Life is short; get screened

Sue's brother, DonIn the end, my big brother had less than a year to live from the first signs that something was going wrong. Gallstones, maybe? No. Colon cancer, which had already spread to his lungs and liver. He was 61.

Don moved to California years ago, and being on opposite sides of the continent didn’t support frequent visits. So I am glad that over the years, many an IABC conference was held in San Francisco, Anaheim, Los Angeles or San Diego. Each time I booked the conference, my next call was to Don, to find out how I could work in a visit. Each time, we got together, in later years with his soulmate and partner, Dawn.

Don was a generous and thoughtful guy. This is the man who bought me my domain name long before I was even thinking about a website for my business. He would turn up at my door during visits home with bottles of wine in his backpack, eager to share his latest “finds” in tasty cabernet and other wine. He made sure his nephews were the first on our block to have an iPod, and over their video-playing years, they always got their hands on the latest hard-to-find games thanks to Don. A few times, he used his United Airlines points to upgrade a flight for one of my visits, and Marriott points for a wonderful Sonoma Valley wine-tasting trip.

Just last month, as ill as he was, he asked me to reserve a date in June. He later explained that he had bought me tickets to a concert in Toronto by his fave Dave Matthews Band. When I asked him why, he said, “Because I can’t go.”

One of Don’s last and most significant gifts to me was to make sure I stopped procrastinating and got screened for colon cancer. I just had the procedure two weeks ago, and the doctor found and removed a small polyp; I am good to go for another five years. (Thanks, Don!) If you’re in that dangerous Baby Boomer age, make sure YOU get screened, too.

Maybe the best gift Don gave his family and friends is a sharp reminder to live our lives. There is a famous quote from artist and author Mary Anne Radmacher that sums up the way I think Don lived his life. It’s this: Live with intention

“Live with intention.
Walk to the edge.
Listen hard.
Practice wellness.
Play with abandon.
Laugh.
Choose with no regret.
Appreciate your friends.
Continue to learn.
Do what you love.
Live as if this is all there is.”

I will remember my funny, generous, thoughtful, tech-savvy and much-loved brother as he looks in the photo here, a smile on his face, a glass of Silver Oak wine in hand, sharing good times with friends and family.

Related posts:

Why you need balance (goodbye to my best friend, also due to cancer, with a wonderful analogy about work as a rubber ball)
I’ve also said goodbye to my sister.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted April 25, 2014 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    This is beautiful, Sue. I know you will always miss your big brother. In the midst of your grief, you are generous to remind people to get screened. We know too many people suffering and dying from this disease. The tests are not fun but they’re better than the alternative.

  2. Posted April 25, 2014 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Donna. I know *you* know the pain of losing a brother, too. As for the test, given the proper medication, you don’t even know what is going on. (Just as well!)

  3. Posted April 25, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I am all teared up, Sue. That was very moving. A fine tribute to your brother and a reminder about the value of screening. Some advice to people who are afraid of the test: Don’t worry. They now do an uninvasive test with samples before sending you for the big one. Even then, it’s not that bad. I had mine without much sedation and actually watched the screen to follow the camera. Fascinating. Several years ago, I lost an old friend to colon cancer. Had he been screened, he would still be alive. Caught early,colon cancer has a very high survival rate.

  4. Posted April 25, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Barb. I wish my brother had been screened, too. He had no symptoms (that we know of) and was not the kind of guy to ever see a doctor.

  5. Gretta Whyte
    Posted April 27, 2014 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Just read your tributes to Don and Joan , and found them very touching. The last time I remember
    seeing Joan was at the hospital cafeteria when Ross had an appointment. It was so thoughtful
    of her to spend time with us. I have a photo of your wedding with Don in it. Unfortunately we were
    not able to see him since he moved to California. Hope to see you sometime, and then we can
    give you a real hug ! Love, Ross and Gretta.

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