Living with a Sick Relative Through the Years

Turn your wounds into wisdom.png 

Nowadays, the amount of people empathizing with close-ones when they apprise of an ill relative merely apologizes through the following words “Oh, I’m so sorry. If you need anything, I’m here. I hope everything will be okay. Your family never deserved that” is preponderant. These words are tremendously thoughtful, truly. People suddenly become very compassionate. Yet, in spite of sympathy, nobody asks the question: how is it to live on a daily basis with someone affected by a disease? I would, therefore, like to explain to you how it’s like for me to live ‘that way’ without giving any unfathomable information about the illness nor giving out too many details.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was about five years old. Since then she suffered twice from a recurrence after having been cured [edit: she was diagnosed with a recurrence once again in 2016]. Through the years, she developed some other health problems. I grew up aware of the situation (including my father’s issues that I learned a few years ago as regards to addiction and his subsequent liver’s disease). I tend to keep it a secret [even to my very few friends], but what I basically do is that I live with it. 

My mom can do anything: she takes care of us as well as herself,  she goes shopping, she cleans the house, etc. She can do the things she wants as a human being and as a parent. During treatments, she’ll be exhausted and the simplest things will be tiring for her. Overall, my mom is the average mother. We’ve always been pretty close. I can tell her almost everything. I go out with her, I ask her for money and sometimes gifts, and yes, I do argue with her. I’m mad at her, and some curse words may be inserted in a conversation sometimes. I acknowledge her flaws as well as her accomplishments. And every once in a while, I even forget that she’s sick. I will not tell you that I’m in constant fear because I really am not. We’re just lucky that cancer is a curable disease, and health care has drastically improved over the last century. 


I do know pretty well the environment of medical places. I am sensitive to the heart-1659554978-9212971465379889531a53183b15903ewrenching stories heard about diseases, and the lives being taken away. Of course I may be more aware than others of the fact that I can lose her anytime but it is not a worthless feeling because anyone can be deprived of a loved one in a trice, no matter what their condition is — it pushes me to enjoy her presence and everyone else’s (except when we’re mad at each other). And some days are harder than others. The long treatments and numerous appointments at the hospital are rough to endure at times. As a kid, I was always wondering whether she would come back home or stay the whole weekend at the hospital. The house felt empty without her. Hopefully, friends of mine and friends of my parents often kindly offered me and my sisters to stay at their place, as our entire family is scattered all over the continent (sort of). Sometimes, we would stay for a whole week because my father’s work-hours were not compatible with our school timetables as kids. 

There are some memories that stay with you forever. I recall being twelve years old when someday the principal entered the mathematics class to make an announcement. I had won the Worthy Student prize. I got applauded for a few minutes by my classmates who thought I had won it only because of my good grades and shyness which led to an exemplary attitude. She then took me out with her and told me that my mother had had a complication and had been brought to the hospital. ‘Everything will be alright‘ she said, showing deep support. I don’t exactly remember how I faced it inwardly. I came back into the class and acted like nothing had happened. 

Someday I realized that the situation I was in was not as common as I thought. I tried to understand what it meant, without ever feeling any anger towards God or life. I did not think that it was ‘meant to be‘ but it was that way and I had to live with it. To a certain extent, the realization of the actual situation probably made me develop a growing fear towards everything and anything. Recently, I read a testimony about a young disabled adult who had been almost all her life in a wheelchair. She wrote something that struck me pointing out the fact that she was not being ‘brave‘ as people often told her but she was just living her life, this particular way but she was just living life, doing what she had to do


Today, I am conscious that I’ve probably not lived some totally average childhood, every kid does not grow up with a sick parent. But when I was thirteen, everything we were going through seemed normal to me. My mother’s condition seemed almost absolutely normal to me. It had been already eight years, I was getting used to it. I was okay with the fact that her health wasn’t good. I remember explaining this very exact feeling to the counselors, on an irritated tone. At times, I was only fed up with her oversleeping or that she was always home, unlike the majority of my friends’ parents. 




Life works that way. We cannot change it. We shall accept it. We shall never give up on life and the many treasures it has to offer us. Hardship makes us who we are, it toughens us. It shapes us into strong human being and it helps us grow. Evolving through such events makes us see life’s opportunities clearer and brighter.  We shall embrace life, no matter the suffering it may impose on us at times. 

The “I’m so sorry” phrase may be considered as irksome when said too often. Life happened to turn out to be this way. We must deal with it now. My mother is living. She can be full of love as well as she can be mean. She is human. I cannot complain, this is life and I’m thankful for that. My parents are both my number one inspiration in life. I’m so proud of that because they taught me so much. I do estimate it a blessing because I benefit from that. I’ve learned so much thanks to it: health does matter and I’m willing to preserve mine. We were given a life, no matter how twisted it gets sometimes, how unfair it may seem, we shall keep living it and always seek for the positive.


Being sorry never helps and yet it is one of the things people do best. So, next time “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”someone announces you that one of their siblings has just been diagnosed, instead of simply conveying how regretful you are for the sorrow they may endure and dispel their fear, do remind them to keep living life and to keep an optimistic mind. 

giulia (3)



  1. Giulia, ti scrivo in italiano questa volta, davvero un post bellissimo ma sopratutto coraggioso. Ammiro ingeenerale molto il tuo modo di scrivere: realistico, non difficile e dritto al punto, ma posso immaginare quanto sia difficile parlare di un argomento a te così vicino e personale. Grazie per averlo condiviso perchè hai ragione, dall’esterno non ci si rende bene conto com’è veramente. Leggere questo post fa aprire gli occhi sotto tanti aspetti su cui purtroppo non mi soffermo molto spesso e so che invece dovrei. Grazie per le tue parole, Keep going girl, as you said, keep seeking for the positive! Un abbraccio 🙂

    1. Grazie mille per questo commento, Lisa. Mi commuove davvero. Sono grata di avere persone come te che leggono quello che scrivo e che capiscono profondamente cosa intendo, perché la maggior parte di condividere questo tipo di blog post è come l’hai detto infatti difficile e mi fa dubitare. Ti ringrazio dal profondo del mio cuore per questo messaggio che ha davvero migliorato la mia giornata. Ti abbraccio 🙂 x

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