My Brother Changed My Life Forever

by Nick GiallourakisNovember 27, 2019View more posts from Nick Giallourakis

When we decided to launch this ‘Dear Cancer’ campaign I never thought it would turn out the way it did.  Frankly, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. What we found out is not one cancer diagnosis is the same as another. The emotions that cancer brings out in people is different from person to person.

We have patients, survivors, mothers, daughters, grandfathers and siblings all writing about their story and sharing their experience with cancer.  Some giving cancer the middle finger while others thanking cancer for showing them why we love and fight to live. Thanking cancer for helping them find new meaning in life.

It is a mix bag of emotions and everyone experiences cancer in their own way, for better or worse. I decided not to write my own letter to cancer but if I did, it would be just like the other letters: filled with mixed emotions.

As many of you know my younger brother Steve is a two-time cancer survivor: first with stage IV osteosarcoma and his second secondary AML.  Since our last issue in September, things have changed for Steve in a way that none of us ever expected.  Steve has been diagnosed with not one but two new cancers.

Steve has a sarcoma tumor in the soft tissues of his back and a renal cell carcinoma tumor on one of his kidneys.  Steve will have begun proton therapy (radiation) by the time this issue is released but now he is about to begin a new journey with cancer after more than 10 years of being cancer free.

Damn it.

I am sick to my stomach just thinking about it and so angry as to why Steve has to endure this all over again. While we gear up for Steve’s latest fight with cancer, there is a part of Steve’s journey that you do not know, and one that I personally want to share.

While Steve was living for more than eight weeks on his pediatric cancer floor at Rainbow Babies & Children Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, he introduced me to one of his nursing aides.  Steve, along with one of the experienced nurses on the floor, encouraged me to ask this specific nursing aide out on a date.

And now, here I am, more than 10 years later, married to Camilla, the love of my life, my best friend, and we are expecting our first child. I can’t say whether or not we would have ever met if not for Steve being diagnosed with his second cancer. And, I will not thank cancer for making it possible for Camilla and me to meet.  I will not give cancer the credit for doing so because of what it has done to my brother and countless others like him.  The pain, the suffering and the heart break.

But I will thank my brother for finding a flower in the hardest of places.  Finding the time to think of others in his time of fighting for his life.  Finding the light in a time so dark.

If I were to write a letter to cancer, like many others, I’d tell it to go jump off a bridge and never return.

If I were to write a letter to my brother, I’d simply say thank you.  We will always be grateful to you, and we will always fight beside you as you take on cancer yet again.

To the rest of the Herd that submitted their letters to cancer, I thank you for sharing what you have endured.  You and everyone reading this should know that we are here for you whenever you need a hand.  All you need to do is simply ask.

:-)