When A Loved One Has Cancer
Cancer happens to other people...
Note: Josh is now cancer free and has moved on with his life. He got married to Chelsea last year and both are doing well. Thank you so much for all of your support. It has been amazing.
My husband sketched this picture of our nephew Josh one night not too long ago.
I woke up in the middle of the night and hubby wasn't beside me. I got up and wandered into the living room and there he was at his desk, bent over this portrait.
Normally I would ask him to come to bed, but not this night. I knew what was going through his head. It was written all over his face. It showed in his posture. I felt it in my heart too.
So instead of reminding him of the time, I quietly kissed him on the forehead and went back to bed, but neither of us slept.
When problems come our way, my husband and I are both the type of people who need to fix it, when you can't fix it that feeling of helplessness drives us crazy. Now, here we were faced with something that neither of us could find a solution to.
I wrote, he drew, and still no answers came. It wasn't just us, it was every single member of the family going through the exact same thing. Each of us in our own way was trying to wrap our heads around the news that Josh has cancer.
Josh. OUR Josh.
Josh is 19 now, and has become one of the most honest and hard working young men I have ever met. If someone needs help, Josh is there. You don't even have to ask him, he just pitches in. He has this sweet, shy side combined with that strong athletic build that makes him a bit of a teddy bear.
Josh is all about being a man though, he works hard and plays even harder. When he talks about anything with a motor his eyes light up, cars, trucks, dirt bikes... It doesn't really matter as long as it has an engine and looks good!
His shy smile will get you if his eyes don't, and he is almost always smiling. It is a soft smile with just a touch of mischief that makes you pretty sure that he could get away with just about anything if he wanted to. He could get away with quite a bit, but he's been a good kid, a responsible kid. Nobody has ever had to worry about how Josh would turn out, in fact he rarely gives anyone a reason to worry about him at all.
...and just like that everything changed.
I never would have thought that a simple word could change everything, but the word cancer did just that.
It sort of dropped like a bomb. Everyone just stared at each other. There had to be a mistake.
Josh can't have cancer, he just can't.
It happens to other people but it isn't supposed to happen in your family, not to the people you love. It is supposed to happen to smokers, to people who have abused their bodies for years, not to someone who has never smoked a cigarette. It is supposed to happen to those who have lived their lives not to young men whose lives have just begun.
That same familiar feeling rose up in my chest. That feeling I get when someone wrongs one of my own children, when something becomes a threat to those I love. That need to stand up and fight. Everything just sort of went numb. Suddenly nothing else mattered. This boy who came into my life eight and a half years ago, this boy I have watched grow into a young man that the whole family can be proud of, it can't be Josh.
...but it is.
Has Cancer touched your life?
Have you or a loved one battled cancer?
Coping with the News
When you find out a family member has cancer you can go through the same phases of grief as you do when you face a loss. You may cycle through them one after another, or you may go back and forth between them, you may skip some and you may come to them in any order.
Denial - "This can't really be happening."
Anger - "It's not fair!!!"
Bargaining - "I'll do anything to make this go away."
Depression - "I give up!"
How could this have happened?
And it all began with a simple mole. That mole turned out to be melanoma, so the next step was a biopsy of his lymph nodes. As it turned out a biopsy wasn't needed, the lymph nodes were clearly affected and were removed right away. Josh now has a foot long wound on his back, and a nasty incision beneath his arm where those lymph nodes once were.
After what seemed like forever we got the results back, 15 lymph nodes were removed but only one was found to be affected with cancer. So yes, it has spread but the first bit of good news comes in the fact it had not spread near as far as the doctor first feared!
We are still waiting for more tests and results to let us know where Josh goes from here.
All of that from a mole. All of that because his girlfriend Chelsea thought it was suspicious and wanted him to get it checked. All of that and the news - if he had waited even a little bit longer he might not be with us five years from now.
Identify Melanoma Early!!!
To determine if a mole should be checked remember your ABC's
Asymmetry - Does one half appear to be different than the other?
Border - Notched, ragged, or blurred edges.
Color - Color is not uniform, can be brown, black, or tan but red, white or blue may be present.
Diameter - Is it bigger than a pencil eraser? Has it grown?
Evolution - Have there been any changes in shape, size or symptoms?
I know that Josh will make it, we all do but the hardest part is the voice in your head echoing over and over... "but why should he even have to in the first place?"
Josh doesn't deserve this.
Then the reality hits, nobody does. As much as we would like to think that cancer can only happen to other people, to people who somehow deserve it, it never seems to happen that way does it?
It happens to good people like my Uncle Larry who was diagnosed with prostate cancer just a few days before Josh. It happens to kind and caring people like Larry's late wife, Bonnie who had a long battle with a very rare form of cancer. It happens to pillars of the community like my great-grandmother who had uterine cancer. It has even happened to me, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1999.
It happens to young men like Josh.
It happens, and there really is no way to make sense of it.
The idealist in me says it just isn't fair, and the realist answers back no, it isn't fair, but life isn't fair. Nobody ever said that it was.
What we can't change we must accept, but acceptance doesn't mean laying down and taking it. Josh will fight, and he will not do it alone. We will be fighting right alongside him.
I don't know much about cancer, but I do know survivors and Josh is a born survivor. He has everything it takes to beat the cancer and come out on top. He is young and strong, it was caught early. He is loved and supported, and has a whole family willing to fight this with him. Having a positive attitude and being surrounded by positive people can make all the difference.
Josh has a born survivor spirit.
What can you do to help a loved one?
A few things just for you...
I have always believed that education is key when dealing with any difficult issue. The unknown is frightening, the more you know the less powerless you will feel. The process of research always calms me, it gives me the feeling that I am doing something constructive. Research the particular type of cancer, find out what people are recommending and make some phone calls. It is far less frighting when you know the enemy!
There is nothing worse that sitting around stuck in your own thoughts. Keep yourself busy, that means your hands and your head.
Check Your Own Health
While you are thinking about it, get yourself checked out too. Cancer comes in many forms and early detection is important.
What you feed grows, what you starve dies. Don't feed the negative, think positive, speak positive, be positive. Focus on healing thoughts and actions for yourself and your loved one.
Advocate (but don't control)
Research in nursing homes has shown that patients who feel in control of their own decisions fare far better than those who have lost their autonomy. When we tell someone else what to do we have a way of robbing them of self, and self is important for healing. Offer choices, be helpful, but don't smother.
Change What You Can
You can't change the fact that your loved one is sick, but you can waste needed energy trying. Spending time focusing on what can't be changed only leads to further frustration for yourself and your loved one. Energy that is put into things we can't change is always wasted energy, but that energy is needed elsewhere.
If your loved one is uninsured they are going to need all the help they can get. Chemotherapy can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars to upwards of $30,000. Even with insurance those costs are not always covered. Loss of income, families to support, and bills that don't stop coming can add stress that your loved one does not need, but this is one burden you are capable of easing.
Josh Has Been cancer Free For Almost Two Years
Josh has found an amazing woman, Chelsea, to share his life with. They are a very sweet couple, and I can't tell you how happy we are that he has her in his life. While Josh was in the hospital, she never left his side. She is attentive, compassionate, and my favorite trait of all... she makes Josh smile, a lot.
Starting out is never easy for a young couple. When the diagnosis came, things got even tougher for the two of them. She stuck by his side as his girlfriend, and after he was healed she became his wife. They are one of the happiest couples I've ever seen.
You can still send Josh and Chelsea money, they are both working and Josh is doing well but they are a young couple just starting out.
If you would like to help:
Josh does have a Paypal account set up for donations, to access his email to send him money click the following link. You will have to complete a short human check to be sure that you are not a spambot, and Josh's email will be revealed. Every little bit helps right now. We can't tell you how much we appreciate your help, it really does mean the world to Josh and to the whole family.
There is also a fund set up at the Montrose, Colorado branch of US Bank if you prefer.
"The Josh Brune Relief Fund"
1500 East Oak Grove Road
Montrose, CO 81401-5799
Leave a comment sharing your own cancer story, or leave a bit of encouragement for Josh. Josh is a fighter and he will get through this!!!