How My Brother's Battle With Cancer Taught Me How To Live With Intent

by Rina Magsombol

“It’s a stage 4,” my brother replied, voice cracking over the line. My tears liberally rolled down my face.

I recall that day vividly. It was raining one afternoon sometime in May of this year, and the weather was incredibly fitting to the situation. My heart took a trampoline leap down to my stomach.

This couldn’t be happening, I thought. Somebody, wake me up from this nightmare.

With two sons barely shy of their teen years, and at the age of 42, my brother went to war with colorectal cancer.

Within a month, he’d undergone a colostomy procedure, a colonoscopy, four harrowing rounds of chemotherapy and constant trips to the doctors.

My brother used to walk standing straight; now he slouches. He used to sleep on his back, now his side. I used to hear him laugh; now he calls for a helping hand.

He uses an inflatable cushion to sit down in order to alleviate the pain he experiences in doing so. And, unlike most of us, he uses a colostomy bag to use the restroom.

I can watch my brother every day; I can listen to him about how much it hurts, but will his pain stop here? No. Are we going to do something about it? You bet your sweet ass we will.

Once I began reassessing how I perceived life, the trivial things I complained about on a regular basis lessened over the days.

It transpired organically, yet it did require some effort from my part to be more appreciative.

All the belligerent thinking and bad attitudes had to go.

Here I am, griping about a medley of small inconveniences, while my only brother is suffering a debilitating illness.

While he’s complaining about his loss of energy and strength, I find myself selfishly complaining about a short weekend.

I’m not looking forward to that Monday, but I know he’s living, anxiously awaiting another one.

I've learned to ditch the distress and resentment for life because this is what life is about: the cancers, the short weekends, the school shootings and racial upheaval.

It’s how I -- we -- accept these challenges, however, to move on and learn from them that counts.

If I can't prevent these issues from flying my way, I know I have to channel them positively from the way I see them to the way I handle them.

It is easier for us to feel resentment with all the bad going on than to do something about it.

That was the challenge here: I want to join my brother in his war against cancer. For my brother's sake, I will live my life and enjoy it as much as I can, in the same approach I planned for my his.

I know that even though my brother has grown weaker, his heart and mind have gotten stronger, and I can be his aide. With that, he needs all the support he can get from his family.

I need to be strong for him. Thus, I need to embrace this demon with him, among all the other things that pain me.

We can’t have any distractions. We have one goal, and that is overcoming.

My brother and I aren’t fighting the same battle, but we are certainly fighting the same beast.

Realists will say you can’t compare your problems to those of others. We are all different from one another; the same applies to the issues we each suffer.

But this is the decision I made for myself.

My brother’s illness is teaching me to become more appreciative and aware. It’s teaching me how to fight and when to fight harder.

I’ve grown to be more positive, and to quit the things that are no longer benefitting me or making me happy.

I am learning to live for those who can’t, or are trying to.

While there are many who have lost their loved ones to tragedy, we are all fighting the same fight, just on different days and war grounds, wearing different armor.

It’s been two months since May, and my brother is progressively getting better, with good news coming.

His diagnosis has opened up my eyes, but his fight continues to open up my heart.