When we were growing up, he was just my little brother. My position as only child was pretty much set until I turned 9 and suddenly, there he was. Clearly I had better things to do than worry about the interloper and continued on with my 70s childhood. Just a few short years later I left home and he got his time as the only child.
I viewed him as younger and sometimes needing support and help, but our age gap made it more of a parental care-taking role than siblings closer in age. Far from hero material. All of that changed the day I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer.
I was 47, married with two young kids, and I was told I was “non-curative” which is Doctor Speak for terminal.
The first person I called was my brother. I was in the hospital getting a barrage of tests to see how bad it all would be, so he had to be the one to tell our parents. He then drove all through the night to get to me. I was in trouble, so he left work, strapped on his cape and came to the rescue.
He wasn’t just my hero, he was the best thing that could have happened to my kids during that terrible time. They love their fun and spoiling Uncle, but this was different. He was holding all of us up. My husband was able to tend to me, and the kids had their Uncle to help them through the shock phase.
They happened to be on spring break, so he stayed on while I was dealing with the intense medical intervention of a catastrophic cancer diagnosis. He kept things as normal as possible for my children. He built a skateboard ramp with my son while I was getting a bronchoscopy. He painted my daughter’s room with her while I was being tested and enduring endless needles and IV’s. He came with my husband and me to meet with the Oncologist to be another ear and to ask questions that we might be too stunned to ask. He did all the paperwork for my work, insurance, benefits – all of it.
The whole time he kept a calm face to reassure the kids that I would be getting the best of treatments, while I knew he was screaming inside, and his heart was breaking.
The days were long and scary at first, and he got us through them. When he inevitably had to get back to his own life, his wife, and his job, we had to finally let him go and start coping ourselves.
Just when I thought I would never have peace in my heart and mind again, and when I thought my children would have to grow up without their Mom, my brother came to my rescue again. He said that if my kids needed him in the future, he would move his life across the country to help raise them.
Knowing my husband wouldn’t be on his own, and my kids would have a full family who loved them gave me space and clarity to calm my mind. The terror that had been gripping me for weeks receded like a low tide.
At that moment I got my fight back. I wasn’t going to lie down and wait to die. The people in my life were all there for me, but the true heavy lifting to support my husband, my kids and me was my brother.
My children’s Uncle is my hero, and theirs.