Blood(y) Cancer Memory


I spent Sunday with my brother,  who I cared for during his fight with a bitch of a blood cancer.  I spent nearly every day for 5 months in the hospital, sometimes going back and forth several times a day (usually when I forgot something he needed desperately like medication or the iPad). Those long months of waiting and watching and hoping, all the while becoming fluent in a language of white cells and neutrophils and more. Sadly I've seen two of my friends become fluent in this language more recently. Cancer is a bitch.

But my brother is a miracle man, and I was saddened to see Olivia Newton-John had cancer again. Her hospital and doctors saved my brother's life and my sanity. When a doctor cries at the news of remission, you know you're in the right place. When you give them your favorite champagne when you leave, you know they're worth it! (Dr's Genevieve and Joel, I'm talking about you both!)

The worst thing about cancer is death. The second worst thing is being so helpless while your loved one is undergoing treatment. If you could do a round or two for them just to ease the worst of it, you would.

But strangely I sometimes miss those long days at the hospital. Not for the stress or the pain or the loud MET calls and smell of cauliflower coming from the kitchen, but I miss the time with my brother. I was his primary carer, and I gave up everything to be that for him, and be with him. It's not for everyone but I have never been afraid of the dark waters in life.

Those days of talking quietly about patients down the hall, or sitting in the corner and writing while he slept. Sitting with him for chemo session and running down to the cafe for a chicken and avocado focaccia (his craving during treatment). Making sure I got there in time for doctor's rounds, where sometimes the resident would hide behind the curtain with Fred to catch up on the cricket score.

When he was finally in remission, and out of hospital he lived with us for two years to recover from the brutal treatment. His body was skeletal and battered, his soul shattered. Slow days and slow healing ensued. I work from home and I watched his recovery. Our days had a rhythm.  Coffee, brain training for both of us, because his brain was like swiss cheese from the medication and I'm just dumb. Then I would work and he would potter, or sleep. Sleep is nature's healer and he needed a lot.

It was a slow, slow process but now he's better. Working in his dream job that we talked about before his diagnosis. Living by the water, which as a little crab, he needs.

On Sunday we ate breakfast at a cute cafe, and drank coffee, read the papers, and talked about nothing.  It was so perfectly ordinary. When I left, we hugged. Those long hugs say more than any words. "I'm glad you're here," our souls say.

I have known extraordinary but I am grateful for ordinary. It is a privilege not given to everyone.

Sending love and light to anyone who has a beloved who has battled with, or is battling a blood cancer.  Donate here if you want to help find a cure.