The Truth about Cancer

In the fall of 2017, my three-year-old brother was diagnosed with cancer (along with other diseases). However, this was nothing new for him. When he was born, he was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit. Since the beginning of his life, his body has not been functioning correctly.

When I got the call from my dad last fall, I didn’t quite understand what this all meant for my brother, Age. I’ve seen families go through it, but actually living with it, and the repercussions of it, is a totally different story.

I had just started my freshman year of college in Fall 2017 when I got that call from my dad. I knew I had to leave as soon as possible. Luckily, my professors and boss were understanding and let me spend a majority of the semester at the hospital in Peoria. I am the oldest of five children, so I had to go back to help out. While traveling back and forth, I realized that everyone’s lives keep going on. Even when my world stopped, everyone else’s kept going. This was when I learned patience and agape with people. We don’t know what people are going through, so even when we’re frustrated, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Why are they acting like this? Is this person doing anything wrong at all? Am I just frustrated with my own problems?

When a family member has cancer, it’s hard to express your feelings to friends. Last year I was frustrated with so many people because I didn’t think they could understand what I felt. It was a very lonely and empty time in my life. There was a moment that somebody told me that “I just didn’t get it” with their problems, but I did because of what had happened to Age. At this point I learned that we shut ourselves away because we don’t trust people with our true thoughts. We want to lock our thoughts and feelings in a box and hide them away, but what ends up happening is that we became angry. We want everyone to see what’s in this box, but yet we don’t want to open it. We are left with frustration.

I had faith in God that Age would overcome his cancer and other health issues. I never thought he would lose the fight, until I went to visit him when he was once again admitted. One of the times that Age was admitted to the hospital, I walked into the room and saw him on the bed with only a diaper and shirt on. I saw how skinny he had become and fragile. People speculate that childhood depression isn’t real, but all I saw in his eyes was depression. It was like the Age I knew wasn’t there anymore. He usually lightened up when he saw his big sister, but this time he just looked straight through me. My mom asked me to pick him up so she could change his bedding. When I held him, all I could feel was bones, medication, and the fluid from dialysis. It didn’t feel like I was holding Age any longer. This was when I learned that as much of a physical fight cancer is, it’s very much a mental fight too.

I’ve witnessed all of my siblings and parents react to Age’s journey. Because my parents have been away a lot, I’ve noticed that my youngest sister, who’s recently turned 5, has issues with learning and letting go of her pacifier. However, she is still one of the most loving and forgiving children I know. I’ve also noticed that we all try to be strong for each other. We don’t want to cry and cause a chain reaction, and we want to convince each other that we should all only worry about Age and not each other’s issues. Since last year, I have been frustrated and sad, but I also found a new way of coping- being numb. When there was no more sadness or anger left in me, I became numb to people’s feelings and situations. I learned that a whole family can hurt at the same time, and in the rare moments where there is happiness and relief, there’s another health issue that pops back up.

In moments of pain, we can choose to give up and lament in our grief, like I did at the beginning, or we can turn it to God. In my moments of loneliness, the only comfort I felt was from God. When I didn’t know what to do with my brother’s health, the only I hope I had was through Jesus. I learned that the walk of Christianity is not simple and a constantly happy place. It was easy for me to give up and wallow in sorrow. It took much more out of me to admit my pain to God, and to trust that He will help. There’s a constant spiritual war between good and evil, but I know that in our dark moments, we don’t have to pick evil. We can pick God.

Over one year, Age has been to the hospital numerous amounts of times, has been admitted several times, received radiation and chemo, became cancer-free, had both of his kidneys removed (at different times of the year), and has gone into heart failure. As I write this, Age has currently been in the hospital for a week. As Age continues his journey, we’ll be right there beside him.