Cancer, Hope, and Miracles: One Moment Changed Everything

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This is my brother Jude, and it’s a miracle he’s here today.

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My brother, Jude, was a sickly child, constantly being taken out of school for medical reasons — what we believed was asthma. Jude going to kindergarten was such a huge moment — the two of us would be at the same school, he’d actually be going to school, and I’d be able to see him there every day.

Seventh grade was the first year I tried to stay extremely optimistic for the future. I started writing in a journal I bought, making sure to include even the mundane details of the first days of school. As I was rereading it, something caught my eye — Jude had a stomachache one morning, and we were almost late to school.

It was August 19, 2010, Jude’s fourth day of kindergarten and my fourth day of seventh grade. He cried for so long that day about losing a game in his gym class. He screamed about how they cheated him and how unfair the game was, as we told him that “it was just a game” and that it wasn’t worth crying over.

His cheeks were bright red, which I thought was my mom’s lipstick. Later that night, we found out he had a 105 degree fever, and we brought him to the emergency room. I’ll never forget the flashing lights of the ambulance that whisked my only brother away from the emergency room to the large hospital, Children’s Medical Center, in downtown Dallas.

The next morning, my friend A-’s dad brought me to the hospital to see Jude. I kept my sunglasses on for the ride home, trying to hide the tears.

When I made it home, I started packing up my things to take with me back to my friend’s house. My journal was exactly where I left it. I opened it, turned it to the next blank page, and wrote three words.

“Jude has leukemia.”

September came and went, and I tried to readjust myself into my school routine. By October, I was used to not seeing my parents that much. I’d never really see them at the same time, except when I went to the hospital to visit.

I secretly loathed going to the hospital, and I found myself not wanting to see my brother. I would always feel guilty that I felt this way and I’d always end up going, but I just couldn’t help it. No matter how understanding of the situation I was, the feelings of anger and jealousy and guilt followed me. I couldn’t help but feel angry about my loneliness and jealous of all the time and attention Jude got, and I couldn’t help but pin all my problems on him.

I went through these periods of pain, sorrow, anger, frustration, and despair. Sometimes, I’d feel angry — angry at myself, angry at Jude, angry at my parents, angry at the world, and angry at God. Other times, I’d feel so depressed that I’d want to leave the classroom and find a place where no one would see me cry.

I felt forgotten — not just by my parents, but by everyone else. I felt like I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone without Jude being mentioned. I was angry that everyone asked how he was doing, but forgot about me. Didn’t anyone realize I was suffering too? Did everyone forget about me? The funny thing, though, is that the only person who I felt truly remembered me… was Jude.

One afternoon in late October, my mom picked me up early from school. I thought it was just one of the usual hospital visits, but there was something different. There was something about my mom’s tearstained eyes and solemn expression that made me question everything. My friend’s dad was there, too.

In the car, my mom started to cry again. My friend’s dad told me the news. Jude wasn’t responding to chemotherapy, and his cancer was getting worse. He needed a bone marrow transplant, and they needed to see if I was a match.

I didn’t know how to respond. It felt just like August 20, the day I found out about Jude’s diagnosis. I was afraid. The feelings of despair and hopelessness entered my heart again as my chest felt heavy and hard. The tears rolled down my cheeks again. Above all, I didn’t want to lose him.

Soon after they tested me, I found out that I was a perfect match. The hospital made arrangements for the bone marrow transplant to take place just two days before Christmas.

It was December 23, 2010. I felt scared and worried about what would happen. What if I wouldn’t wake up? What if it didn’t work? What if, despite all this, I would lose him anyway? I did my best to ignore all of my worries as I they rolled me into the operating room.

Suddenly, my priorities changed. My biggest fear was the needle they were preparing to put in my arm. I ripped off the anesthesia mask, worried that I wouldn’t be asleep by the time they put the needle in. They told me to put the mask back on, and everything faded to black.

One. Two. Three.

I woke up in the recovery room next to my mom after what felt like three seconds. The nurse pricked my thumb and gave me painkillers, and I desperately wanted to sleep again. Another nurse wheeled me up to Jude’s room, and I watched as the nurse transfused my bone marrow into his blood stream. As he fell asleep, he told me three words.

“I love you.”

Dec 23, 2010

Today is December 23, 2012. It’s been exactly two years since Jude’s bone marrow transplant, and he’s happy and healthy today. When I tried to write this, I did my best to be completely and utterly honest with myself about exactly how I felt throughout our long journey.

Being half-Caucasian and half-Filipino, it would’ve been next to impossible for Jude to find a bone marrow donor. I have no doubt in my mind that Jude wouldn’t be with me today if I weren’t a match.

The bone marrow registry consists of mostly Caucasian donors, with other races having much fewer donors. Multiracial people seeking out a donor have the worst possible chances of finding a donor, as bone marrow matching relies heavily ethnicity. Because of the lack of diversity and overall lack of donors, very many patients, including children, aren’t able to get the bone marrow they need to survive.

As we come very close to Christmas Day, we must not forget the children and adults desperately searching for a bone marrow donor. In the spirit of giving, please, please, please join the bone marrow registry. Give someone the greatest gift of all — life.

Two years ago, a miracle happened. Jude is here with me today, and I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to share my story with the world. I know that there’s a reason we struggled, and I feel determined to make a difference.

Enjoy the holiday season and have a Merry Christmas!

Joshua

Jude and L- in Tokyo. July 2010.

L- and Jude in Tokyo. July 2010. (Before diagnosis.)

Jude making pizza after going home for a little while. September 2010.

Jude making pizza after going home for a little while. September 2010.

Jude meeting the Dallas Cowboys. December 2010

Jude meeting the Dallas Cowboys. December 2010

After shaving off the rest of his hair. December 29, 2010.

After shaving off the rest of his hair. December 29, 2010.

A-, me, and Jude playing Nerf Guns. May 26, 2011.

Alessia, Jude, and me playing Nerf Guns. May 26, 2011.

Jude being interviewed for the school newspaper. August 2011.

Jude being interviewed for the school newspaper. August 2011.

Dallas Cowboys game. December 24, 2011.

Dallas Cowboys game. December 24, 2011.

Children's Cancer Fund Fashion Show. May 2012.

Children’s Cancer Fund Fashion Show. May 2012.

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And finally… December 22, 2012. In Austin, Texas.

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13 thoughts on “Cancer, Hope, and Miracles: One Moment Changed Everything

  1. Josh, thanks so much for sharing. People forget how hard it is to be the sibling. Also, the need for multi-ethnic bone marrow donors is great. Children’s ‘Be the Match’ drive is on Valentine’s Day. Tell everyone. xoxo

  2. I’ve been looking at the keyboard trying to figure out what to say, and there’s nothing really to say but I’m so so so glad that it worked out and I really admire you.

    • Thank you! 🙂 A lot of emotions are simply indescribable — it’s funny, because there were so many things I wanted to say but I didn’t know how to say it.

  3. I’m sorry I didn’t get to read this when you posted this. I honestly don’t know what to say, but I’m glad your brother is okay now. Oh, my.

  4. Josh,
    This is truly a remarkable, and honest, story of your family’s battle with leukemia. I say it was your family’s battle because you all played a role in Jude’s survival, with you as the miracle worker. I know my sister suffered through many of your same emotions, but was able to remain one of my biggest supporters through it all- just like you were to Jude. I too needed a bone marrow transplant, but my sister was not a match. However, due to my battle with leukemia, she and many of my friends/family are now in the registry.
    I am so happy to have met you and look forward to all that you will bring to LLS and the Big D Climb. You are a hero not only your brother, but to people everywhere. I have no doubt that you will be a champion for LLS and the bone marrow registry. I see a bright future for you–with your little brother by your side all the way!
    All my best,
    Alex

    • Hi Alex! Thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate it, especially from someone like you who is such an inspiration to me! I’m very excited to be working with you on the Big D Climb and can’t wait to get started. 🙂

  5. Pingback: It’s cancer. Again. | Kuya's Notebook

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