The author recounts the last months of her sister's life as she slowly died of breast cancer in her mid-20's. The narrator and her sister, Cyndy, renegotiate their relationship and family roles throughout the illness. The narrator addresses the issue of living despite the prospect of dying, and of trying not to die while in the midst of attempting to live one's life. The narrator also recognizes the centrality of desire (in its broadest sense) in our lives, and describes our guilt about satiating our desires, the sense of loss from not ever really satiating them, and the inability to satisfy the desires of another.


This is an effective story to illustrate the conflicts experienced by caregivers/ family members when facing the severe illness of another. It focuses our attention on how we envision ourselves as saviors of the ill, and how we are destined to always fail in that role.


Published in Ploughshares, 1994 (100 Beacon St. Boston, MA 02116).

Primary Source

The 1996 Pushcart Prize XX: Best of the Small Presses



Place Published

Wainscott, N.Y.




Bill Henderson

Page Count