Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handley
Jessica was eight when her little sister Susie was diagnosed with leukemia. That’s tough for a kid (and her parents) to deal with, right? Try dealing with a six year old with leukemia when you already have an even younger child with Kosmann’s Syndrome, a disease that is almost leukemia’s mirror reflection (one has a surplus of white blood cells, the other a deficit). This si what Jessica’s family went through as she was growing up.
Growing up, Jessica was the invisible sister, the one who was well, who didn’t require frequent trips to the hospital. Growing up, Susie was the invisible sister, the one who died, whose presence was still felt but could not be seen. Growing up, Sarah was the invisible sister, the sister with a life, but no future, the one who would never be married, never survive long enough to be a mother.
“Invisible Sisters’ is Jessica’s memoir, her tale of a life as and surrounded by invisible sisters. It was not an easy life. In addition to dealing with sick and dying sisters, Jessica also had to deal with parents who were not always there, whether because they were at the hospital, or because the stress of sick daughters caused them to disconnect. Their children’s illnesses destroyed Jessica’s parents’ marriage and drove her father to destructive behavior.
I appreciate Jessica’s candor and willingness to be vulnerable about these difficult times in her life. Yes, she ended up pretty screwed up herself for some time, but she presented this matter-of-factly, and did not proclaim herself to be a poor, sad, victim of her circumstances. Reading about how Jessica and her family dealt with these illnesses was very moving and is something I hope to continue to experience only vicariously.