How to Belong, From One Loner to the Next

How Cancer Changed My Life for the Better.

I was nine years old when my brother was diagnosed with cancer and eleven when I started to appreciate it. 

He was at the foot of my stairs wailing that he couldn’t breathe. He was rushed off to the hospital, and I was left alone at home, sitting in my room with an inkling that I should get ready for school. 

That moment left me with a hellish tornado and nightmares that resided in my house for two years. They glared at me from behind pill bottles and watched me from underneath oxygen tanks, slipping through cracks in the walls and creeping behind doors. And as much as I wished for a knight in shining armor to come to rescue me, no one was coming. My circumstances were only to be sated with fake promises of prayers and take-out dinners.  

Ironically, I found refuge in the hospital. As I wandered the hospital waiting for my brother to finish his latest cocktail, a nurse shoved a flyer in my face. In bright bold letters, the flyer told of a magical world where I longed to go to receive the understanding I had been lacking.

The world, BRother And SiSters camp (BRASS), gave kids like me something that we usually don’t have the luxury of receiving, a sense of belonging. As our siblings are getting poked and prodded, we are pushed to the side, frustrated and lonely. 

In an article about the dangers of not belonging, Paul Dunion said, “Non-belonging typically reflects a measure of adoption and compliance, leading to a degree of a loss of self and/or a contentious protest of what others are saying or doing. The protest reflects the evolving resentment that happens when we experience a loss of self due to excessive compliance.”

Not belonging can severely damage any individual whether child or adult. The loss of self that I experienced as my brother battled cancer was restored. This group of people understood me and made me feel like I belonged. 

And while there are those who argue they prefer to be alone, that does not exempt them from the innate human need to belong. 

I am glad I live in a country where the pharmaceutical market is constantly developing and researching new drugs to prevent and cure cancer. In 2017, the New York Times released an article about new gene therapy that would allow doctors to genetically alter a patient’s DNA to fight cancer. These new drugs would prevent kids like my brother and I from ever experiencing what we went through, and could potentially eradicate pediatric cancer forever.

BRASS camp is an unforgettable and invaluable gift that I wouldn’t give up for the world. These past five years that I have gone to BRASS camp have provided me with the most wonderful and amazing family that I could ever ask for, and I would have to win the lottery five times over to give it up.