I have a cousin. His name is Steve. We grew up far apart. I’ve lived here in the frozen tundra my whole life and he grew up in Oregon. On that side of the family, we’re all pretty close in age. Every year or so one of the four siblings had a child. So the ages of the eleven of us span 14 years. But I was fortunate to have an experience that all of my other cousins did not. For his sophomore year of college, Steve transferred to where I would start as a freshman. I had three years with him that my other cousins did not.
At the time, I didn’t think a whole lot about it. It was cool that I would have my cousin there AND he had a car. It was too far for him to go home for short holidays, so he would spend them with my family and I conveniently had a 240 mile ride home. There were so many instances that it was nice to have Steve around. I had my selfish reasons too, of course. He lived on the same floor as the guy I had a crush on. Steve of course, figured this out, and would give me shit about it. It was all in good fun.
A few Sundays out of the month he would pick me up and we would go across the river and attend a church where the pastor was a friend of my parents (my brother’s God-father). After church we would have lunch together and then head off to study.
Throughout my life I’ve seemed to struggle with friends that take a different path than me. It has always been difficult standing up for myself and going my own direction. I had a few of those instances during my college years. But you know what made it easier? Steve was there. No matter what the situation, he was there. When I had issues with my roommates, he was there. When my crush never turned into anything, he was there. He was a constant in my life that gave me support and helped me to stand on my own. I would go as far as saying that he is like a brother to me.
After college, Steve got married and lived in various places. In the early years after college he was in the area. Then because of job opportunities he has moved around a bit.
It was probably about 10 years ago that he got his first diagnosis of cancer. A sarcoma in his leg. The first doctors wanted to amputate. He got a second opinion at Mayo and ended up with a treatment option to save his leg.
I don’t remember how long it was that he kept that cancer at bay. About five years ago, it showed up in his lower spine. He had a tumor growing around his vertebrae and ribs. I think they even removed a few ribs with that surgery. He has undergone countless chemo and radiation treatments, all with a positive attitude of beating the cancer. I’m sure in the last years, he has probably lived in constant pain of one sort or another.
During the past few weeks, Steve has been hospitalized again. At first they thought it was meningitis. Oh how I wish it were! The tumors are back in his neck and at the base of his skull.
If there is one thing that I really suck at, it’s revealing my emotions. I don’t tell anyone how I feel. That’s probably why I need to go to a chiropractor and a massage therapist on a regular basis. I keep it all bottled up inside. Instead of telling people that I love them, I cross my fingers and hope that they figure it out on their own. Pathetic.
I need to learn from Steve. He has more courage than anyone I know. Several months back he caught me on Facebook in that chat thing. He just lays it on the line and tells you flat-out that he loves you. I wish I could do that. For him, I need to do that.
I don’t know what the next weeks and months will be like for Steve. All I know is that he is stronger than all of us combined. As he is going through this horrible disease, he is the one that is comforting all of the rest of us. He is truly amazing.