Perspectives, Sarcoma

My sister, my friend


Molly McDowell was only 21 years old when her sister died from osteosarcoma. The loss was deep and personal to Molly so she has dedicated her life to raise awareness of the disease and to get involved with research. She has applied for medical school and hopes to be a pediatric oncologist specializing in sarcoma. Today, Molly takes over my blog and tells her story of her beloved sister, Hannah.

“Metastasized…multiple lung and brain lesions…clinical trials…continue living life to the fullest”. I let the words sink in and repeated them in my head as I sat in disbelief in Mo’s clinic. How could this happen to someone so young with so many dreams and so much potential? My younger sister, Hannah, had battled osteosarcoma since the age of 10 and now it was going to take her from me. Hannah was my everything. She is my greatest inspiration and will forever be my number one hero. Losing a sister of age 19 is by far the toughest thing that a 21-year-old college student can go through.

During my entire college career I never knew what “normal” was. Normal to me was a constant worried, scared feeling. But now when I look back on it, I liked that normal. That normal meant that my sister was still here; that sarcoma had not taken her away from her family that loved her more than words could ever describe.

Sarcoma took so much from Hannah, but it never changed who she truly was. She was someone that everyone fell in love with the minute they met her. There was just something about her that could never be explained. She had a fight and drive in her that rubbed off on people. For a lack of better terms, she was bullheaded. That’s what kept her with us for as long as she was. She wanted to show sarcoma who was boss, and I am sure several would agree with me when I say that she sure did. She did not let it define her. She continued living life, gave so much of herself to others, and never let anything slow her down.

Hannah 1

She refused to take no for an answer. In her mind there was always a way. I believe that is the mindset that every cancer patient should have; there is always a way. Whether you have 3 days, 3 months, or 3 years, there is always a way to make the most of your life. Show the cancer that is trying to take over your body that it cannot control your life; it cannot change who you truly are deep inside. It wants you to break down. It wants to ruin your spunk, and your drive to live. Why would you ever want to give cancer what it wants? That was Hannah’s way of looking at it. She wanted to prove to cancer that it would never control her, and she definitely did.

Hannah 2

Hannah is the reason that I am who I am today. Every struggle, every scare and battle she fought, shaped me into an amazing individual with a huge dream. I have a tremendous desire to become a sarcoma specialist someday. I have a fight and drive in me that my sister had while fighting a disease that I someday hope to destroy. Without her I do not know where I would be in life. She introduced me to my amazing, loving husband who was there for Hannah through everything. Him and I were able to celebrate our wedding in her hospital room. We will be celebrating our one-year anniversary on February 5th. It is hard to believe that it has almost been a year. It has been a long, tough year, and I wish my sister could be here with us to celebrate. But I know no matter what that she will be celebrating for us in her own way. It was her goal to get us together and to see us be married. I thank God everyday that she was able to be there. She will forever and always be my sister, my friend.

Molly McDowell

Hannah 3

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6 thoughts on “My sister, my friend

  1. Sheila McGreal says:

    Molly,
    Thank you for sharing about Hannah. We really loved that girl as did the town of Monticello and think of Hannah and your family often. No one could bare to think that cancer could take the life of such a sweet, lovely, determined girl. She amazed us with her grace and smiles through all the ups and downs.
    Many blessings on your journey through school and life. How pleasing to see Hannah continue to inspire and heal through your heart and hands.

  2. Renee Breitbach says:

    WOW!! You have done an amazing job of honoring your sister, Hannah!!! I didn’t know Hannah personally but I do know some of Hannah’s family. The community of Monticello displayed so much support for Hannah and her family while she was in the fight of her life…a true example of her impact on others. I took a special interest in following Hannah’s story because of her ties to people I knew and because I lost my sister to that cruel disease called cancer. She passed away in 2009 of Ovarian Cancer at the age of 45. Different cancer…different age…same loss. I admire you Molly, as well as, your sisters and your parents…I know the devastating hole left in your hearts and your lives. My sister told me once that she had asked herself why she got cancer…why not me or our other sister…she then told me that she knew why…because we wouldn’t have been able to handle it!!! Lol…she was probably right. She was a fighter like Hannah and had her same zest and fiestiness!! I thank you for having the courage and pizazz to carry on the fight for a disease that hit so close to your heart and Ultimately stole your precious sister from you…Stay strong Molly…as my sister’s Dr. Used to tell her….”tough as nails”!!!

  3. Natasha says:

    I graduated with Molly from a small town in Iowa, and Hannah touched everyone in our hometown, even those of us that barely knew here .

  4. Robert McDowell says:

    Im almost done crying now so I can type this. Hannah left a huge hole in my life and my heart when she left us. She was in my tae kwon do class and I always smiled when she walked in for class. She had that affect on people. She really had it on me. I will never forget the last night she was in class, she was doing kicks and said her ribs hurt. That was the start of her last battle. She made me a better person but more importantly, she introduced 2 people to each other, I could tell the first time I saw my son Tyler look at Molly that he was in love, I mean really, really, head over heels in love!! Thank you Hannah for blessing my son with your sister! You were not here nearly long enough but you really made the best of your time here. I know with your help your sister Molly will make a difference in peoples lives that are fighting this diease, and who knows because of you she might be the one to find a cure, so bless you my sweet child……..you are truly missed Bob

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. You honor your sister and keep her alive with your words and actions. I feel privileged to know about her and grieve with you while also celebrating her life, her impact, which is still spreading… I lost my mother to brain cancer and hope to do all I can to spread her love and memories around the world. I have a feeling that your sis and my mom have met in heaven!!

    Many blessings and much love from the Rockies to you and your family. You have a fan out West who is in awe of your commitment and resolve. People like you and Dr. Mo and the team in Iowa will make this dreaded disease a footnote in the medical history journals. I just know it…

    John

  6. Claire Barnhouse says:

    Mo,
    What a wonderful blog this week.. warmed my heart…I am sure her sister will make a great doctor.. She has a great teacher to learn from..
    I am so sad to see she is gone but we can all learn from her and her family.
    We are all so lucky to have people in this world like her…
    Claire

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