The following post has nothing to do with programming or technology. It also talks about cancer, and death. It's a personal post, but it's something I needed to get out there, to help myself deal with this situation by writing it down. If you'd rather not read about this topic, I completely understand. Skip to the "Four Cool Reads" header below.

Otherwise, read on.

My younger brother Aaron, my only sibling, is going to die of pancreatic cancer. This will most likely happen soon, within a year. He's only 33. And it's so goddamn unfair.

Three-Dimensional Landscape of Genome.
HIPMap (high-throughput imaging position mapping) accurately determines the position of a gene in the three-dimensional (3D) space of the cell nucleus. In this illustration, images of genes (red, green, and blue spots within the nuclei of HeLa cells) are artificially superimposed on images of multi-well plates.
Creator:	Tom Misteli, Sigal Shachar, Murali Palangat.
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

He was diagnosed last August, and it was a complete surprise. He went to the emergency room for abdominal pain, and after two days of tests, the doctors discovered an aggressive stage-4 pancreatic cancer that nobody knew existed. By the time they'd found it, it had already spread to his liver.

His oncologist told him the treatment plan, a form of chemotherapy that would most likely slow the cancer's spread, but not stop it. I won't forget what our mom told us the doctor said about it:

"At this point, I could treat it, or I could not treat it."

The implication being that it might not be worth the discomfort it causes, and it might not even make a difference. I don't think I've ever been so chilled by a sentence before.

Aaron chose to begin treatment. He started chemo that week and has now done eight rounds of it. At the end of these rounds, his liver numbers were much better, but not in the normal range. The cancer wasn't gone but had been beaten back. For a few weeks, I felt a sense of relief that we hadn't experienced in months.

Two weeks ago, another test revealed that his cancer had A) returned and B) become resistant to the first form of chemo. So now he's going to start a new round, one that will cause him more discomfort, more pain, more vomiting, more exhaustion, overall worse quality of life, and still might not work.

I cannot imagine what he is going through. I've tried, and I can't do it. But that isn't the hurtful part for me. What hurts, for me, is the guilt.

My guilt comes in three forms. First, basic survivor's guilt. Both our parents and his older brother (me) will outlive Aaron. That's not close to fair, not in the same ballpark. When he's gone, we will be left with the maw, the hole of where his life was, and what it could've been. It's so goddamn unfair.

This article is for paying subscribers only

Sign up now and upgrade your account to read the article and get access to the full library of articles for paying subscribers only.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in