Facing the Unfathomable

Right now, I’m listening to my three healthy children as they sit around the dining table, eating their soup and discussing their favorite movies.

At the same time, 1700 miles away, a girl I went to high school with is manually cutting back a tumor that has pushed its way through her son’s head, blinded him in both eyes, and is now growing out of his nose.

I can’t wrap my mind around it.

I consider myself a very strong person. Fiercely independent. Practical when it comes to life’s difficulties. Sensitive, but not easy to rattle. But I can’t fathom what this mom is going through. I’m quite sure it would break me in places I didn’t know I could break.

Her name is Jo Lynn. Her son, Brandon, was first diagnosed with cancer at the age of 3. That’s how old BoyWonder is now. They fought the cancer then and beat it, temporarily. Then at the age of 7 – my Dolittle’s age – the cancer returned. And once again, they fought it, this time using double the doses they’d normally use for a kid his age. He wasn’t really expected to survive the treatment, but they won that battle, too.

But now, at age 11 – same age as The Muse – Brandon is losing the cancer war for good.

And it’s awful. There’s no way to pretty this up. There are no treatment options at this point. Only measures to make him as comfortable as possible, which is hard to imagine when you see how much pressure that tumor is putting on his sweet face.

How do you watch your child go through that kind of suffering for even one day, much less several years? There’s a YouTube video of Brandon’s story on the news from when he was first diagnosed, in which Jo Lynn said that she’d break down in the shower every morning – that’s when she’d let the tears flow – and then she’d pull herself together to be strong for him the rest of the day.

That was seven years and two remissions ago.

It’s too much to fathom.

I have some friends whose son was diagnosed with cancer when he was a toddler. Thankfully, they beat it, and made it through the eight prayerful, finger-crossing years of remission required to be considered 100% cancer free. Their cancer story had a wonderful, celebratory ending.

But not all cancer stories do. I’ve heard stories like Jo Lynn’s before, though I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything so physically dramatic. Brandon’s tumor is not the silent internal killer I usually think of with cancer. It’s brutal and obvious and painful to look at. The photo below is just the beginning. She’s posted photos on Facebook in the past two days that are almost unbearable. Your heart just breaks to see this little boy’s suffering literally written all over his face.

I’ve never personally known someone going through something like this. And I don’t even really know Jo Lynn now, to be honest. Haven’t spoken to her since high school. But I knew her. I knew her as a teenager, before motherhood and cancer became her life. I knew her as part of a group of girls who talked about homecoming dances and drill team and history homework, not brain tumors and chemotherapy and hospice.

It could have been any one of us.

I guess that’s why I’m writing about this today. The empathy is so overwhelming. While I say I can’t imagine it, I can imagine it. It’s just too painful to think about, to put my own child in Brandon’s place, to see all of this happening through Jo Lynn’s eyes.

Her courage and fortitude are beyond me. God bless them both.

A friend set up a website where you can follow Brandon’s story, and where you can leave a message or make a donation if you feel compelled. Sometimes it helps to feel like you’re doing something. I’m sure Jo Lynn could use any and all support people can throw at her.

A good reminder that every moment is precious. Hug your kids.


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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 2

  1. I didn’t know her that well in school. I can’t say I remember her or see her face when I hear her name. But I do see and feel how much she be hurting and pray she and her precious son have the courage to face what is inevitable for him at this point. I don’t know the pain of losing a child but I lost my mom to that dreaded disease called cancer when she was 45. It still hurts. Every day. Again, my “problems” have just faded into obscurity. Prayers to them all.

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