Let’s see, my parents were very young when they had my brother and I. My brother is two years older than me and they tried pretty hard to do the right thing, my mom more so than my dad. He was very involved with drugs and alcohol, and very selfish since he cheated on my mom a lot. We spent a lot of time with my dad’s parents and my dad’s siblings who lived with them.
My father would also take us next door when my mom wasn’t home because he was cheating on my mom with the lady next door. He would tell us we were there to play, but I walked in on them.
Once they were done we would go back home.
We, from what I recall – because a lot of this stuff over the years I’ve blocked out, spent more time at my grandparents house as the years progressed.
When I was four, my dad’s two sisters began molesting us. One sister would take my brother, the other me. This went on for about a year till my parents got divorced. Neither one of us recalled any of it till we were in middle school.
One day my brother came in to my bedroom and said, “Ohmygod Aunt J molested me.” I looked at him, remembering, and said, “Aunt M molested me.” He didn’t want to believe me, saying, “No you weren’t, I was. You weren’t touched.”
To this day he’s still in denial because he wasn’t able to save me. He wasn’t able to protect me from that.
We were definitely sexually abused for about a year. When my parents divorced my mom took us away from that part of the family. She ended up getting together with a man who is now my stepdad.
My brother and I had no idea what was happening, we just wanted our father around. We had to go through the court process. The judge asked us who we wanted to live with and we said our dad because we missed him. We thought our mom was wronging us. We didn’t understand that our dad was doing drugs and drinking and couldn’t provide for us.
Despite this, my mom got full custody of us, thank God. We grew up with my mom and my step-dad in a typical household, only seeing my dad here and there on the weekends. He was married several times. He started going to AA meetings for recovery, but then disappeared for about five years. My memory is all jumbled, but he was just in and out of our lives constantly.
At nineteen-years-old I went to a family reunion and my dad’s brother said to me, “I would like to go get a paternity test with you because I believe you are my daughter.”
I’m nineteen, I have no idea what he’s talking about. I just blankly stared at him and said, “You’re going to have to explain this a little more because I have a father.”
He tells me that while my father was overseas as a marine, he and my mother were together and it was shortly after that she found out she was pregnant. So he believed he was my father.
I called my dad and explained what Uncle K told me. “Well that’s crap,” he said, “you are my daughter.”
While calling my mother as well to tell her what Uncle K suggested, she started crying. She’s not good about talking about her past. It came out my uncle raped her.
I was furious. I’ve always been super sensitive and I always get really angry about men who treat women less than.
I had so much hate and anger for my uncle. I didn’t know if I could look at him without going off and hurting him. I avoided him for as long as I could without doing the paternity test. He persisted, persisted, persisted.
I said, “Fine, let’s do the test.”
I did go off on him eventually. I held the anger back enough to not hurt him. But I did go off.
It came out that he wasn’t my father. I wish I didn’t know what he did to my mom.
At this point in time, my dad was in recovery. He became a drug and alcohol counselor. He was doing well.
I started college, got into psychology, wanted to help others, and began to realize I wanted to be a counselor.
I decided to work on me. That’s when I focused on my relationship with my father. When I started that healing process with him, I was pushing aside what had happened with his sisters. I just wanted to focus on my relationship with him.
At this time, I lived in Texas, him in California, so a lot of this was over the phone. I yelled and screamed at him for two years while he apologized profusely till I finally felt like I had said enough and didn’t need to blame him for my past. That was when our relationship improved.
I knew we wouldn’t have a father-daughter friendship, but I was good with the relationship we had. We talked 3-4 times a year once this was resolved.
Then I started trying to heal from sexual abuse. I went to counseling. I had just gotten married. He was my first everything. I was having a hard time not being jealous, not believing him. I became really controlling. I didn’t realize I was like this because I had never been in a relationship before.
I found out he was communicating with a girl online and I flipped out. I told him if he didn’t stop and go to counseling with me, I would divorce him and go back to California.
We found out a lot about each other in counseling. We started working on communicating. I began learning a lot about how much that abuse affected my relationship.
I was thinking at the time, look at me I’m healing, I’m over it, I’ve done enough. I’m going to school, I’m going to help other people.
My husband and I are still married, the relationship is fabulous, and we are closer every day, every year that passes.
Unfortunately, as things keep happening in life with my brother or me, I realize that these things have not healed.
Last year my brother was having problems in his marriage. He’s not good at communicating or asking for help, but he finally reached out to me and said he was having doubts about the marriage.
“I just don’t know if I love her and I just don’t know if I’m really good at marriage or loving anyone,” he would tell me.
It’s like a light bulb went off in my head. I totally felt that way my entire marriage, but I felt like that can’t be true, that can’t be true. I would think, Don’t get divorced just because of that, you love this man, you are capable of loving. Don’t make rash decisions just because of this thought in your head.
Basically he’s saying everything to me that I was thinking the first ten years of my marriage. My jaw dropped. I told him, “You guys have been married for sixteen years, two babies, you have always loved her as your one and only.”
“Yeah, but I think I was pressured into marrying her,” he said, “And I think I really did it for other people, I just, I don’t know, I don’t think I’m good at this marriage thing.”
I was floored. I’m giving him therapist responses, do counseling, etc, figure your shit out. Maybe she needs it too, then explore the relationship, and so on.
Then I got off the phone and broke down crying. All of that stuff I had never told my husband I was thinking. So I didn’t want to tell him about the phone call. I just said, “They’re having problems and it makes me sad.”
I started thinking holy shit none of that stuff was resolved in our therapy sessions. Let’s explore counseling again.
That was last year, the first of what got the ball rolling.
Time goes by, my brother doesn’t communicate so I don’t know what’s going on.
And then, this year, my dad passed away in April from a heart attack at fifty-eight-years-old. It was shocking and tough.
My brother calls me at 6:30 in the morning, asking if I’ve heard from our stepmom because dad passed last night. I look at my phone and see she was calling constantly, but it was on vibrate.
They never got married, but were together for twenty-six years, so I’m next of kin. I’m on the death certificate, getting the memorial together, getting the cremation, all that stuff.
My brother was crying and said, “I don’t know why, but I’m just having a hard time with this and I didn’t think I would. Because our relationship with our father wasn’t good, but he’s still our father.” He has kids, so he struggled with that relationship for them to have a grandfather.
It was harder for me to hear my brother having a hard time. I called my stepmom and she told me what happened. I didn’t shed a tear. I thought, what the hell is wrong with me.
My husband was super supportive. He kept expecting me to show feelings. I kept thinking it must be shock.
Three days later I was talking to my friend. It was the first time I had sat down and didn’t have anything to do. I told her, “My dad knew I loved him,” and then I started crying. But that was the only time I cried. I kept telling myself I need to feel something more. You know the techniques, what would you tell somebody in therapy. I tried to take the time to feel and handle it.
When I was in college, I used to bleed a lot for months at a time for periods, I would get dizzy. I hated going to the doctor. They called me anemic. They said I had a choice, birth control pills or we can scrape your uterus. Well that didn’t sound like fun, so I went on the pill because I always said I didn’t want kids anyway.
It became regulated and since I was the typical college student, I didn’t get check ups. When I got a job and had insurance, got married, all that stuff, I started doing them again.
In 2010 I went in for the pap smear and met with the nurse practitioner who did her exam. She sent me for an ultrasound. I went back to meet with her after and I remember her telling me, she said, “Everything looks okay, but you do have a strangely shaped uterus.” She was explaining about that and I asked her if I could have children. We began discussing that, etc etc. Fertility specialized, etc. I never once saw the doctor, was never told anything negative.
So I get off the pill, we start trying to have a baby. I wait three years till my next check up. 2013 I start bleed again, periods constantly, and I became anemic. I went back in to get checked. The doctor comes in and says, “You know you were diagnosed with PCOS three-years-ago.”
I said, “Um nope. I’m pretty sure I remember that.”
“Well it’s in your chart.”
“I don’t care what’s in my chart, I was never told that.”
We repeated this over and over again.
Finally, we schedule a biopsy and send it off.
I get a phone call from a nurse saying, “I want to let you know, it’s not official yet, but we think it’s all clear. We’ll let you know when it’s official.”
I don’t hear back from them for a week. I call them back to check for the official word and am informed that I need to come in to discuss the results.
I went to the office and at the time, my insurance didn’t cover it so I was paying out of pocket. The doctor immediately says, “I just want you to know, I’m not going to charge you for this visit.”
Now I’m freaking out.
Apparently they thought everything was clear, but another doctor saw something and took a look.
They found cancer. It’s in stage one.
What do you mean, the c word, cancer?
I was referred to an oncologist.
I leave, get in the car, immediately break down crying.
Because it’s stage one I was trying not to make a big deal about it, especially for my husband.
We went and met with the doctor, who had no bedside manner, but was a great doctor. He came in and informed us that the cancer developed from PCOS, which is uncommon, but “welcome to the one percent.”
I asked about my options. He asked how serious we were about having kids, and we told him if my health is at risk, it’s not worth it.
He tells us, “The only guarantee to be safe is to take it all out and if you want that, choose it right now. Because if this spreads, you will be in trouble.”
We went home, talked about it, and decided my health is the most important thing and children were not in our cards. We called back the next day and scheduled the surgery. From beginning to end, it was a three month period. That’s it.
I struggled emotionally because it felt like I couldn’t provide him with kids or my mother with grandchildren, a niece or nephew for my brother. Everyone else didn’t care. I did though.
I had to explore that, handling it all.
When my friends get pregnant, when they are genuine people, I’m super happy for them. But if they are fake people taking this for granted, I get angry. Like people who find out they are having a boy when they wanted a girl, I get angry. And jealous.
But when I’m working with parents at my work, I can separate those feelings. I can help the families. It’s totally separate.
That was now four years ago.
And you know, one of the biggest things that drove me the most crazy was when people mentioned I could still adopt. That’s their way of trying to make me feel better, but at the same time, they have no idea what I’ve discussed and experienced, if it was even an option for us. For us, the only option is natural. We did consider adoption, fostering, and it just isn’t the way to go for us. We are now working through the fact that we are not having children and we need to be okay with that. It’s hard. We are trying to help each other get through it.
I think that the whole cancer thing affected my life.
Weight loss is a challenge for me. It started with the sexual abuse and continued for other reasons, and with my health history it’s hard to lose weight. When I turned forty in February and then my dad died, it hit me. I needed to start preventing this stuff. People in my family have had massive heart attacks early on. I freaked out and started working out twice a day.
At forty I’ve started mammograms and that crap, but I went from avoiding doctors to checking with them constantly.
My best friend died of leukemia in high school, my brother’s friends died in a car accident in high school. Leukemia always made me fearful. She died from getting pneumonia in the hospital because her immune system was so bad. My friend’s husband passed away a few years ago, and I introduced them in college. They got married a year after I did, so they were married for about fourteen years. He got a rare bone cancer, he died the year after I got cancer. I think that was really infuriating. That damn c word. My friend from high school who I’m friends with on Facebook, her mom has breast cancer, her dad just passed away three months ago with pancreas cancer, her two brothers have cancer. Found out her mom lives down the street from me, so I told her if she needs anything to let me know. It just makes me angrier and angrier that so many people I know are getting cancer. What else do I have to avoid to be healthy?
You know, now, I’m working through it. I recognize more of this stuff was stuffed down whereas before I kept telling myself I had worked through it.
I try not to ever let it go stuffed now. I bring it up and deal with things because I know if I don’t, it will fester physically and emotionally. We need to talk and discuss things openly. The best I can do right now is to keep bringing my health issues up with my husband to help him help himself. He has PTSD from the military and is going to therapy. VA got him a therapist. So I’m hoping stuff comes up for him through therapy and I will start seeing a therapist again as well.
I guess I would say I am doing better. I’m better than what I was.
I’m not sure how my brother is doing, he’s a stuffer. I see all these selfies on Facebook and photos on Facebook of his family that he wasn’t a part of before, so I want to believe they are working things out because he is in them now and they went through counseling.
My mom is healthy. She’s sixty-years-old. I see her a lot. She takes care of everyone around her. She’s doing well. Thank God.
Stepmom is “one crayon short of a Crayola box.” She has the mentality of an eighteen-year-old and I believe she is a paranoid schizophrenic on top of that. She is on medication when she chooses to take it. When we deal with her not on meds, it’s frustrating. But when she is on them, it’s pleasant and we can talk about my dad.
When she’s not on her meds, it’s a lot of us against her and them against him. It’s impossible to talk to her. I’m the only one who handles her because I tell her to take her meds and call me later.
When I spent those years cussing at my dad, she was in his life and would try to call me and tell me how much I hurt my dad’s feelings. I told her he needs to suck it up and take it.
They are both recovering addicts. They needed a reality check. I’m not going to go around reality. I’ve always dealt with them this way. She doesn’t mind that I talk to her this way, she almost respects me more for it.
There was a day when she texted me, saying, “Sara, I need to know when we are getting the death certificates because I need the money and if I lose this house. Everyone wants me to be homeless.” Her paranoia had taken over.
Like usual, I told her to go take her medicine and call me later.
She called me that night, apologizing, and explained that she ran out of the medicine. “I’m sorry I was a bitch,” she said. I told her she isn’t a bitch, we know she is going through a lot, but that we are all on her side. I think that was when she realized I wasn’t leaving, that I would drive over the mountain and kick her ass, but I am still on her side.
I’ve learned I have severe anxiety. I always knew I was more anxious than others, but I didn’t realize it was a disorder till the last couple of years. My brain was racing, my heart was palpitating. I thought I had a heart defect. The cardiologist did all the tests, but nothing came up. I didn’t know what was wrong.
Of course, I thrive on being busy. Going going going. It was just common place for me. My blood pressure is fine, but the past couple years it’s gotten really bad. My mind races, I can’t sit down, I’m here and there.
It really started when I got this job. I was out of my comfort zone after ten years and I was dealing with the doctor and cancer. I was finding out about myself, what makes me anxious, and I just lost my shit and my anxiety sky rocked. I got on anxiety meds.
I started thinking ohmygod I have always had this problem. Throughout my life, I would panic. Thinking about needing to get an A in class and going to school when I was sick, being anxious about when the teacher would call my name so I can say here.
When I did this training a couple months ago, it was on understanding your own social emotional health so you can help others with theirs. We did an activity, I talked about a TEDtalk and how people who have been through trauma have so many more health issues than those who haven’t. Anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, etc. I’ve smoked since I was fifteen years old. I need to quit that. I’m just learning a lot about myself. Being more aware of it. For many years, I just ignored it and told myself I was fine.
Do we ever really get over it? Or do we just continue to process it in every stage of life depending on what is going on?
I am thankful for coffee because at home I drink coffee with sugar-free syrup, whipped cream, almond milk creamer, and caramel drizzle. On weekends, my husband gets the coffee ready, we feed the dogs, I make the coffee in the mugs, and we sit. We check our phones and are just enjoying being together. It’s my favorite time of the week. I’m thankful that I have the education I do to know when things are going on and recognize it so that I can do something about it, my family, for being healthy enough to exercise and work, for my doggies because they are my children, for my talent in painting, for YouTube videos showing me techniques for painting, for Michael’s and Hobby Lobby, for getting my nails done no matter how much money I would have otherwise, for a supportive and loving husband, children with bubbles, and music – super thankful for music because it makes me want to dance.
I’m also thankful for my humor because without it, I wouldn’t have been able to get through all this shit.