Another Way to Beat Cancer!

12:53 AM Elizabeth Seckman 44 Comments

The very sweet Michael Di Gesu is hosting a special hop for fellow blogger, Melissa Bradley, who is in the midst of a fight with cancer. You can help support Melissa by making a donation to her Go Fund Me account that has been set up to help cover medical expenses. Contributions to today 's hop will be included in an anthology which will be sold to also help raise money.  Micheal and Melissa have my permission to use this post however they see fit.

I must add some prayers and hugs for Melissa. She's kicking cancer in the pants...so you go girl!!!

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I wanted to write my brother's triumph story, because cancer isn't what it used to be. More and more people are survivors. That's the story I wanted to tell. A story about how he battled cancer. And won.

The story would begin with my brother admitting he had the flu. He was tired, run down and finally willing to see a doctor. X-rays showed a mass. And when I say mass, I mean a football-sized tumor situated between his heart and lung.

Surgery was scheduled and a very unhappy Grub (my family has a tendency toward odd nicknames) was trying to wrap his brain around his rapidly changing world. He didn't have the flu. And he couldn't be fixed with rest and an antibiotic.

He had cancer.

He was only 46. A paramedic fireman with four little kids. He had a good life. He was happy and funny. He was the kind of guy who would let his girls paint his nails and add rollers to his hair and then "forget" they were there and go to the 7-11 down the road to get a cup of coffee while his kids hooted with delight.

This wasn't fair. He didn't have time to be sick; no time to battle cancer.

But he would do what he had to do. He checked into a local hospital. They were going to see about removing the tumor. We prayed the tumor was growing from the lung...people live all the time with one lung, right?

But fate wasn't cutting him any slack. His surgery was a fail. The tumor was growing from the heart, and if they cut it out...well, not too many people are living without a heart.

The local hospital recommended transport to the Cleveland Clinic, but we were warned- he'd probably not survive the ambulance ride. He was in bad shape. They were honestly amazed he'd lived as long as he had with the tumor. It was huge.

He did survive the ride, but Cleveland Clinic offered no more hope. It only got worse. He was diagnosed with Angiosarcoma, a very rare, very aggressive form of cancer. Basically, anywhere he had blood flow, there could be a tumor.

My brother, still naive to this whole cancer business, asked if he should stop smoking. The doctor told him not to worry about it, if he found it relaxing, there was no need to add stress to his life by trying to quit.

I knew then, he was screwed.

The story of triumph was going dark. 

How much time? The tumors were highly vascular and could break off or rupture and he could go at any time. But the internet said a year, maybe five...I couldn't help but argue. The poor young doc just shrugged and nodded...I suppose he wasn't going to complete rob us of hope.


Now, I won't lie and say my brother didn't have his moments of anger and sadness. He had a good life- kids he was crazy about...a wife he loved to taunt..a job that he looked forward to going to. I mean, come on...it wasn't fair!

Where the hell was the triumph? 

My brother lived for months, not days. And in that time, he entertained friends. When visitors came, my brother made the coffee insisting that even people with cancer had to be gracious...no one likes an a**hole, not even a pitiful one. 

He kept his sense of humor, though I found little funny about his "Dead man walking" line. 

And he found deeper truths. People loved him. They begged him...name a place he wanted to go and they would send him, but he knew...no place was as beautiful as home. No event as spectacular as watching his kids come off the school bus. 

My brother died in October 2006. His final evening was spent watching an episode of The Crocodile Hunter with my other brother, Dennis. Dennis told me Grub watched the episode of Steve, the Crock Hunter, poking at rattle snakes and Grub told him-  no wonder the crazy bastard was killed by an animal...he was insane! Dennis laughed and told him the Crock Hunter was probably going to meet him at The Pearly Gates and bitch slap him for the comment.

Then Grub went to sleep. Simple as that. Closed his eyes and slipped away.

As I write this, I still get mad. I still wish my brother had been one of the many who call themselves cured. But he's not. But I long ago realized...my brother never lost his humor, his humanity, or his spirit. 

He had cancer, but it didn't have him. 

As my big brother explained to me-

I've lived my life on hot dogs, cigarettes, and no more than four hours of sleep a night. It's no wonder I have cancer. The amazing thing is I didn't get it sooner. How the hell can I bitch? Little kids get cancer. Now, those are the poor little SOB's you should feel bad for. People prodding them with needles and crap...and they don't even know why. No, I'm not happy about taking a dirt bath, but there are worse things happening in this world. 

My big brother is my hero. He went through hell, but he came out an angel.


My brother (Ken, AKA Grub) doing what he loved most...
spending time with his kids.
Tabitha, Taylor, Bart, and MacKenzie,
Summer 1999



44 comments:

  1. This was a beautiful post, Elizabeth - and made me teary-eyed. Your brother sounds like he was an awesome guy. You were lucky to have him in your family. I'm so sorry for your loss, though.

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    1. He was truly a golden spirit. I do miss him, but I have no doubt that I will see him again. One day.

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  2. So sorry to hear about your brother. So tragic, especially because he seems to have been a good person.

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    1. He was the best. But it seems as though the best leave us the soonest.

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  3. This a lovely tribute to your brother. It sounds like he lived the last section of his life with gusto. Thank you for including the picture of Grub with his kids. My thoughts are with your nieces and nephew.
    Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room

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    1. Thank you Elizabeth. Those kids miss their dad more than I can explain. He was a huge part of their lives and his passing left a huge hole. I imagine he spends most of his day as a guardian angel.

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  4. I'm so sorry you lost your brother. Someone once told me if we live long enough, all of us will eventually get cancer. Eventually cells just go astray as they're multiplying. Some factors put us more at risk, but there are people who live completely healthy lives who get it. Every year before my birthday I get my mammogram and have a breast cancer scare. I'm one of the 60% of women with fibrocystic breasts, so my mammogram always throws something back. I hate getting that stupid letter saying my mammogram saw abnormalities and I have to go back for an ultrasound--it's EVERY year, but the letter just makes it so scary! Anyway, going through that reminds me how lucky I am to be turning a year older...aging really is a privilege. That said, I really am so encouraged by your statement that more people survive than ever. Cancer is one of my big fears, and it's easy to forget a diagnosis isn't necessarily the end of the world.

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    1. I hear ya on the boobie scares! I've had two biopsies and always there is that thought...for some people the answer isn't good. I do know more and more survivors. My poor dad had cancer and they had a treatment for him. He asked me one day why God had a treatment for him and not Grubby? Broke my heart. They battled it at the same time. Grub passed and Dad survived five more years. Years he'd have gladly given to his son if he could.

      You're so right, growing older is such a privilege.

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  5. Wise words at the end too, and sometime all you can do is find the humor. Cancer is an awful sob, can strike anyone anywhere. Yet people who smoke, drink, and do no exercise can live to be 90 and never get it, go figure.

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    1. There is no rhyme or reason in real life. Just have to enjoy each day as they come.

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  6. A heartbreaking post but you and your brother both have the right attitude - cancer might take us but it doesn't have to take away who we were and it sounds like your brother is still a massive inspiration in your life. Sorry about your loss.

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    1. Thanks Nick. I know you understand the pain of loss. My brother is a massive inspiration to me. He was one of the good ones, maybe too good to be stuck here on earth.

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  7. What a moving post, Elizabeth. You brought tears to my eyes. I'm so sorry about your brother's battle with cancer. He sounds like he was an amazing man with a heck of a sense of humor. Cancer is such a beast and the scary thing is you never know who it's going to hit and when. My heart goes out to your brother's wife and children...

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    1. He was amazing. His humor was only surpassed by his generosity. I do hate cancer. I get this squeeze in m y heart when someone is diagnosed, I know they are in for a devil of a journey. Love to see that beast eradicated.

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  8. This line says it all - "He had cancer, but it didn't have him." Wonderful post, Elizabeth. Thank you for sharing.

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

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  9. This is such a wonderful story, Elizabeth. Really heartfelt. It made me teary-eyed.
    I'm sorry that your brother lost his battle with cancer...but what an amazing attitude...a true champion, right until the end.
    Life is just not fair...
    Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. He did have an amazing attitude. I think I was a bigger baby about the whole thing than he was. He actually told me he was the lucky one- he would never have to say good bye to any of us.

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  10. What an awesome post about an amazing guy. My wife is actually a Melissa who fought cancer, and I thank God every day that she was able to beat it, as we all know the grim reality - not everyone gets that chance.

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    1. So happy to hear your wife beat it! It helps just knowing that people are beating it. Every win is a step in the right direction.

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  11. Oh, Elizabeth....

    Chills, tears, and smiles. Such a sad and sweet story. You brother was amazing. Such a heart! One of the things I most enjoy seeing are dads with their kids acting silly. When you wrote of his hair in curlers and nail polish, I thought... "What a guy!" So few men show their loving and sensitive side.

    Thank you for sharing your story... at least he kept his sense of humor and kind heart at such a horrible time in his life.

    If ever I am met with the BIG C, I hope I can handle it with such humor and kindness....

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    1. I think you meet every challenge with grace, so I have no doubt that you would do the same with a big challenge.

      My nieces were teens before they figured out he was forgetting the rollers and the nail polish on purpose. It was a little thing, but such a beautiful memory. He was the best. Thanks for the opportunity to share his triumph Michael!

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  12. I'm so happy your brother beat the disease. I love this line:
    He had cancer, but it didn't have him.

    And even more, I love the quote from your brother just below it.

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  13. I'm really sorry you lost your brother. He had a great spirit until the end. Hang to that.

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  14. Thank you for sharing your bother's story with us, Elizabeth, and I'm sorry for your loss. This was a touching, heartfelt tribute for an amazing person. And I like the picture you included at the end.

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  15. What a truly great guy. He deserves far better than anything this earth can offer. How awesome that he went down laughing. I'm sure he and Steve Irwin are whooping it up beyond those gates.

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  16. He sounds like an amazing guy - a real winner and inspiration. It's an attitude we all should aim for. Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth.

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  17. Living with someone who treats cancer patients for a living, I'm reminded often that death is only our master to the extent we let it be. Your post about your brother was a beautiful way to express that. He left the world the way he lived in it--with dignity, love, and courage in his heart. His spirit clearly endures in your family.

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  18. Crap. Just crap. It's a wonderful tribute to your brother, Elizabeth. I'd cry except I'm sneaking over from work. I'm praying for Melissa. <3

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  19. Oh my gosh. I'm crying, Elizabeth. That is so sad.

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  20. What an amazing and beautiful spirit! Thank you so very much for sharing this and for participating. Huge hugs!!

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  21. Your brother sounds like he was an amazing man. I am sorry your lost him. This was a beautiful, touching entry.

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  22. Thanks for that, Elizabeth. I lost my father to lung/bone cancer in 2003, so I know exactly what you mean. It's hard to watch them suffer and diminish, but the courage they show to the end is beautiful.

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  23. Heart-wrenching story. I'm so sorry to hear about your brother, but looking at it as a triumph is a wonderful and positive way to view it. It reminds us to celebrate the time we have, not curse life for taking what we hold dear.

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  24. You made me cry... It stirred up memories of my sister-in-law's battle with leukemia. She was one stubborn lady who never quit. It was an honor to be at her side when she took her last breath.

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  25. A heartbreaking story and very inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

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  26. I was reluctant to go down the Blog Hop list and read these stories, because I knew how easily I could become a blubbering idiot. I was actually doing pretty good until I stopped here, hopefully I won't short out my laptop.

    Grub was a true survivor. He never lost the battle to cancer. He never gave up his life. How proud your entire family must be of him. How fortunate to have know such a person.

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  27. Your story made me cry.

    FAE said it perfectly... he never lost himself to cancer.

    One of my hs friends, that I reconnected with via FB, has been battling cancer since his mid-20s. That makes for 20 years of duking it out with cancer. I really thought he would pass before this year rolled around. His status updates indicated it was not working. Just kept coming back in new places. He even talked about refusing treatment so that he could live his last days with dignity. I read a post today that said he got the surprise of his life at his doctor appointment. They are upping the chemo dosage because It's Working. His doctor cried. He cried. I cried. I don't know how that story will turn out, but hope is invaluable.

    My dad passed of colon cancer. It was hard, but he felt like he'd lived.

    I don't know of anyone who hasn't been touched by this dread disease in some way.

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  28. OK, I cried. But your brother was a hero. I hope his kids always remember that. I know you will.

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  29. I loved what you wrote. "He had cancer, but cancer didn't have him." What a great way to explain his attitude.

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  30. I am so sorry for your loss. Just reading through...reading your words. It hurts inside. I just had a friend that I was sure I was going to lose, but by all good graces he's going to be ok now. I hope everything gets better. I really do.

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  31. Hi Elizabeth - I feel like I know your family from your words .. and "Grub" - what a great name ... he sounded as though he was the best for his family, his brilliant little kids - so sad he isn't able to be with them now .. as your Dad said why does he get an extra five years .. and not Grub for his little kids ...

    For some reason - there's always a reason ... we tell their stories and we learn from them and the authors .. thanks so much for telling us about Grub .. and like the others have said ... "He had cancer, but cancer didn't have him" ... such a good (and sad) maxim ... thank you - Hilary

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  32. Oh Elizabeth, you have given me strength and tears to start my morning with. Thank you. I love the image of your Grub forgetting he had curlers on and walking into 7-11, his kids laughing heartily. That kind of spirit NEVER dies. You carry it always too.

    Blessings, love, and faith to you. xo

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