September 26, 2006.
I was standing outside in a gravel parking lot with my Young Life friends. Mom calls. I fell to my knees and collected myself well enough to sit down at a nearby picnic table. I will never forget that phone call.
I was 16 years old when my little brother was diagnosed with brain cancer.
This is the day that marks the first day of what I consider my “roller coaster.” What came after that phone call is sometimes a blur. Brain surgeries, a lot of time at Children’s Hospital, a week at St. Jude, a trial of chemotherapy pills, radiation, therapy to regain control of his body – the list goes on and on.
I grew up fast. I was a completely care-free teenager. In a matter of a few weeks, a switch flipped and I turned into a “mom.” Even though my parents were always around, my instinct was to start taking care of Karly so they could take care of Graham. There were many times my parents would spend the night at hospitals with Graham. I took on part of the responsibility of taking care of my 13 year old sister. Back and forth to school, lunch money, homework, dinner…those things are really overwhelming when you’re 16/17 years old. And don’t get me wrong, we were never “on our own” but I definitely stepped into a mom role for a while.
I’ll also never forget the moment my mom finally looked at me after Graham passed away and told me I didn’t have to be Karly’s mom any more. But, for that rough patch in my life, I know it helped make my relationship with Karly stronger than the relationship between most siblings. She was my sidekick and what we were facing, we faced together – ultimately knowing that Graham was going to pass away.
Even though that short time we had left with Graham was filled with some of the hardest times, we also had some of my best memories:
- I used to drive us through Taco Bell and hide the evidence before we had to be home for dinnertime.
- We blasted “Life is a Highway” louder than mom & dad would ever let us play music.
- I had more Starbucks Frappuccinos than I want to admit.
- We watched football, built Legos, played the drums and played video games.
- We took our last beach vacation as a family of 5.
Believe it or not, most donations have come from people who didn’t even know Graham. My heart has been filled with so much love from people who are just willing to help. Some donations have been so unexpected that it has given me a new perspective, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
To everyone who has donated, I want you to know that your donation has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by me and my family. We talk about it almost daily and it really brings a light into our world on the dark days.
So, if this video doesn’t make you want to donate, I’m out of ideas. And if you can honestly read this and watch this video and not be willing to skip your $5 morning coffee and donate to a cause that is so important to my family…I really have no words.