I have been loathe to discuss something and if you’ve read any of my personal posts there’s not much I hold back. Well, this one really isn’t about me. It’s about one of my nephews. To preserve his privacy (although he may not care, actually but just in case) I will refer to him as D.
D. is 29 years old. When he was a little boy I and everyone in my family believed he was destined for greatness. Of course, all families probably feel this way about their little ones but we REALLY believed it. There was something very special about D even as a small child. He had a brilliant mind (we’re talking the kind of smart that makes smart people look stupid). And he was mature with a demeanor many adults would have envied. He was never hateful or mean or inappropriately angry. Raised Catholic he had and still has an unshakable faith in God. He was handsome, very handsome, and very athletic. There wasn’t a sport he couldn’t play well. It seemed when he was made that the Universe had emptied out the goody bag.
By the time he was in high school I had a feeling he would become a Supreme Court Justice or President of the United States. So it was no surprise to me after some in depth conversations about politics and philosophy he intimated that he was seriously considering going into politics because that’s where he thought he could do the most good. In my eyes, he was going to be someone inspirational and game changing–a JFK kind of figure. At the time this aspiration didn’t jive with his college major. His father was gifted in math and apparently D. inherited the same genes. He started out in college thinking he was going to be a mathematician–the kind that teaches it in college but spends his entire career doing research on extremely advanced and, to the layman, esoteric theoretical mathematics. I knew he had a gift for mathematics but I also knew he had a passion for wanting to make the world a better place.
D. could and would talk to anyone about any political topic on even the most controversial subjects. No matter how offensive an argument, D. could and would engage the other person in a way that made them feel respected and understood. In his late teens and early twenties he had the communication skills that some people after a lifetime of working at it never achieve. He was able to change people’s minds and when he couldn’t there was never any remaining rancor. Everyone walked away from D. feeling respected and heard.
After achieving his bachelor’s he decided to go to law school. And of course, he excelled there just like he had everywhere else. After a while he married the love of his life, his high school sweetheart. By the time he was in his late 20’s he was clerking for a judge on a State Supreme Court. With a stable job, he and his wife decided to have kids. His baby boy was born about 16 months ago. He was running marathons and in that phase of life where one is fit and young and anything is possible. It seemed that he was well on is way to the bright future we always thought he would have.
Then late last year he began to experience strange sensations. At the end of 2012 he learned that he had a brain tumor from a very aggressive form of cancer. The doctors who initially treated him gave him 6 months to live. D. wanted to fight anyway because there was no way he’d give up life so easily. Unfortunately this type of cancer is rare, particularly at his age. Right now there are only 200 people in the world who have this form of cancer in the same age group. So getting help was not going to be easy. He and his family moved back home to be near a world-renowned hospital that specialized in treating brain cancers. Over the last 6 months he has undergone surgeries, radiation, chemo, gained weight, lost weight, lost the use of legs and regained their use. Although his most recent round of chemo made him so nauseous he couldn’t keep anything down, he continued on with the treatment. He has fought like a champ and we all thought progress was being made. That was until last week.
A recent MRI revealed that the cancer had spread to his cortex and brain stem. The doctors have given him two options. Try another even worse chemo treatment that has little chance of working (10,000 to one odds) or be made comfortable. I cannot even begin to describe how devastated I and my entire extended family are. I want so much to help him but there is little I can do. As they say, it’s up to God. What’s truly amazing is that D. always believed it was up to God. From the very moment he was diagnosed up to the present day he has by all accounts maintained an astounding equanimity. He told his wife that if God decides to take him he is ready…no anger, no bitterness, no regrets. But that he still intended to fight. And he has but I don’t know if he is going to continue or acquiesce to what has become inevitable, at least without divine intervention.
I don’t believe in traditional style miracles. Some of the time I believe we live in a big ol maelstrom of chaos in which some people get lucky while others do not. Other times I think there might be some animating force behind the Universe and what happens to us. I do definitely believe we have spirits and that we probably can live more than once. I have faced many difficulties in my life and have often been told that I must be unlucky. I always respond that I must have been horrible in a past life and am making up for it now. Indeed, this belief is so strong in me that when I found out about D.’s prognosis my very first thought was, “That’s the kind of thing that happens to people like me, not him. Why not me? Why him?” I could not understand a loving God that would create such a beautiful soul and take him away so soon. In spite of my lack of faith in an active God who intervenes in our daily lives, I am praying for a miracle. The kind you read about in the Bible. Prove me wrong, oh God, how I wish you would prove me wrong and save my nephew. If this makes me a hypocrite or a fool, so be it. And please, no sympathy for me. I’m still alive and healthy. Odds are good I will get to see my kids grow up. I didn’t write this for me. It’s for D. If you believe, do me a favor and pray to your God or gods. Hell even if you don’t, project your good will out to my nephew. I may not believe in miracles or a God per se, but I do believe in love. Even though love won’t cure his cancer, love reminds us that the struggle is always worth it.