Hey there, I’m John Bugna from Santa Cruz, California - Outside of my corporate sales job I live an active and social lifestyle. My brother is very much the same way; one of many reasons we’re so close. We’re competitive, critical, and supportive of each other but very aware there is no bond other than the one we share. We’re also very family-oriented so spending as much time at home is always a high priority - something that became crucial through this obstacle.
I remember it was a Wednesday in December. My brother and I had been on the phone a lot discussing what to get the family for Christmas. Due to his curiosity of a visible lump on his groin he had already had a couple of fruitless biopsies so the possibility of cancer was on the radar. By then, admittedly, the shock is slightly less than a sudden blow of life-changing news. My dad was the one to call me first and tell me the news. I could hear the lump in his throat as he tried to share facts about the situation. I didn’t believe what was happening or how my otherwise perfectly healthy brother and best friend was now facing life or death. We would later find out had it not been treated immediately would take his life in a matter of months. I couldn’t think of anything other than talking to him and understand what I/we need to do next; how do we fix this as well as where his mindset was.
I leveraged my family and two best friends as well as someone I was dating at the time as my support system. Outside of my brother no one else knew more about the situation more than my parents. I talked to him daily about how he was feeling, what comes next, and how I could help. What I think helped him most was just talking about anything other than cancer. I knew getting his mind off the pain he was experiencing would be the therapy we both needed. Laughter, deep discussions…anything was on the table.
I wish I knew more about cancer and what he was about to go through before he underwent chemo, but really, I think there isn’t much outside what I didn’t know then that I wish I had. I know my brother really well so I felt prepared to support him in any way possible and left the rest to the doctors and trained professionals.
Towards the end of his six chemo cycles, his energy had dropped dramatically. He didn’t look like the Joe (Philippe as we call him at home) I grew up with. That’s when his physical condition really started to deteriorate. He wasn’t sleeping, always in pain, and no energy or will to do anything. That is one of the scariest things to experience in my opinion. It looked as though his body was giving up but really it was the heat of the fight and the light was at the end of the tunnel. it’s important to write that down so you’re reminded when your emotions take over.
My only advice for someone supporting a loved one going through any life or death situation like cancer is just be there. Be present. Be supportive. Pick up the slack for them and make sure they’re comfortable and let them know though you can’t take the pain away you’re there to make it hurt a little less. Also, pay close attention to detail and ensure they get the care they need. Make sure you show empathy and love as they go through the hardest fight of their life. Don’t try and answer questions like how does this happens and why does this happen - instead look forward with optimism. Make them forget what they’re going through because that just may be the morale booster that gets them through the next round of chemo.