’s Eve parties.

I broke up with the college boyfriend I had been commuting to see. At the same time as I was falling in love with the editor, I was falling in love with life. And that life included my sister/friend.

I only worked there for a couple of years, but it made such an impression that it feels like it was a lot longer.

A home with my sister-friend

Years later, when we had gone onto other jobs and I had gone into the hospital, we continued our conversation. You could say it was an extension of our talks in the T-T bathroom, though in another small room, in a hospital.

And when I “graduated” and went back for checkups and procedures, I alternated staying at each sister’s house when I didn’t want to drive the 90 miles back home on the same day. She said it was my home also. I have a home in her house and a home in my sister/friend.

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