Feeling the loss

Braden

Braden's last school picture

Senator Ted Kennedy succumbed yesterday to the same monster that took my little brother. Two decades ago (can it have been that long?) we discovered by blessed chance that my brother had an aggressive and deadly tumor taking over his brain. This discovery bought us time. Time to cope, prepare and say good-bye. There were surgeries, lots of radiation treatments, chemotherapy, all things no eight year-old should have to deal with. Within a year [correction by my mom: 5 months] my brother was gone.

I mentioned the cancer to an oncologist I met at a Phoenix Children’s Hospital lunch a couple of years ago. “My brother had glioblastoma multiforme.” His gaze fell ground-ward and wandered. I didn’t need to tell him the outcome.

I continue to be grateful for the time we did have after Braden’s diagnosis. His doctors gave us an awesome gift; those late memories of my brother are clearer than any others. He played Nintendo every spare second, continued to go to school when he could and even felt well enough at one point for a Make-A-Wish sponsored trip to Disney World in Orlando where we caught a baby alligator on a fishing line. He wore a hat, always, to cover his funny haircut and stitches and a smile below the brim. He was calm and seemed to have a better understanding of what was going on than any of us. He didn’t cry or complain but played the hand he was dealt.

My heart hurts for the Kennedys whose world has been ravaged by this heinous disease and I continue to hope and pray that “someday” will bring a different ending to stories that start like ours.

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5 responses to “Feeling the loss

  1. Megan Woodbury barker

    What an amazing family you have! I can’t immagine going through something like that and staying so strong. I remember visiting him in the hospital and he was so brave. Thank you fir that wonderful article.

  2. I am glad his last school picture was with a SF giants hat. Thank you for sharing brittney!

  3. I remember that face and that smile. I also remember my mom telling me about the day he was in the hospital and asked for a big mac or whopper or some ridiculously huge burger and how people just about clobbered each other going to get it for him.

  4. Hey Brittney-

    My younger brother was killed by the same Glioblastroma Astrocytoma Multiforme 4 years ago . I truly feel your pain and am so sorry for your loss. Undiagnosed until he was 30, we had noticed changes to my brothers personality , which we now know was due to the location of the tumor. Apparently, he was also suffering silently with increasingly painful headaches for years as well. He was found in the bathtub in his apartment after a grand mal seizure rendered him helpless, and was rushed to the hospital. He underwent emergency surgery. The best outcome of which, would be to find that it was only MS, but sadly, it wasn’t MS. It was GBM. The doctors confided in us that he could maybe live a few months. My brother chose not to know his timeline. Instead, he was determined to be the first person to survive with this deadly diagnosis, and to help others through his fight. He subsequently managed to live another 3 years by submitting to invasive brain surgeries, experimental (and seemingly barbaric at times) treatments, gamma knife radiation, chemo, and medical marijuana.

    I am encouraged by the recent discoveries that may provide a link to to why this cancer occurs with a possible solution on how to cure it, as it is, as you sadly know, always fatal. The alarming information shared by the staff at Johns Hopkins was that for a “rare” cancer with an unknown cause, there was a precipitous increase in the number of recent cases, especially in young men. The head nurse shared with us that it was heartbreaking for her to come to work when all the patients on the wing were promising young men, bodies and brains ravaged by this savage disease, all awaiting the same death sentence. I can tell you I now know of 3 others I personally know who have been killed by this deadly cancer. Support of our research hospitals and to the National Brain Tumor Society http://www.braintumor.org/GeneralMenu/
    is a small step we can personally take to help others so that they and their families hopefully can be spared from the death sentence that is GBM.

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