How My Brother’s Cancer Changed My Life
| November 1, 2018
Cancer? It couldn’t be real. Cancer is what old people have. Cancer is what sick people have. But my little brother? Five-year-old Gavin? That isn’t reality. But it was, and I quickly learned that things were about to change.
Over the next few weeks, my grandparents would drive my siblings and I to the hospital so we could visit, but, other than that, Gavin was nearly absent from our lives, as were our parents. My grandparents became our primary caretakers for a while, which I enjoyed, but I still missed my parents. Gavin seemed to become the world’s top priority. Every conversation I had began with, “How’s your brother doing?” or, “Is there anything I could bring Gavin that he really likes?” As time passed, a jealousy began to fester inside my heart. I began to resent my younger brother.
As a seven-year-old child, my priorities were far from rational. I couldn’t quite comprehend the magnitude of our family’s situation. I was allowed to see Gavin only on his good days, when he was feeling well and able to have visitors. I wasn’t able to see him when he was unable to sleep because of the excruciating pain in his legs or hear the terrified whimpers he uttered as he wondered what the next day had in store. All I saw was a little brat who never had to go to school, was treated well by everyone, got all the attention and support of my parents, and had boxes of toys by his bed that he didn’t even want to play with. I remember being deeply resentful because of how many of his gifts were from people he had never even met. Why was he valued more than me just because he was sick? He had everything I ever wanted. At that time, I perceived the value of my life as being determined by the amount of candy I could eat and the frequency that cool things were given to me. I had no concept of the value of human relationships, nor did I acknowledge the privilege with which I had been blessed.
Eventually Gavin started to get better, but my opinion of him did not. I still viewed him through jealous eyes, but as I continued to pity myself, I noticed that Gavin never seemed to be upset in the same way that I was. He had a genuine happiness to be at home with my siblings and I- and he wouldn’t leave my side. I began to understand that Gavin had never cared about the superficial things that I did. During his ordeal, he would have traded it all to be able to play with me. I slowly learned that the things that I had been obsessing over were worthless, and my companionship with my brother was far more valuable than I had realized.
Today, I am an entirely different person than that jealous kid. I have learned not only to appreciate what I have but to also give to those who are less fortunate. Gavin and I are both volunteer swim coaches on a special needs swim team, and we mentor at-risk children weekly. I have devoted the latter half of my life to serving others, and I love every bit of it. I am filled with a more genuine happiness than I ever really was from material things, and all of this is because of Gavin. Sometimes I wonder if maybe this was God’s plan all along. Maybe the reason Gavin was forced to go through that was partly directed toward my betterment. Either way, I have grown tremendously from what used to be the worst days of my life.