How do you get through the worst day of your life? How do you continue to get through it when during every major holiday, his birthday, family birthday’s, family gatherings, and basically every day you think of him? Just how?
These are the things I think about frequently, especially today. Today marks the 3 year anniversary of the passing of my brother Jay. So today seems like a good day to share his story with the internet, and anyone who reads it. In April 2010, a few months before Jay turned 16, my brother was sick on and off for about a month. He would go to bed fine and wake up feeling awful. The doctors didn’t even know what was wrong with him. On April 26, 2010 I got a call while I was at work from my parents saying that they were taking Jay to Hershey. The doctors saw something and needed him to receive more blood tests, but at a hospital that had the resources to conduct them. April 27 – the day my brother Jay was official diagnosed with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. April 28 – The day I found out that Jay had cancer, I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone yet because my other brothers didn’t know, nor did the rest of our friends and extended family. I can without a doubt say that Thursday, April 29 was one of the harder days I’ve had for the pure reason that I felt like I was in a foggy haze for the entirety of the day.
April 29 – my dad tells my brothers about Jay’s cancer. At that point I had already cried a lot, and was like okay I’m good. I can sit here and hear dad tell the boys about Jay and I’ll be okay. That day was the first time I had ever visibly seen my dad cry. And that is something that I just can’t handle, and I lost it. That day changed our lives forever. It made the horrid reality of what was happening even more real, but it also started bringing us closer together.
Jay got his plan for treatment — 6 months of chemo and the cancer should be gone. Okay, 6 months. I’ve heard of worse things – let’s do this. Jay was int he hospital for the next month getting some treatment. It was really tough to see how fast he lost his hair and his weight from the chemo. It was even tougher to see him just laying on the couch not being able to do things. The day I graduated from high school (a month after his diagnoses) was the first time Jay got to come home. That was probably the best graduation present I could have ever received. I was so happy! Although, he was home – it was still tough. Jay was suffering from a bunch of side effects. He vomited a lot and had trouble swallowing. The chemo caused him to have sores all up and down his throat and in his mouth. I specifically remember him spiking a fever and not doing well one of the first few nights he was home, and my parents telling him that they had to go to Hershey. Jay cried. (I mean if I was him I probably would’ve cried too). He didn’t want to go back into the hospital when he had just gotten home from it. Unfortunately, they did go back to the hospital.
Over the next 6 months Jay was in and out of the hospital. Because of his side effects the duration of his treatment just kept getting dragged out. He wasn’t handling chemo well during some of the doses, and that pushed back the next chemo treatment. There was a weekend in October that I came home from school to visit. Looking back now, I am so happy that I went home that weekend – since it was the last time I spoke to Jay. That was a great weekend. He was having some good days. He went to the high school football game (even if only for half of the game – it was still a giant step). He got his permit. Like I said, it was a good weekend.
About a week later Jay started to have some weird symptoms. Weird in the fact that his nerves were being effected, and he could only move about half of his face. Obviously my parents were concerned. They took Jay back to Hershey. It was then that we found out that the cancer had spread – but this time it was in his brain fluid, which explains why his nerves were affected. Slowly, Jay stopped being able to move basically all parts of his body.
A month later, on November 19, Jay’s lung collapsed. Within the past year, I learned that Jay almost died that day. His heart stopped, and the doctors had to restart it. He was put on a ventilator and taken into the pediatric ICU. I came home for Thanksgiving break that day. It was quite honestly one of the worst Thanksgivings I’ve ever had. My parents spent days at the hospital. I spent a large portion of the break at the hospital as well. I’ll never forget what he looked like. There were tubes coming out of him, and things would randomly beep. All he could do was move his head in a yes or no fashion, and kind of flop his right arm back and forth. The nurses would come in and stretch his legs out, since he couldn’t move them on his own. Little did I know – November 27 was the last day that I would see him.
The last day of finals for my fall semester came. I got a call during my final from my dad saying that I needed to call him back. I did. It was at that moment, walking across campus back to my dorm room at 7 o’clock at night in December that I found out that my little brother Jay, at 16 years old, died of cancer. December 15. This is without a doubt the WORST day of my life. People say it gets easier, but they lied. It never gets any easier.
Although I’d give anything to have my brother back, I’ve learned so much from him. Life is short – make the most of it. The most important thing I’ve learned is that family is everything. Jay brought us all together. He made my brothers and I so much closer without even trying to.
He’s is everything I aspire to be, and my inspiration for so many aspects of my daily life. It’s difficult, but I like sharing Jay’s story. If there’s one thing I want to be able to do with my life it is to inspire people, and Jay does that for so many people.
Rest easy Jay. I love you and miss you so incredibly much. Thank you for being a constant inspiration in my life. xoxo