I will never forget the Saturday morning in 2003 that changed my life forever. My brother Martin, the baby in our family, called and told me he was diagnosed with cancer (colon rectal cancer). My first reaction was total shock. In the phone conversation with him I tried to stay positive. I reassured him that I would be there for him. But when I hung up the phone, all my emotions took over and I cried. I couldn’t believe that my brother, who was in his early thirties, had cancer! I was scared. I wanted to just scream out loud, because he’s a good guy and these things shouldn’t happen to good guys! At first, I felt helpless, but I knew I had to be strong for him if I was going to help him with his illness.
We come from a big family, which is helpful and I am one of five caregivers for Martin. I have learned over the years that each of us deals with the cancer in different ways. In the beginning, I would get very angry because some family members were going along with their lives like everything was okay and I didn’t understand at the time, that each of us deals with crisis differently. It didn’t mean that they loved Martin any less; it meant that we each have different coping skills. I have a better understanding of that now, which helps me a great deal.
My brother is a tough fighter. He has had two reoccurrences and four surgeries so far and we don’t know what lies ahead. What I do know is that we are never alone, which is one of the wonderful aspects about belonging to a Police family. The Los Angeles Police Department and the Cancer Support Group has treated all of us like family. During one critical incident, when Martin was in the hospital, he was in desperate need of blood. The LAPD immediately set up a blood drive and invited other local agencies to donate and recently, they held a bbq fundraiser at Martin’s assigned division, Rampart.
Being a caregiver for a loved one with cancer can be emotionally hard, at some point you just feel numb, because you don’t know what to do or what to expect. It’s like you’ve entered a different world and have to learn a whole new language. It’s surprising how quickly I learned all the medical terminology related to Martin’s cancer (Chemo, CEA levels, CT, etc…). During treatments, days can often feel long, some are good and some are bad. I have seen my brother at his best and I have seen him at his worst. As a caregiver, although I want to desperately take my brothers pain away, sometimes my only option is to sit with him and comfort him as best I can. I do know that I am on a journey with my brother Martin, his wife and children and I will continue to pray and continue to have hope. If you are a caregiver, I will say listen with your heart, love and care for them as best you can.