I was 12 when my 19-year-old brother, Brandon, was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer. I remember sitting in the waiting room at MD Anderson with my parents for nine hours during his first surgery, as I filed my nails down to nothing, watched the news and wondered if Brandon was really going to be OK like he said he would be. He fought his 22-month battle with pure grace, dignity and humor.
I used to get upset because Brandon was such a selfless person and this was the reward he got? An incurable disease? I know he wouldn’t want us to think that way, so I try to think about the positive things he taught me instead.
What I’ve learned from my brother
Brandon was always protective and supportive, and he showed me unconditional love as far back as I can remember. I’m told he always loved being my big brother. He was a really good guy who was extremely funny and goofy, genuinely cared about others and had excellent taste. He appreciated people and wanted others to do the same.
One time when we were walking through a parking lot, I threw my gum on the ground. Brandon asked me if I liked when I stepped in gum. I looked at him and said, “No.” He told me that if I don’t like it, other people probably don’t like it, and if I was one less human who was throwing their gum on the ground, I was helping.
He taught me that I have my own path, and it might be different from others around me. I used to let self-doubt get in the way of pursuing my interests or speaking my truth. Once I accepted that I don’t have power over other’s happiness, my life started to fall into place. Even though he’s physically gone, Brandon’s words of wisdom have continued to make me who I am today, and I’m forever grateful.
I try to honor him on a daily basis by helping others, taking care of myself, pursuing new things, loving our parents a little extra for the both of us, and embracing this beautiful life I get to live because I have the privilege to do so every day I wake up.
Turning grief into action
As I grew up completely powerless over the loss of Brandon’s presence, I started thinking, “What do I have power over?” Around the ninth anniversary of Brandon being gone, I contacted MD Anderson to see how I could get more involved to start my new grieving stage: Proactivity.
I learned about the Boot Walk to End Cancer®, a fundraising walk that supports MD Anderson’s mission to end cancer. I decided to create a team in my brother’s honor. My goal is to raise at least $10,000, which would allow me to designate the funds to the program or project of my choice. I will donate the money I raise to MD Anderson’s Glioblastoma Moon Shot™ to help others who are fighting or will be fighting the same monster my brother did. It is my honor — and my duty — to be part of the 2018 Boot Walk on Saturday, Nov. 10. I look forward to participating this year and in all the years to follow!
My back to reality prayer
I still miss Brandon more than words could ever express. Sometimes it feels crazy after all these years, but I believe grief is a soulful essence, and his soul is still present. I wouldn’t want it any other way. When I am feeling down about not having my older brother around, I read the following prayer:
Thank you for placing me in this family and giving me an older brother like Brandon. I know I am the person I am today because of his beautiful and graceful soul. Please give me the strength to continue to move forward with my life, while always honoring his. Please guide me to fill my emptiness with proactive thoughts and decisions. Please give Brandon a huge hug for me and tell him that I miss him so much.
With all of my love,
Brooke Noel Boudoin