BEFORE THE DUST SETTLES...
My brother Bran.
My original goal was to wait until the dust settled until I wrote this. But I am done waiting, done procrastinating. The last two weeks confirmed what I knew all along. Time is too limited. For all of us, with or without cancer.
I have experienced literally every human emotion over the past couple of weeks. In the following order:
I’ve never cried so much. I’ve never laughed so much.
We buried my brother Brandon yesterday. Writing that feels strange. Even though he was dealing with melanoma for the last 9 years (10 years is the current maximum life expectancy with modern treatments) I truly didn’t think he would go. He would always struggle with some complications and be in and out of the emergency room, it was just what Bran did. He would fight these little battles, come out victorious, and then move on. Business as usual.
So when my mother called me that Monday to tell me that Bran had to go to the emergency room at 4:00 AM, I kept on with my daily routines for a little bit. Even mowed the lawn and had a client edit session at the studio before heading down to see him. Bran’s going through some shit again, he’ll be ok.
It wasn’t until I got there that I realized this was different. The look on his face was different. The pain was different. The vibe of the doctors and surgeons was different. I, along with my brothers, instantly shifted into bodyguard mode. Protecting Brandon was our number one goal, and we know now that for every minute of the next 170 hours there was someone on Brandon’s side. He was never left alone.
In the first few hours at the emergency room we spoke with his doctors and oncologist at Dana Farber in Boston and the doctors and surgeons at Baystate. In a nutshell, because of the condition of his body, the size and location of tumors, and just the general trauma that surgery brings, they could not do a necessary operation on Brandon to solve the immediate problem. In this case, the chance of survival without immediate surgery on a healthy person is rare. For someone like Bran, with all the issues he was dealing with physically and the progression of his melanoma, recovery was pretty much impossible. Listening to the doctors explain this to us was one of the hardest things I ever had to go through. Staring death straight in the eyes is every bit as scary as it sounds. I myself immediately deal with fear by summoning anger. I immediately hated the doctors and surgeons. They were giving up. Violence may be able to solve this problem! I literally wanted to dropkick the surgeon at one point. And boy, it would feel good. But of course, that would solve nothing.
My brother Bran though, he never broke. Never melted down. He was the one telling us to be strong the whole time.
He inadvertently taught us how to behave in a situation like this. It was incredible.
Speaking of incredible, the amount of love and support this kid received throughout this process was tremendous. I found myself in the very tough position of telling friends and family that they couldn’t go into the hospital room, there was just too many people. But they were persistent. They wouldn’t leave! They stood by in the halls and taking over the waiting room area telling stories about the guy they loved. They genuinely wanted to help. And not in some phony way. This was real brotherhood, and sisterhood for that matter. That brings me to another point. The brothers.
There are 4 of us brothers. The 4 boys. Four was the number. Since we were little that was one of the things that defined the Thibaults. As much as my mother wanted a little daughter to spoil she kept on pumping out Thibault boys into the world! I thought about this a lot over the past couple of weeks and it was hard to imagine only 3 of us. So I made up my mind that I won’t. We will always be the 4 Thibault boys. Forever. And with saying that, when the shit hits the fan you find out who has your back. You find out who will throw themselves in front of a train just to save you. Who will sacrifice for you. I found out that I not only have my blood brothers, but I gained more “brothers” and “sisters” for that matter than I thought possible. Good as blood in my book. I will never forget how they were there for my brother when he needed them most.
In the last few days, Brandon proposed and was able to marry his girlfriend. He was able to see all the people that came to support him. He knew his family was right by his side. He was humble right to the end. I got to tell him how proud I was of him, and how he was showing me how to handle things.
And knowing how to handle things like this is important, because like Brandon, I also have a terminal illness (stage 4 breast cancer) and will have to face some serious situations myself in the very near future. But because of him, I now have no fear. I am armed with optimism and will do everything in my power to survive. And that means dramatically changing my life and business around.
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