An Apple A Day

Dress: Jacqui E

Shoes: Poetic License

What’s the most important item that I’m wearing today?

Is the cute, but simple navy dress from Jacqui E? The much-loved patent pumps from Poetic License? My… smile?

Give up?

It’s this:

Apple Pin

I haven’t really talked much in the past few months about what’s going on in my personal family life. It’s been too close and too raw to share, but I asked my sister if she was OK with me talking about this on the blog, and she said it would be, so here we go.

In July my sister Mae was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

God I hate that word. Cancer. I know it’s ridiculously common. I know that almost all of you will have had brushes with it in the past. Perhaps you’re still dealing with the fallout of a diagnosis right now. It’s a part of life. I guess I just never expected to have to apply it to my baby sister.

Bowel cancer’s very common – it’s the second most common cancer in Australia – but it’s very rare among young people. Very, very rare among young women. And it’s very, very, very silent.

Mae was only diagnosed because it had spread, causing irreparable damage to her ovaries and uterus. What began as a frightening diagnosis of ovarian neoplasia (requiring my twenty-eight year old sister to undergo a full hysterectomy) rapidly snowballed into a frankly terrifying diagnosis of stage four colon cancer.

And the bottom dropped out of my world.

My sister has the most generous heart of anyone I’ve ever met. She has a breathtaking capacity for love and kindness, and is the bravest, strongest and most empathetic person I know.

She doesn’t deserve the hand that’s been dealt to her.

But in typical Mae-fashion she’s meeting the battle head-on. Her recovery from a ten-hour surgery was awe-inspiring, her courage and fortitude as she undergoes pretty full-on chemotherapy amazes me. And on top of everything else, she’s now planning her wedding.

So to my brave, beautiful, loving and dearly loved little sister: I am SO proud of you, and I love you more than I can say. I wish I could fight this battle for you, but I’m walking with you every step of the way.

And to you, my readers, bowel cancer isn’t the most glamorous of cancers. There are no glossy bowel-cancer themed products in the supermarket aisles. GHD isn’t lining up to do a bowel-cancer hair straightener. OPI hasn’t done a line of bowel-cancer nail polishes. Witchery isn’t encouraging everyone (well, everyone under a size 16 anyway) to wear a white shirt to promote bowel-cancer awareness.

Bowel cancer DOES have a really cute fundraising pin though. Do me a favour and buy one, OK?

71 thoughts on “An Apple A Day

  1. I have read and enjoyed every one of your posts but have never commented until now. What a very crappy hand to be dealt to your sister. Cancer is an insidious disease and the sooner our researchers fins a cure, the better. I am praying for her/sending positive vibes to her. If she is a beautiful and lovely as you describe, then surely she is due some good karma right about now. I hope she gets it…….

  2. My sister is my world and I know yours are for you too. She sounds so very special and I hope she’ll have the wedding of her dreams. I can only send you my deepest love and strength from the other side of the world for you all to get through this together. One day at a time – that’s how we took it. I’ve never “met” you and I am indeed on the other side of the world in the UK but my heart is heavy for you and I am really deeply praying for you all. Do take care of yourself too xxx

  3. it’s just this way. cancer is a part of life but still, it makes people terrified, and very often, hopeless. and in PL it’s mostly too late, because people are not treated well, diagnosis comes too late (my mom died when she was 42, just because “she was too young” to have a cancer, doctors said… b?ech!).
    Huge HUG to Mae! And to you too!

  4. I am keeping you guys in my thoughts and prayers. My husband is a cancer surviver, and my youngest daughter lives with a very serious chronic illness, so we know about fighting the good fight. Mae sounds like a wonderful sister and a fighter.

    How I love that dress. I am almost ready to get my sewing machine out of mothballs and try a simple vintage dress pattern. You’ve definitely provided inspiration!

  5. Such a heartbreaking story. My PhD research is on cancer and I hope I can make some small contribution to the field for your sister, and everyone else that is suffering. Well done to your sister, she sounds amazing.

  6. Will be thinking of you and your family: best wishes to Mae and hope her wedding is a wonderful, stress-free day. Take care, both of you!

  7. I’ve been a long time reader of your blog, and am always waiting for an update. I’m so sorry to hear about your sisters health; my sister and I have never been especially close, but I know that I would be heartbroken should she be diagnosed with such an illness. Your family and especially your sister are in my thoughts and prayers, and this reader from Alabama will wear her apple pin with pride.

  8. Lilli,
    I rarely rarely comment but love reading.
    I am so sorry about Mae. Your post is beautifully written and made me gasp. The agony of a hysterectomy at 28 and then stage 4 cancer – oh my goodness.

  9. My dad had bowel cancer. Like your sister, it spread, silently and quickly. It is a mean, nasty, evil disease, and my heart goes out to you all.

    Keep fighting Mae.

  10. Oh No. No. No.
    Completely and utterly heartbreaking.

    I just got a pin for Mae.
    I wish it could be more.

  11. I am so sorry to hear what your sister and your family are going through. She sounds like an amazing person who does not deserve all this pain.

    Thank you for raising awareness to this ‘less glamorous’ cancer. I hope her treatment works quickly and she has a lovely wedding day.


  12. My father is a 5-year colon cancer survivor. I know how news like this can devastate your world. Love each other through the pain. Prayers are going up for you and Mae.

  13. I’ll be buying a pin and wearing it in Mae’s honor. Mae, I’ll be praying for you and entire family. And a wedding?!?! Oh please post pictures of this most happy day. We are all rooting for you, love!

  14. I can only endorse Lian’s comments. My youngest daughter, Mae, is one tough individual and recovered from her very major surgery of nearly seven hours in remarkable time. However the cancer treatment period is long and drawn out and Mae endures it with little complaint. Perhaps this is because she sees this kind of behaviour in the veterinary hospital in which she works and tries to emulate the animals she loves so dearly.

  15. I teared up at this.
    There is no sugar coating it….
    My love and thoughts to you, your sister and your family, wishing you all strength and ability to find joy in this trying time xxxxx

  16. My first thoughts on reading this were “oh no” …. life can deal such horrible blows.

    Best wishes to you all in fighting against the disease – i hope her health improves and that she enjoys many years of wellness.

    Take care


  17. Hi,

    Until now I just read your blog but never commented.
    First of all, I am very sorry to hear about the bad news about your sister and I admire her courage and determination.
    Related to cancer, there are more and more evidences that food can influence and help in diverse diseases, even cancer. The most known sources which influence the cancer occurence and spread are dairy, meat and sugar. A vegan diet, with a lot of raw food in it helped a lot of people to cure of this disease. I would recommend “China Study” as a very good book and a lot more resourses. I ended up reading a lot because my father has cancer as well. If I can help more please let me know.

  18. I’m so sorry to hear of Mae’s illness and hope that she makes a full recovery. She obviously has plenty of love and support to help see her through. My father died at 60 of bowel and liver cancer, so I am plucking up the courage to have a colonoscopy.

  19. Oh Lilli, that is hard core. I’m really sad to hear that Mae and you and your family are struggling through this. No-one ever deserves this sort of thing, especially not people like you that bring such joy and colour into the lives of people that don’t really know you!
    Despite working in a related field for many years, I’ve never come across the Apple pin-and I’ve seen and bought pins for just about everything else! I’ll definitely be adding to my collection!
    Maybe it’s because I’m a nurse that bums and bowels don’t phase me, but I am really grateful to you and overwhelmingly grateful that Mae has let you share her story about a cancer that is “not sexy.” It is powerful and will help many people. I’ll have everything crossed that some good energy comes back her way, because it sounds like it’s her turn! xo

  20. Oh my goodness, this post brought tears to my eyes! I am throwing all my good thoughts and wishes your sisters (and your family’s) way. All the very best to Mae, and to you for sharing about this disease.

    Thank you for raising awareness about BCA – may be “less glamorous” but is certainly no less important. People should remember that.

    Take care xxx

  21. Big love to you and your sis. I donate $25 a month to Bowel Cancer Australia because my family and some friends have had a rough go of it. I wish for the best possible outcome for Mae. xxx

  22. Pins are bought. Best wishes and snuggly thoughts to Mae, and your whole family. Anyone who loves animals that much must surely be kind and wonderful. Stupid cancer targets the wrong people far too often 🙁
    Here’s hoping planning her wedding gives her something fun and happy to focus on to get her through. Keep on swimming, keep on swimming! xo

  23. Sending you all my best wishes. Thank you for sharing your sister’s bravery in the face of battle, I wish we could all have such strength.

  24. I am so, so sorry to hear about what your sister is having to go through. I’m really close to my little sister and can’t imagine how difficult this must be for her and for you as you feel powerless. I will definitely go buy a pin in support and will be praying for you and your entire family. Thanks for posting this and raising awareness.

  25. I am so sorry for your family. What a horrible hand to be dealt at such a young age. You’re lucky to have each other. Sending positive thoughts!!!

  26. My heart is with Mae, you, and your entire family. It is so encouraging to hear that she has such a great attitude. Attitude makes a difference.

    Sending love and warm vibes your way from Scotland.


  27. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister. My mom had bowel cancer too in 2004 and went trough and operation and chemo. She’s fine now after regular exams she takes every year.
    Your sister is young and a person that loves life so I’m sure the way she is will help her recovery.
    I’ll be sending positive vibrations and good thoughts for your sister, for you and your family.
    Love, Papu

  28. Big love to you and your family. Sadly cancer has been far too common among my dear family and friends too. It’s always a terrible shock, but even harder when the person is young (a close friend was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 26). It really does shatter your world view, but makes everyone so much stronger. Take care of yourself and all the very best to your beautiful sister. xxx

    1. And PS – great point about the ‘fashionability’ of these things…
      Have bought a lovely apple pin and will encourage others to do the same. x

  29. Hi Lilli, I read often but comment rarely. I’m so sorry. I can only imagine the heartbreak and sorrow you have been experiencing. Your sister sounds like an incredible person and I can see that your family is close-knit and loving. You will all be in my thoughts. Mae – you’re a champion.

  30. God bless you guys! I’ll say a prayer for your family. A man I work with came down with Cerebral Malaria (he was on a jobsite in Burkina Faso) and had to be medivac’d from Africa to Paris last week… they pretty much gave him last rites… called in the family… but last night, it was bothering me so much that I uncharacteristically prayed when I turned my lights off to go to bed… I decided I would pray until I fell asleep… I know I prayed for 45 minutes straight before I fell off to sleep. This morning when I got to work, my coworkers was out of his coma, they were able to remove his breathing tube, and he knew his name and some other questions… after being in a coma for 2 weeks. He smiled when he was told he was in Paris! His family was in the Philippines, and we were so worried they would not get to him in time, but now he’s doing so much better.

    Long story short, but basically I will say a prayer for Mae tonight when I lay down to go to sleep… I will pray for good results for Mae! I must say that praying until I fall asleep is much more productive than just worrying about things like I usually do.

    God bless your sister and your family and yourself… stay strong.

    1. Oh, and tell Mae that lady-parts are overrated anyway… my lady-parts shut down (the menopause) when I was only 34… I never knew I wanted kids until I was told I couldn’t have them… it’s a weird place to get through, mentally, but she will… and sending Aunt Flo packing for good is REALLY nice!

  31. Thank you for sharing and increasing awareness of this insidious cancer. My thoughts are with you and your family…Katrina

  32. Hi Lilli,

    I don’t comment very often but I read your blog all the time.

    Just wanted to say I’m sending the best wishes and a speedy recovery to your brave sis. I’ll keep you and your family in my thoughts and send you guys all the positive vibes I can gather.

    Much love and strength to you all x

    Joy from the UK

  33. So sorry Mae has been through such a tough time. Wishing your gorgeous little sister a good recovery and a beautiful wedding day! Love and best wishes to you all. X

  34. I’m sorry to hear about your sister, best of luck to her and your whole family. She sounds like a beautiful person and she is so lucky to have you in her life too xx

  35. Lilli, my thoughts are with you, Mae and your family. I know a little of what you are going through, my dad finished chemotherapy in September for stage three colon cancer. He is one of the lucky ones – the post treatment scope and scan were clear. Thank you for pointing us in the direction of the bowel cancer australia website. Wishing you and Mae the best for the journey you are taking together – her for the battle she is fighting, and you for standing beside her every step of the way.

  36. I am also a regular reader who normally doesn’t comment much. I wish your sister a healthy recovery and with her loving family and friends to help her, Mae can’t go wrong. Thanks for the link to the website – didn’t know there was one! Donation made.

  37. That is a cruelly unfair diagnosis. Well, cancer is never fair, but this seems exceptionally hard. I’m projecting my feelings for my sisters in your situation–it makes my heart drop. My best to you and yours–if positive thoughts help, you have mine.

  38. Oh dear. Cant stop crying. Your beautiful words slipped right under my coping surfaces and brought me undone. But good on you for calling in the healing thought powers out there in reader-land. Have a lovely time together this week my darlings. David and I are wearing our apples every day. See you soon I hope. Hugs.

  39. I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009 – me, a healthy male just turning 40. I had no symptoms, other than a bit of anaemia (which my GP put down to my vegetarian diet). I had an emergency operation to remove a large perforated tumour – stage 4, plus 221mm of my left side colon. I underwent 8 cycles of intravenous chemotherapy, plus 9 of the oral tablets every 3 weeks, followed by radiation treatment on a daily basis for 5 weeks. The result of all this is that I am currently not showing any cancer in my system.
    I was diagnosed with HNPCC, Lynch Syndrome, which is an inherited condition – my mum died from ovarian cancer, which it turns out, is one of the manifestations of the Lynch Syndrome gene mutation that mum passed to me, unknowingly.
    I read your blog on my iPad, as my lovely wife is a keen but silent follower of yours, and as she bought me this tablet device, we share tabs.
    I write this to give you my personal experience of having cancer – it was tough for a while – that first year was a roller coaster ride of emotions, but I came through it relatively unscathed, mainly due to the unswerving support and loyalty of my gorgeously curvy wife, and to send love and support to your sister, you and whole family.
    In young people ( I count myself in this category), diet is not usually the cause of bowel cancer. Every case is different, as every person is an individual – my oncologist here in Dunedin is superb, as are the surgeon, his team, and all the health professionals that I have dealings with on a now twice annual basis.
    Once again, much love to you and yours, and thanks for the link to the fundraising website.

    1. I am a silent reader but feeled compelled to comment: I am so very, very sorry! My very best wishes to Lilli, Mae, and the whole family in undergoing this ordeal.

      I’ve piggybacked on Nick’s comment because I, too, have Lynch Syndrome, a hereditary syndrome that greatly increases one’s chances of contracting colon, ovarian, and uterine cancer (e.g. those with Lynch Syndrome have an 80% chance of contracting colon cancer by the time they reach 70).

      I wonder, dear Lilli, if anyone has suggested that you might obtain genetic testing to rule out this possibility. If one is diagnosed, there are a number of preventative measures that one can take (including annual colonoscopies).

      Knowing that one has Lynch is not the most uplifting news, but having the ability to take preventative measures is pretty incredible. Immediately after I diagnosed positive for Lynch, tests revealed precancerous growths in both my colon and my uterus. Both growths were removed and now I get tested every year.

      I am not suggesting you undertake this now with so much on your plate. I just wanted to share the information in case it is even the tiniest bit useful (and to add that many insurance plans pay for the requisite genetic testing). But the important thing to focus on now, of course, is lovely Mae and her good outcome.

  40. Dear Lilli,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and love it. Your writing is so fresh and the way you’ve been talking about your lovely family made me feel quite invested. So the harsh news of your sister’s illness was heartbreaking. I wish you and your family all the best. from her pictures (and your stories) your sister sound like a lovely loving person and I’m sure she will come out on top- you are all in my prayers- from across the world.

  41. I don’t have any advice, diet or otherwise. But I can’t stress this enough: it can be beat, and Mae, there are so many people out there who are on your team. The long and warm arms of love – from people you’ve met and from those you haven’t – are around you all. A thousand kisses. xxxxx

  42. So sorry to hear about your sister, Lilli. My thoughts are with you & Mae. I have a close friend only a little older than Mae who is battling bowel cancer at the moment so in some small way I can empathise with what you must be going through.
    Big hugs x

  43. Wow. So sorry to hear about your sister. Wishing Mae all the strength and courage that I can from my part of the world.

  44. So sorry to read about Mae, Lili. It’s her positive attitude and her loving family that will get her through this, she sounds like a very determined and brave person. Lots of love to you, I know how hard it is to watch someone you love go through such hard times. Be strong, but remember it’s okay and necessary for you to feel, and to cry. Soothe and nurture yourself and your family. Lots of love and healing energy to all of you, but especially Mae. xo

  45. I am pleased you are raising awareness for bowel disease. Nobody likes to talk about it… until you have a problem. My mom was “lucky” not to have cancer, but the bowel obstruction might still have killed her; 5 weeks ago she had two parts of her bowel removed and now has a colostomy. Not pretty, but better than being dead.
    Only when she fell ill did friends and relatives admit to also having had various operations or illnesses…
    How much more serious when it’s really cancer, though… I can only imagine how you all feel (my mom’s is hard enough and she’s 71!). All the very best for your brave sister!!

  46. I’m so sorry I missed this post when you wrote it. I have tears in my eyes reading it. Hopefully the love of your family will get you all through this, it must be so difficult though and your sister has been put through so much. I’m so sorry x

  47. I’ve just recently re-discovered your blog. I’m so horrified to read this, another family shattered by cancer. I hope with everything that Mae beats this. I know that she must have a wonderful support system, as you’re so close. Thinking of you all.xxxx

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