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Cancer sucks. My grandma, barely sixty years old, died from breast cancer when I was four. Even though I was so young, I still remember watching her suffer. I remember watching my mother and her sister suffer, too. Even though I was young, I still remember thinking if there was really a God, why would he put my grandma through all of this?

She never hurt a soul…and I loved her.

Cancer claimed my mother-in-law, too. I loved her as though she were my blood. Maybe even more than that because she never said a harsh word to me, or as far as I know, about me.

She had lung cancer and yes, she smoked. “I shot myself in the foot,” she said to me when she was diagnosed. She fought like the feisty Scottish lady that she was. She was diagnosed around Thanksgiving and lost her battle that following June.

Just about six months. DAMN! It was so quick! I know it didn’t seem so quick to her.

She went through chemotherapy and all of the horrible shit that went along with it. She did everything she was supposed to do. She did everything right. And then they found cancer in her brain. The woman never took a fucking pill in her life and here she was having fucking brain surgery! She made it through the surgery. My sister-in-law and I went into the recovery room and damn it if that lady wasn’t sitting up and talking right after having her skull busted open.

While she was in rehab, she had a stroke. It was a kind I had never heard of. It was progressive so it started out slowly. She knew what was going on.

Chef and I went to visit her in the hospital and at that point she said she had had enough. She said to us, “if they find any more cancer, I don’t want to be treated.” If she had known that she only had six months to live, she would have said, “Screw chemo,” and gone to visit her grandchildren in Wisconsin.

I know that because she was an open book. She had no secrets. What you saw was what you got.

The next day she could not speak.

We were the last of her children to carry on a conversation with her. When the doctors finally determined that she had had a stroke and that it was progressive, my sister-in-law decided to bring her back home. The doctors said she had less than a week to live, so she would come home to be surrounded by her children, grandchildren and her beautiful antiques.

My husband and his sisters took care of her for that week. Because my children were so young, I stayed home and came for the weekend. My two year old daughter stood by my mother-in-law’s bed and spoke to her. She called her “gammy.” My mother-in-law would grunt occasionally. Sure enough on day seven – just a week after we had our last conversation with her – my mother-in-law lost her battle.

I ask the question once again, forty years later… if there was really a God, why would he put my mother-in-law through all of this?

She never hurt a soul…and I loved her.