My name is Siobhan McAlorum and on June 1st, 2018 my life was forever changed by the death of my twin sister Ailish. My most used nickname for her is Aily (we had so many, it’s a twin thing). She bravely fought stage IV stomach cancer for the past two and a half years. She was diagnosed February 29, 2016 and on March 29, 2016 we found out it was stage IV and incurable. I became her full-time care taker. We are blessed to have family who helped us out, so we were able to spend every single day together. These past few years were some of the best and worst times of our lives. We traveled more in the past two and a half years than our whole lives combined previously. After her diagnosis, Aily said she wanted to travel and my older sister and father helped us travel the world. We visited friends and family in NY twice, visited friends in NM, traveled to Paris, Berlin, Prague with our older sister. We went to a friend’s wedding in Hawaii with our older brother. We took a family cruise to Mexico for Christmas 2016. Our last Christmas we were so lucky to go to Australia and meet some of our extended family. We had so many other adventures planned, and it breaks my heart to not finish them with her. She had 2 really good years, where she was able to travel, eat well, and be Aily, but the last 6 months of her life were spent in and out of the hospital with pneumonia, blood clots, complications with medications, strokes, and more blood clots, which ended up taking her life on June 1st.
Aily was my twin, my best friend, my person, my partner in crime, my rock, the most important person in my life. I am struggling adjusting to my new “normal” without her. Unless you are a twin you don’t understand the bond between twins. We had our own silly language, could have a conversation with just our eyes (which would drive family and friends crazy at times), and could feel each other’s joy, sadness, stress, or fear, as if it was our own. We could make each other laugh like no one else ever could. She was my right half and I was her left.
I love my family so much, I couldn’t have gotten through these past few years without any of them. My brother was truly amazing during these past two years, he drove us to all her chemo appointments, all the trips to the hospital, and never once complained about a thing. I remember the times Aily would text my brother her breakfast order, and no matter what it was, Kieran (my brother) always came through. After her strokes, Aily wouldn’t really eat on her own, so my brother would feed her and witnessing that both broke my heart and warmed it at the same time. My brother and father were in the room with me when she took her last breaths, and while I was holding her hand, and telling her how much I loved her, I couldn’t watch her die. My brother looked straight into her eyes and told her it was ok, and then she drew her last breath. I could not have gotten through that moment without my family.
My older sister spoiled the shit out of us these past few years. She financed most of our over seas trips, paid for everything while we were vacationing. We ate the best meal of our lives in France, one I will remember for the rest of my life. As Aily said, “Nanners (our nickname of our sister) treated me like a princess.” We knew that no matter what we needed, Nanners would be there, do anything for us, and for that we were both so grateful.
I am so appreciative that my parents supported us financially these past few years. After her diagnosis, we didn’t know how much time we had left together, but the time we did have, we wanted to spend every day by each other’s side. I can honestly say that due to my parent’s generosity, I have zero regrets, because I got to spend every possible second, I could, with my sister. After her diagnosis, we started to sleep in the same bed, so I could keep my eye on her and make sure she was okay especially after chemo treatments. I remember early on, she said, “Let’s hold hands like we used to when we were kids.” And we slept together holding hands every night until she passed.
We are so blessed to have so many friends who have been there for both of us during her fight with cancer, and supporting me, while grieving the loss of my best friend. I could not have gotten through the past few years, and the years ahead without my friends.
We had the most beautiful Celebration of Life party for her on June 23rd, 2018. So many friends and family came out to celebrate her life, and I realized then just how many people’s lives she truly touched. Aily had put together a list of her favorite foods she wanted served, music, and pictures for a slideshow. She had been planning this since her diagnosis. She also wrote the most heartfelt letter which brought tears to everyone’s eyes (including the bartender)! I would like to share this letter here:
I thought February 29th 2016 was the worst day of my life. That was the day I was diagnosed with stomach cancer. But as my brother pointed out at least that day only comes around every four years. Exactly one month later I found out that my cancer was stage 4 and that it was no longer curable, only treatable to prolong life. WTF, right?! That day became the worst day of my life, but it also became the day I officially began to live my life. To me it was a blessing, a sign that I needed to start doing all the things I’ve wanted to do but always thought, later, tomorrow, next year, when I’m 40, when I retire, before I die…
We all say or think the same thing when honestly we don’t know when our time will come. We could die tomorrow, or 20-30 years from now, but what can we say about how we lived our life up until then? We worry so much about working, saving enough for retirement and raising our kids without doing the things that bring us joy now. There is a balance you just gotta work a little to find it and be bold enough to do it.
I learned at an early age that life never goes they way you planned. At 18 I became a single mom. I was scared and just a selfish teenager that needed to grow up! I graduated college with a double major, raised a kid, stumbled into a career and I don’t regret a day of it. It taught me to get my head out of my ass, be less selfish, become focused and disciplined, organized and excellent with managing money, adaptable and flexible, hard working and independent. It also taught me gratitude for my family and friends that helped me raise my child and never wasting the chance they gave me to finish school. Most of all it taught me to become a stronger person and over the years a better mother. My daughter is now grown and while I’m still here to feed her an occasional meal that she may or may not eat, and share what little experience and knowledge I have to help guide her through adulthood. I always thought that now this would be my time to figure out what makes me happy, what I want to do with the rest of my life (getting married and having the white picket fence was never on my list…not that there’s anything wrong with it). Instead I found myself fighting for my life, to live a little longer. As they say in the movies, if you’re reading this (or if someone else is reading this to you), I’m no longer here.
With that said, I want to say thank you to all of you for standing by me and my family through all of this. I’m amazed and blown away by the amount of love and support I’ve received. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have such a great family and fortunate enough to have so many wonderful friends. Even if it’s been years since we connected, there is still a bond. And to my close friends, thank you for stepping in to help as you know it’s not easy for me to ask for it. I only hope that I have been a good daughter, sister, mother, aunt, cousin, friend, co-worker. And I hope you continue to be there for my family, ESPECIALLY my twin sister and daughter.
Let today be a day to celebrate my life and yours! Stuff your face with some of my favorite foods (now is not the time to be healthy). It’s okay to cry too, somebody has to. god knows, and anyone that knows me, can attest to my inability to cry at situations where most normal people would…what is this salty substance?! After you’re done wiping your tears away, and blowing your nose, tell your family and friends you love them and do all the things that you want to do! Really live! I love you all so much. As most of you know I’m not religious or very spiritual. I figure if it’s not just black or nothing at all, and there is something after this life, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. Either way I’ll be okay!
Siobhan and Remi please know that I will be with you both for the rest of your lives. I love you both so much. Because of the two of you, I feel like I have lived a full life, even if it was cut short. And for the record I’m not gonna try to haunt you to be funny.
Siobhan I could never have done any of this without you! I know more often than not it was a lot more than you signed on for. I know you said you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but thank you for putting your life on hold to take care of me. Nobody knows how hard it is to be a care taker! It’s an under appreciated job that people take for granted. You tirelessly took care of me, making me food, doing my laundry, helping me shower, doing wound changes and port flushes, and everything else under the sun to make my life easier and I am forever grateful. Know that you are stronger and braver than you think you are! I love you beyond words! I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be the twin that is left behind and for that I am so sorry! My heart is broken knowing you will be in pain for a long time. Your life will go on even if it seems like it doesn’t seem worth living. You will be able to be happy and laugh again one day. You are my left half and I am your right always and forever! TP
Remi I have not always been the perfect mom and I didn’t always make the right decisions, but nonetheless they were tough ones. I hope you find your way in life. That you find true happiness with yourself and find something that you enjoy doing. Sometimes you gotta do stuff that you don’t want to do and sometimes you gotta start at the bottom and work your way up. The right people will always recognize hard work and dedication. Always go above and beyond what is asked of you. Being independent in life is so rewarding! Learn to forgive yourself and those that are in your life! Nobody is perfect! Love selflessly and always strive to do and be the best you can.
Alanna thank you for being the best big sister. You were always there for me when I really needed you and even more so when I got sick. Thank you for helping me travel the world a little before the end. I got to experience some of the most amazing meals of my life and know what it’s like to be pampered like a princess.
Kieran thank you for always be the protective older brother every sister needs and for driving me to every appointment and taking care of all those “situations”. You taught me how to ride a bike and drive a manual car, but most importantly you taught me to be brave and take risks. I’m sorry I dated all your friends when I was younger, it only made you tougher!
Mom and Dad thank you for giving me a wonderful life and always being there for me through the good times and bad. Thank you for always supporting me even when I messed up and especially when I got sick. Thank you for letting me be weak and giving me strength when all I could do is weep in your arms. I know the true meaning of unconditional love because you both!
Thank you to my friends and family that have sent gifts, cards, food, text messages, emails, and those that came to see me when I was in the hospital, during infusions, drove and traveled many miles, mall dates and Saturday lunches to spend time with me. I wish I had more time to write a heartfelt note to all of you individually, but please know I have spent a lot of time looking back fondly on all the memories we shared!
And to whoever is reading this I’m sorry not sorry for my poor grammar and run on sentences. Fuck grammar and fuck cancer! Now go have a fucking drink already! (Sorry dad)
I am writing this blog to share my story, my new journey alone (without my twin), hopefully it will help someone else who is going through a similar experience, and I believe this could be therapy for myself as well. July 20th 2018 would have been our 40th birthday, and it will be my first birthday alone without her, I don’t even know how I will get through that day yet. I guess we will go through this journey together, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The tears are flowing as I type this, this is gonna be real and full of raw emotion. Thanks for taking the time to read this so far, until next time,