Tomorrow my brother is moving overseas to take up a two-year teaching contract in Vietnam.
He is nervous and excited about moving to a new country and starting a new job, just as you would expect. He is also concerned about leaving me, particularly as I’ve been sick and had to spend a night in hospital earlier this week. I’ll tell you all about that adventure in another post at another time.
I know he is worried about going overseas for such a long period of time, but you can’t put your life on hold indefinitely. If the situation was reversed, I know I would do the same. None of us know how much longer we have. I might have years or I might have months, but everything will work out the way it’s meant to in the end.
Sean had been living and working overseas for 4.5 years this time until he came home in March this year to look after me. Some scans I had done earlier this year showed some shadows on my brain that appeared to be Leptomeningeal metastases, which would need to be treated with whole brain radiotherapy. Leptomeningeal metastases have a poor prognosis and whole brain radiotherapy can have some pretty nasty side effects so Sean, who was between teaching contracts, decided to come home for a while to help me out. Thankfully, subsequent scans ruled out Leptomeningeal metastases and I didn’t have to have whole brain radiotherapy. He has, though, accompanied me to my stereotactic radiotherapy, chemotherapy and stereotactic radiosurgery treatments for the past five months and helped out around the house, which was particularly useful when I temporarily lost the use of my right arm during my stereotactic radiotherapy treatment.
Sean is 3.5 years older than me so we didn’t have a lot in common or play together much as kids. I was playing with Barbie dolls and he was into cricket and surfing. Occasionally, he would make a deal that he would play Barbie dolls with me for 10 minutes if I played cricket for an hour with him. He never held up his end of the deal. It usually ended with me running and screaming from our ‘concrete cricket pitch’ at the back of the house after he tried to take my head off with a cricket ball bouncer. He was also a terrible cheat at board games. He would always be the banker when we played Monopoly and he would tell me part way through the game that Mum was calling out to me. I would dutifully go off to see what she wanted and when I returned, most of my money and the bank’s money would have mysteriously disappeared. I fell for it every time.
It is really as adults that we have become friends. We have become quite a tight little unit. He can still frustrate the hell out of me and annoy me but if anyone tried to hurt him or wrong him in any way, I would have his back no matter what, as he would have mine.
We have lived together a few times over the years, but this most recent experience was the first time in about 17 years. I remember Sean telling me years ago: ‘There is no one I would rather sit on the couch, watch TV and talk rubbish about it than with you.’ And boy, have we done that over the past five months! I love that he has become as addicted as me to all of the cooking and baking shows I watch. I love that he loves The Great British Bake Off as much as me and can talk baking terminology like lamination and tempering like a baking expert. At the same time, I have watched days on end of the World Surf League competitions to the point that I can give you a pretty accurate point prediction for each wave ride.
It hasn’t all been medical appointments and TV watching for the past five months. We got to take a couple of trips together and make some great memories. We went to Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island and caught up with friends, went to an AFL game, toured beaches and wineries, and got up close and personal with some penguins and seals. We also travelled to central Australia and went to Alice Springs, Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. These are things we will be able to look back on and remember in the future.
I will miss him when he moves to Vietnam, but technology these days makes it easy to stay in touch. I haven’t told him that I’ll miss him because I’m not good at sharing my feelings. He’s far more emotional than me. I tend to protect myself by remaining stoic. But I will miss you Sean. Thank you for being my protective big brother and always looking out for me. I’ll miss talking rubbish with you, eating lollies on the couch with the dogs, and making each other laugh. But I’ll be ok without you. Besides, I want to go visit you in Vietnam when I can get a break between treatments. You don’t need to worry about me until I tell you it’s time to worry about me. And I think we’ve still got lots of time before that.