Connor (left) was only 10 months old when his brother, Luke (right), was diagnosed with childhood cancer. Monica, their mom, says Connor is “empathetic, kind, tender, and loving.”
September is childhood cancer awareness month, symbolized by a gold ribbon. For families like ours and siblings like you, every month is childhood cancer awareness month. It never leaves us. It never will.
I have thought about you this entire month and what it must be like for you to be the sibling of a childhood cancer survivor, to have the spotlight (almost) always on your older brother, for something that was really hard and beyond anyone’s control.
At 5 years old, you know what an MRI is, and an x-ray, and a blood draw, and you have never had any of those.
I know that right now it is hard for you to understand that cancer is a bad thing and that all the attention Luke gets is the result of something that was really, really bad and very scary. I hope that someday you will understand all of that.
I know it is hard for you when Mommy, Daddy, and Lukey go away for two whole days and you don’t come with us. It is hard for us, too. I wish that we were all going somewhere fun. But, as you know, we go away to the hospital so that Luke can have scans.
At 5 years old, you know what an MRI is, and an x-ray, and a blood draw, and you have never had any of those. We go back to the hospital a second time so we can meet with oncologists — you know what those are, too — and make sure that Luke’s cancer is gone and that nothing new has developed.
Your brother gets to spend time with us and he usually comes home with graham crackers — which we never let you two normally have — stickers, and beanie babies. All you get is two full days of school and after-care.
Connor in his Spiderman costume; Connor and Luke, then and now; Connor playing in the leaves in September 2009, about a year after his brother was diagnosed with childhood cancer.
Some days, one parent would drop you off and someone completely different picked you up. You took all of it in stride and accepted that this was your life. At a very young age, you developed a sensitivity to others’ and their needs. You are empathetic, kind, tender, and loving.
Cancer was in your brother’s body, but you survived, too.
I will never forget the day that we got the news that your brother is cancer-free. I was home with you because I had a cold and couldn’t go to the hospital. You and I got to spend the whole day together! I marveled at how tall you were and how much you loved your blankets and stuffed animals. You still love them! You were focused and happy. I sighed with relief, because you were — and are — normal, content, and safe.
When Daddy called to tell me that everything was okay, I wept. I wept hard. You saw me crying and tried to take the phone out of my hands. You rubbed my back. You climbed into my lap with your blue blanket and we read stories.
I am writing this letter to say thank you for being who you are. For loving the way you do and for sharing your generous, helpful spirit with us. You may have developed these characteristics regardless of our journey through childhood cancer; maybe not. We will never know because you can only go forward.
Connor and Luke, Christmas 2012
You care more than most boys your age. You love fully. Thank you for showing me how and why I also need to keep moving forward. Thank you for modeling acceptance and resilience.
I pray that you know, truly and deeply know, how absolutely loved you are and how your spirit and your kind heart are gifts to us and to the world. It is a gift to be your Momma. I love you forever and ever.
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