Earlier this month, my mom texted me to let me know that my cousin had brain cancer.
Yeah, I know.
He had just been through brain surgery to remove multiple tumors, and was doing very well considering. His mom reported that his only post-op issues were mobility related.
“Tell him I have a walker with a pink bike basket on the front if he needs a little help scooting around,” I joked in reply. Mom responded how sweet it was to see the youngest grandchild offering to help the oldest grandchild. And jumbled up in that sentiment we found another unspoken thought. Isn’t it odd that there are two cousins with brain cancer? Different cancers. Different stages. Different locations on the brain. But still.
Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when mom told me that she received some devastating news from my aunt. In just a matter of weeks, my cousin had gone from six spots on his brain to thirteen.
They were planning to do whole brain radiation.
I’m not sure I have the words it takes to describe what’s going on in my mind these days, but I’m going to give it a try anyway.
When I hear that other people I know have been diagnosed with cancer, particularly a family member or friend, the sadness that overwhelms me is intense. It affects me more than thinking about and living with my own cancer. The empathy I feel is colossal in proportion to my own self-pity. I can live with my diagnosis. I am living with my diagnosis. But I crumble when I learn someone else has been given the news.
“Dan?” I called from the guest bedroom. “Can you come here and just hug me for a minute?” I explained to him what had made me so sad. “I think I never really properly grieved my own diagnosis. So I’m grieving for him and me right now. It’s suffocating.”
My cousin and I aren’t close. We’ve lived far away from each other our whole lives, seeing each other maybe once every couple of years. But he’s still my family, and I still love him and want good things for him. Brain cancer is decidedly not a good thing.