May 21, 2014


Ten years ago today my life changed forever when my little brother was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.

This (extremely blurry) picture of me, my brother and my mom was taken on May 14th, 2004 after my graduation from MSVU. What you can't see in this picture is that my brother's skin has taken on a bit of a yellowish tinge and that he has huge bags under his eyes despite sleeping all the time. My parents think the jaundice is from too much time in his basement bedroom and that the bags are from being up playing video games and not sleeping enough. To this day my mother still hates herself for that.
A few days later when the my brother's skin has turned even more yellow my mom decides to try to get him a doctor's appointment. Our family doctor had retired several years earlier, but we were always very healthy so it didn't matter. She managed to get him in to a clinic down the street from our house on Friday, May 21st at lunch time. The plan was that he would go to school in the morning, go to his appointment, and be back at school for his afternoon classes.  
Things did not go as planned.
The doctor took a quick look at Jon, asked him a few questions, and sent him off to get blood work done immediately. At this point my mom called my dad who left work to meet them. I was still at home, playing around on the computer, unaware that anything unusual was going on.
I was a great big sister...
Shortly after they took Jon's blood a doctor told my parents they were transferring him to the hospital - by ambulance. No one would tell my parents what exactly was going on, only that they needed to get him to the hospital as soon as possible. At this point my dad called me at home to tell me what was going on, and that he would be there shortly to pick me up.

I was supposed to work that night and I can remember calling my boss and trying so hard not to start sobbing. She was wonderful, she even made sure someone was coming to get me so I wouldn't have to drive myself to the hospital. In the end she was one of the first people who knew, I was supposed to work at 7am the next day as well and had to call and explain why I wouldn't be there.

The hospital is a blur for me.

The doctor on-call in the emergency room was a hematologist who knew exactly what we were dealing with as soon as my brother's test results came in. He had more blood drawn and other extremely painful tests before we were given the official word.
Mom and I had just gotten back from a quick coffee run when we were called in to the little curtained examining room.
It was cancer.
My heart stopped. I didn't cry.
I didn't do anything except stand there in stunned disbelief.
This was my baby brother. 
My only brother.
Was he going to die?
His treatments started right away, even though it was the long weekend.
Christmas 2004 - Jon is in the middle of treatments.
He was so brave. The nurses loved him. Because he was 17 they let him choose whether he wanted to stay at the children's hospital or the adult hospital. My brother has never been a lover of kids so he chose they adult hospital. He was the youngest person on his floor and kept a positive attitude throughout his whole treatment.
I know that most cancer stories don't end the same way my brother's does. He went into remission nearly immediately. He currently doesn't take any medication and no longer meets with his oncologist. He is working a full-time job in his field of study and is dating a wonderful young woman. Looking at him today you'd never know how sick he was 10 years ago.
In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday, in others it feels like a lifetime.
I am so grateful to have my brother here with me, healthy and happy.

Ember Grey

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  1. I very much remember when this happened, and how I prayed for you all. So glad that he has overcome the cancer and gone on to lead a normal life. So great for him, and for all of you. I think he was the first "kid" that I "knew" (you know, via the his sister, via Livejournal. But still) who had cancer. And that scared me.

  2. Stopping by from the link up and totally crying at my desk. What an amazing story. My cousin had the same thing your brother had. He is also married now and living a wonderful life despite all odds. We all donate as a family to research for lymphocytic leukemia every year. So happy to hear another happy ending!

  3. How wonderful to hear a success story! I only see the worst cases of cancer, so it's so nice to be reminded of the people who are cured from it. It must have been a tough time for you all. So good all ended well though.
    One of my former coworkers had ALL as well, and came out of it without relapses. She is doing great now and we work at the same hospital again but in different wards, but I see her on the bus sometimes.

  4. What a scary but hopeful story! I'm so glad your brother is doing well today and I'm so sorry you all had to go through that!

  5. Nothing but love and hugs to you today!

  6. Sara. I'm a little late getting to this, but I'm so glad you took part in Grateful Heart Monday. Praise God that your brother is still here with you!! How scary for you all to go through that, but I'm sure it brought you closer to each other. Have a beautiful Sunday... hope to see you again tomorrow :) XO

  7. Since I wasn't really on the internet much last week I missed this post. I'm so happy everything turned out the way the it did because like you said it doesn't always happen. There is not too much that is more terrifying then cancer and you know I know this from experience of being told I have it and then have them take that statement back. Everything happens for a reason and all that made you and your family stronger xo