The Mighty Logo

To The People Who Said, 'I'm Sorry, I Just Don't Know What to Say...'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Dear people who tell me, “I am sorry, I just don’t know what to say…” – I forgive you.

My baby brother was diagnosed with leukemia at age 9, and he was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 20. I was diagnosed with metastatic adrenal cancer five months after his brain tumor was deemed terminal. Most of the outcomes of these experiences I simply don’t understand, based on a basic knowledge of what is good and fair. However, here are some things I do understand.

I understood when some of my brother’s closest friends stopped coming to see him. It made sense when most of you stopped writing or calling, because you didn’t have the words.

I understood when I had just my partner and loved ones with me during my surgeries, radiation rounds, and doctors appointments — sometimes it was even better, because I can remember how proud my baby brother was when he walked into my room, so happy to be the one taking care of me for a change, and presented me with a puppy stuffed animal that had taken him 20 minutes to pick out because he wanted it to be just perfect.

I prefer now when my cancer comes back these days to tell only my family and closest friends, because I understand surgery, the ICU and cold recovery rooms are not for everyone.

It was our picture to hold close to our hearts when my baby brother fought with every breath and a smile on his face, and when he danced his way into sleep. Because truthfully, there will never be words enough for that.

Our middle brother grew up scared and afraid every day because of our shared genetics, but mostly on his own he has turned that fear into care and love. He has become a support, a confidant, an independent and strong young man and most importantly, our brother with humor that makes us double over in laughter.

I do not understand how my mom lost her baby boy. It is too much that now she worries every day about the well-being of her other two children — one sick and one not. And it is not fair that she blames herself. But to her friends and partner who are there for her, you have no idea the strength on which she relies that comes directly from you. She is too proud to say it, but I can: Thank you, forever. 

And so to all of you — I forgive you. On behalf of my baby brother, the strongest and most wonderful person that I have ever known, my best friend and my hero, I know he forgave you too, and long time ago.

As for me, I forgive you, too. Because there are no words. Sometimes all I need to know is that you are there, ready to talk about your own lives instead of my illness or that of my brother, who I am sure is smiling at you from the corner of my hospital room although we cannot see him. I need your love and your compassion and your good thoughts even from across the country. Most of all, I need for you to say only what you are comfortable with, to visit when you think you will be all right, and to support me when I get better and worse and better again — because that is the course of my life now. I love people to laugh with, to gossip with, to adventure with, and a few to cry with.

So for those of you who can’t do those things — please know you are forgiven. This world of illness is not for everyone. You are loved either way.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: June 6, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home