It's cruely ironic
Tomorrow, my family and friends will gather to walk in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Light the Night walk. Something big will be missing from last year- my younger brother.
He were diagnosed a week after my birthday and engagement in 2010- it's a day I won't ever forget. That morning of July 28th, I looked at my phone to see a text message from my Dad very early in the morning. It said, "We're at the hospital. They think Shawn has cancer".
I immediately snapped out of my morning stupor to try and process what I had just read. Shawn? Looking at my younger brother all through his treatment, you couldn't tell he was ill if you looked past the hair loss and his pale skin. He was tall- about 6'1- a broad shouldered football player who wouldn't hurt a fly. He loved kids, was quietly hilarious, and fiercely loyal to the people closest to him.
He'd been feeling a little under the weather for a few weeks- mostly flu symptoms. How could they think he would have cancer? I woke up my fiance and the morning started. I called my boss on the way there and said I might be in later as Tony drove across town to the hospital. We arrived as Shawn was taken down to have a central line put in. They knew he had cancer and would need a central line, but weren't sure what type. Acting like deer stuck in headlights, we did whatever the doctors suggested. It wasn't until after the surgery at around 4pm that first day that the doctor sat us all down to tell us that Shawn had ALL- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and t-cell type Lymphoma. They gave him 3-6 months to live even if they started chemo that day. Shawn was still so groggy from the medications that I don't think he really knew what was going on. Later on, Shawn, who was like me in male form, chose me as his Power of Attorney. I was both honored and humbled that he would choose me over both of my parents and my older brother. He and I always just "got" each other And throughout his entire battle, I was the one who gently told Mom she was hovering too much, or asking Dad to please sleep in another room because the snoring bothered Shawn, so that he wouldn't have to say it. He'd just give me "the look", and I knew what needed to happen.
We were so naive in the beginning- We thought he'd live his days out in the hospital. Although his chemo was always in patient, in between chemo bouts, he was allowed to go home. He felt so good by October that he walked with us during the Light the Night walk last year!
The one time I did something that I knew he was against was signing his DNR paperwork. It was only 7 months after that initial diagnosis, the day after my wedding htat we moved up so that he could see it, that we were told he may not make it through the night. he'd had a fever of 104 for four days... and his heartrate was off the charts. He would panic and start hyperventilating, but like the obedient kid he was, if I asked him to slow down, he would try his hardest to. We all did that- for 16 hours- someone was sitting by him, reminding him to slooow down and relax when his heartrate or breathing got too fast. He never wanted to give up until his very last day, so signing the DNR paperwork made me feel like Lucifer. He entrusted ME to look out for his best interests and make his decisions when he could not. When he slipped into a coma like state, the nurses urged me to sign the papers. "CPR is so violent, and having him put on a breathing tube would be the worst option for him." Could I just let my fighter of a brother down and sign paperwork that essentially said to give up? I had to. They put a plastic band around his wrist that declared "DNR" in bold letters. It reminded me of the plastic wristbands we'd get at the waterparks when we were younger. Instead, this one marked my brother to be let to die when the time came.
He rallied and came back- was doing fairly well for about two more weeks until his cancer came back, yet again and there were no chemo options left. By then, he had also had a pretty bad case of pneumonia that was slowing taking over.
So tomorrow, six months to the day that you took your last breathe in front of my eyes, we will walk in your honor. We will bear shirts with your name, picture, and loving momentos drawn on our banner in your memory. The walk starts at 7pm, and you breathed your very last breath six months ago at around 6:45pm. I would give anything to have you with us again this year- happy and feeling healthy like you were last year... but it wasn't meant to be. I think that's the hardest thing to accept: my younger brother who loved children will never get to meet mine. My Shawn, who helped me move to college and back... to an apartment, will never get to see the house my husband and I purchased and now live in.
His sister, who loves him with her entire heart, will never get to see his crystal clear blue eyes again.
Shawn- I miss you more than I could ever explain. My heart aches tonight. I just hope you are in a better place than this imperfect world full of unfairness.
Love you. Always and forever.
Julie, ALWAYS Shawn's sister.