Some of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood were seeing my parents get ready for the arrival of my brother, Michael. I was 5 years old going on 6, and unlike my mother’s pregnancy with my brother Raymond- I was completely cognizant with what was going on. When Ray was born, I was barely 2 years old. This time around, I was fascinated with watching her belly grow and I remember begging her for a sister, as if my words could magically change the gender of the baby.
I didn’t get my wish. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t care- my 5 year old mind was blown- I have a baby brother! Ray and I are going to have someone else to play with! This is so cool! Immediately, the protective role that all older siblings have over their younger siblings began to solidify within me- I wasn’t going to take my eyes off of this kid! I’m going to do all in my power to make sure nothing bad ever happens to him.
It was a tough order though- Michael was the most advanced out of Ray and I. He walked before we did, explored more than we did. Hell, we had to get a security system installed in the house because he figured out how to unlock all of the locks and would go outside either to visit my grandparents or find Pride Rock because he was so obsessed with the Lion King when he was younger. After discovering he was an escape artist, I would follow him all around the house to make sure he would never get out of my sight. Ray and I both had our chubby stages growing up- Michael never did. He was always skinny, athletic, and always had such a healthy physique…
…which is why 11:30 AM on June 30th, 2011 is always going to stick in my mind forever. My mom e-mailed me because she thought I was at work (it was my day off)…”Michael has Hodgkins Lymphoma.” I have seen my grandfather, aunt, and stepmom go through cancer…but I felt like someone took a bag of bricks and slapped me across the face with it. Michael? Cancer? Before I knew it- the tears were coming down. Young people are not supposed to get cancer. 18 year olds are not supposed to get cancer. They should be concerned about going to college, what kind of dorm they’re going to live in, and whether or not they’re going to get along with their roommate. That’s what I was going through when I was 18. Even with the stuff that’s currently going on in my life, it all seems so trivial compared to what he will be going through. The older sibling guilt got to me. I was supposed to go through everything before him so I could prepare him for life- and this is something that Raymond and I haven’t gone through. We can’t protect him. Can’t relate to him. The only thing we can do is be there for him. We are all thankful that out of all the cancers he could be diagnosed with, that this is the “good one”…if there is a such thing as a “good” cancer. With treatment, there’s a 90% survival rate and once treated, it won’t come back.
This is going to be a journey for all of us. All that I ask is that even if you don’t know him, please keep my brother in your thoughts and prayers.