I could sit here and write about this week’s On the Media podcast all day, however I won’t. Not because I don’t want to, but simply because it would be too difficult. It would be too difficult to relive the reality that I’ve been facing for almost four years now. I had spoken about it in class recently. My younger brother Steven was diagnosed with stem cell cancer at the tender age of 13, right when I was getting ready to prepare myself for college applications in 2012. That was probably the hardest year I had ever had to live through.
I remember seeing him one day completely fine, to the next day finding him in the hospital with a band wrapped around his head after he had brain surgery. It turned out that they had found a brain tumor that had been developing for quite some time. I had no idea how to react, I was scared. The following months involved him staying at the hospital for his chemotherapy. I actually sat there through one of them, and I remember crying when I saw him in pain. What surprised me the most was when he turned around to me and said, “Don’t worry Steph, its normal.” He had found a way to overcome his fears. The word cancer wasn’t going to stop him. He knew that this so-called “battle” was something he wouldn’t be able to endure with ease.
As said in the podcast, the doctors are truly speaking in a whole different language when it comes to cancer. My parents were given binders and books full of information so that they could understand the words, yet it was all too overwhelming. We just had to have faith that everything would be okay. I have to commend my mother for being there from the beginning.
Everyone came to show their support. Steven was truly grateful and he wasn’t scared to talk about his experience. When we spoke to him he told us that it was important for others to understand the situation properly, he didn’t want anyone else to feel pity for him. This was something that he didn’t have any control of, so he wanted to at least take control of the way that others handled their approach towards him. Of course, he wasn’t going to say no to the sweets and treats that people offered him. I just couldn’t believe how he had grown up to be such a mature person. Listening to the podcast made me relive the experience and I was able to genuinely understand the people who had cancer on a whole new level. If I ever encounter anyone dealing with cancer, I will know to be careful about the words that I use.
Certainly, not all was gloomy and gray. When Steven underwent radiation treatments he was able to experience in Boston. Thanks to the Christopher Haven program he was able to meet some of the Red Sox players (let’s just be clear that we’re Yankee fans), go to different museums, and other events. He was a lucky kid. The best came when he found out that he was chosen by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He had a tough time choosing what he wanted. Ultimately, his decision was based on our family. Steven felt that as a family we needed a vacation, a vacation away from hospitals, school, and work. What better place to go than to Disney World! It was truly the trip of a lifetime. It was all worth it, and the best part was seeing the smile on his face.
Today we still hear from the MAW Foundation. They are truly incredible. We have been lucky enough that we have a happy story to tell, even though it wasn’t always that way. Steven has been cancer-free for almost two-years now. It is important to know that no two stories are the same, but that sharing them all is how we can understand cancer better. That is what Steven taught me.