Iowa is beautiful, even in late winter, early spring. Granted, it’s cold, and the gray days so far are quite a contrast to my usual daily dose of bright California sun. From having grown up here, I know the Iowa gray can go on all too long this time of year when everyone is ready for spring.
I’m here with my youngest brother, who is 49 years old, and has cancer according to the medical people. It has been tough going on many levels. He is struggling to keep weight on, struggling to breathe, struggling to keep a positive attitude, struggling to accept his situation, struggling to walk, struggling to accept so much assistance, struggling to sleep, and most of all, to live.
His having cancer changed the landscape of our family quite suddenly. There we all were, going about our days and nights as if all we had to do was “the usual” and then we found out he was not well. We were having “lah-de-dah” conversations about the weather and “what did you do today?” which took a sharp and unexpected turn into conversations about how to live life fully, how to help someone else do the same, and what really matters in a day.
The mood — the frame of mind among family members on any given day here at the hospital — varies. Wondering if he will live at all is at the top of the list some days. On other days, all things considered, he looks pretty good. If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you know the “ebb and flow” I’m talking about.
I have a renewed appreciation for the nurses and doctors who do this service for my brother and for others every day in the oncology wing. Being here with him and his process is my lesson in letting go. How he is dealing with the cancer, his treatment choices – all of it is different than I would choose. That is what I think, but I don’t know, because I don’t have cancer and I have never walked in his shoes.
So here I am, hooking up his feeding tubes, learning how to disinfect the ports that carry the “nutrition” into his body, doing driving errands, transporting his children, or doing household chores. My brother’s wife is carrying on the family business so they have an income. The tasks I’m doing seem very small, and they are, but every little bit helps.
Now he is home and having chemotherapy on a weekly basis. He is on the least-invasive, most tolerable drug possible, because he has lost so much weight and getting him stronger is the number one goal now. Finding food he can face eating is quite a challenge. He’s hungry, but nothing seems to sound delicious. Truly good food, fully nutritious food, natural food — all of this seems to be a big turn off. How curious, since it seems that is what could possibly help him recover. Again, I don’t know. I have no idea.
Maybe the information I have about cancer can be helpful to someone else. I will post more soon. In the meantime, listen to your heart. Follow your heart. Imagine yourself looking back on your life. What will you be glad you did? Get to know your loved ones. Have honest conversations.