THE BLOG

Losing My Older Brother To Cancer

14/12/2016 15:22

When I was eleven my older brother (18 years old) was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. That day my childhood ended and for the next seven years everyone's focus, including mine, was on my brother's fight for his life. I was unintentionally "forgotten" in these terrible years, except by my brother. I had no one to talk to, and no one talked to me about the it. I felt a constant fear of losing my brother. I think that is what made me so sad, or depressed, for so long, that we never talked about it. I guess it was so hard on everyone, that we all just tried to cope in our own way.

The first prognoses were very good, so everyone focused on my brother's treatment and recovery. The special hospital for cancer treatment was in Oslo, a 5 hour's drive away. My mother stayed with my brother all the time he was in the hospital, sometimes for several weeks in a row, leaving me and my father by ourselves. My father worked full time as head of a city department and in addition he ran our small farm. Therefore I had to step into my mother's role, fixing dinner and running the house. I also came along to the hospital in my school holidays.

The seven years were mixed with good news and bad news. Cancer gone, cancer reappearing. At the same time, and I suspect to have a semblance of normality, my brother decided to pursue his studies and become a medical doctor. Equally and perhaps with a sense of urgency he also married and celebrated the arrival of a son soon afterwards, when he was only twenty-one.

With the cancer reappearing, the prognoses for survival went down. He went from radiation treatment to chemotherapy. After several rounds with the chemo it became harder and harder for him to go through the treatment. Eventually both my father and I had to go with him to the hospital for him to find the strength to do it all over again. Once we even had to carry him to chemo by force. It was very hard to see the hell he was in after chemo - vomiting for a week and his dramatic weight-loss. But still he managed to keep up with his medical studies and I guess he knew more about his condition than most of his doctors.

The last six months he was put on experimental treatment, as a final attempt to beat this monster trying to kill him. My sister in law, was (and still is) a qualified nurse and managed to transfer to his department at the hospital. His condition worsened at the same time I took my final exams at college. His last words to me before he was driven in ambulance to the hospital was; promise me you will not let this effect your exam results. I can still see it and feel it clear as day. Six days later I came home to a note on the door from his parents in law that we had to drive to Oslo immediately. His condition had turned so bad and they feared it was the end. On that 5 hour drive all I could think of was what to say to him. Arriving at the hospital we were met by my brother's brother in law, who ran towards us when he saw us coming and said to me; "come, we have to run!" We ran to my brother's room. My parents, my older brother and his wife were outside. I entered the room and found my sister in law, who was on duty, sitting beside my brother. My brother was gasping for air. His eyes were closed. He had been in a lot of pain the whole day. I sat down, hugged him, and took his hand. His breathing calmed down. He had been waiting for me. I sat with him together with his wife. I was in shock. I could not say a word of what I had planned to say to him. I could not say a word. Even on my way to the hospital I was in denial, convinced he would be well again. That he would pull through this and live. She explained to me that he was still in a lot of pain and there was nothing left to do. We sat with him till he was gone. In the early morning we went to their home to get some rest. I slept in my nephew's room and was woken by him playing. He was four and a half. The first thing he said to me was. "Dad has died". Why do you say that I asked. "Because everyone is here."

At home my parents started calling around to inform everyone. I sought refuge alone at our summer cabin. I just kept crying. I could not understand what had happened. It was unreal. Our church was very new and the cemetery had not been consecrated yet. My father pulled all the strings he had and managed to get the bishop to consecrate my brother's grave at the funeral, before burying him.

The first months after his funeral I went to his grave so often that I actually created my own path to the grave yard. We never spoke about it. No one asked me how I was doing. And I mean why should they? I did not ask them either. We all just tried to deal with the grief in our own way. I felt I lost the only person in the world that I was close to. I kept to myself, and the distance between myself and my parents increased. Burying your own child must be the hardest thing anyone to do, so I never blamed them for not connecting with me. We all had a tremendous grief to handle, we had been fighting together with him for seven years, so I think we all dealt with it in our own way. I was certainly used to dealing with my fear and worry by myself, so it was never on my mind to talk with anyone about it.

That Autumn I started university in UK, and moved away on my own. I remember I cried every night. I felt so sad, until one day, probably in November, I just stopped crying. I never cried from that day till Christmas Eve last year when my daughter gave me a song she had made and recorded just for me. It was in this crying period that I was really motivated to revaluate my happiness, and I think that is what has kept me going.

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