In 2005 I was supposed to go on vacation with my family to Italy. However, nothing went the way it was supposed to. Two weeks that were meant to be lled with joy and laughter together with people that I love turned into two weeks of confusion, powerlessness and grief.
It was the end of summer, a couple of weeks before classes started again. My younger brother and I had been looking forward to the trip ever since we got out of school in June. We were going to visit a close friend to our family who lives on the island Ischia (located about thirty kilometres southwest of Naples). A big part of my excitement was that beyond my close family (my father, brother and stepmother) my grandparents and my two uncles were also joining us – this might not sound like every twelve-year-olds dream but I’m very fond of my family and I enjoyed spending time with them even back then.
A couple of days before the date of our departure my mother called my father and told him that my brother couldn’t come. He had fallen ill. I was told that he experienced severe headaches coupled with throwing up. I didn’t think much of it then – my only thought was a slight irritation directed towards my brother: “How could he be so stupid to get sick now?”. I thought that it would have passed before we even got home.
The last couple of months I had been very angry at my brother because he never had the energy and stamina to play with me outside. I constantly let him know that if he would just exercise more, eat less candy and try harder, all of his shortcomings would go away. In reality he exercised more than I did, ate less candy than I did and tried harder at everything he did than I had ever done. Somewhere inside of me I knew all of this – but this only increased the seething anger that I felt towards him: “Why is he so lazy? Why can’t he play tag for more than five minutes?”. I will probably never forgive myself for the way I felt during this period of my life – I just didn’t know better at the time.
The day of our departure came and we left for Italy without him. The rst two days were fantastic even though I felt a looming and very serious state of mind from the grownups. On the third day my father received a call; during an MRI-scan at the hospital they found a tumour slightly bigger than the size of golf a ball inside my little brother’s brain. In all honesty I didn’t think much of it – why couldn’t they just open him up and take it out? I went on with my daily activities that I had established on Ischia (mostly swimming and eating). I even thought it was strange that my father decided to y back home the day after the phone call. It was all very surrealistic – no one really understood what had happened.
My strongest memory and the exact point in time when I started to understand what was going on was during a conversation with my grandmother. We were sitting on
a couple of stone steps outside the house we were living in. I don’t remember what we talked about before or after this took place but I asked her: “Is there a chance he will lose his sight?” and she answered: “Yes”; for some reason this was the trigger for an ocean of tears and a feeling of endless despair. This in turn was also very surrealistic because I knew that there were worse outcomes for the surgery than the loss of his sight. Besides from this very strong memory everything else during our time on Ischia is blurred – which is understandable in hindsight.
Those two weeks in Italy was the starting point of the worst years of my life as well as my family’s. I have grown to despise hospitals – not because they are bad but for all the bad feelings they instil in me; the sight of my brother strapped with tubes, a swollen head and bandages everywhere is still very much alive in me. At the same time, I’m endlessly grateful for all the goodhearted and hardworking hospital personnel that has given my family support and helped us over the years. Without them my brother wouldn’t be alive – and I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Although I would never wish this upon anyone else I would be lying if I didn’t say that those years have invigorated me as a person – through anger, despair and sorrow – it has made me stronger.
For myself the worst part of these years was the powerlessness to impact my brother’s health – as an older brother I was supposed to protect him – but I couldn’t do a thing. Few things are as frustrating as not being able to change the outcome of a certain event. For almost every situation we’re given the opportunity to impact the result. As citizens of a democracy we can vote to change the outcome of the election; we can choose whatever education we want to; in short we can decide how we want to live our lives. But when it comes to diseases such as cancer (luckily my brother’s tumour wasn’t malignant) we put our faith in someone else’s hands.
With October behind us we are made aware that we do have a chance to improve the odds of whoever is stricken with this hell of a disease. Since it’s start in 2003 the Rosa Bandet-campaign has raised five-hundred-and- ninety-three million (593 000 000) kronor – which is a lot money but far from enough. Cancer and tumours are the second most common cause of death for people in Sweden, preceded by only cardiac diseases. If everyone in Sweden donated one hundred (100) kronor today, we would raise roughly nine hundred-and-ninety (990 000 000) kronor. I wish that we do not forget all of this just because October has come to an end and that the Rosa Bandet-campaign is done for this year.
If we have the power to make change for the better – wherever in the world – it is our duty to do so. It is our duty to help anyone who are not able to help themselves. This should imbue our every action if we want to build a better world – if not for ourselves but for our future children. Whether it is cancer, climate change or war – the burden lies with us.
Our strength lies in our numbers – one person can rarely change the world but together we can.
If you want further reading regarding this particular cause you should visit Cancerfondens website.
Let’s make change together.