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The beginning

March 29th, 2016 7:10 p.m. 

City of Hope

1500 East Duarte Road Duarte, CA 91010

Patient – Cooper Owen

Room 6237

March 29th, 2016 7:10 P.M.
Cooper would take his last breath.

one. last. breath. one. last. beat. 

and it was all over.

three and a half years gone in a blink of an eye. 

cooper left this world very peaceful, i do not believe he was in pain and i KNOW he wanted to be with Jesus, he told me himself. 

he was at peace and he was healed.

but this is where my life shattered into a million pieces and all while Cooper was at peace, i was broken. and that my friends, the brokenness, is the first step to living a life after loss. you sit in the brokenness that is your life and you try to comprehend how to mourn. not only how to mourn the person you just lost but how to mourn the person you were before the loss.

after you lose someone you go through a transition where you’re completely lost you have no idea who you are or where to go. 

i lost someone at 20, an age where you already have no idea what you want or who you are, i was just discovering life all the while i was learning what it’s like to lose life itself. how do you figure out who you are, what you want out of life, AND that life is precious in the matter of months? you don’t. 

see, i spent the first year of grief attempting to figure out the meaning of life and the meaning of death.

i attempted to plan my whole life out so that the anxiety of the unknown would go away. 

and while i was doing that, life was passing me by, i wasn’t living i was planning. 

losing cooper is the hardest thing i have ever gone through.

losing cooper is the hardest thing i am CURRENTLY going through. 

the pain of losing him and the 3 1/2 years that we went through in order to try to save his life still haunt me every day.

but, struggle breeds greatness. 

i will struggle every day for the rest of my life but it is only making me greater. it is only making me stronger.

so if you’re struggling with the fact that you’re struggling, take a second and accept the fact that life is hard and the things that make life hard are the things that are shaping you into who you will become.


They don’t tell you

what they don’t tell you about cancer.

when you or your family member gets diagnosed with cancer they tell you when you will get your port put in, when to take your medications, when then next office visit is.

they tell you to “stay strong”, “keep going”, and “just try to be positive”. 

they attempt to encourage you in the middle of what seems like a hurricane of emotions.

december 5th 2015. 

cooper would begin his longest and last stay at the hospital, it was also his 18th birthday.

december 25th, 2015.

cooper’s last christmas with us.

december was, and still is a big month. it was the new normal really, dealing with 2 different cancers. coopers body was fighting more than ever to live and it was showing on the outside. 

coop had a constant fever and slept most of the day when he wasn’t in excruciating pain. 

when christmas rolled around we kept praying for a miracle. that his fever would break, that his pain would go away, that maybe just maybe we would have christmas at home. but some things just don’t work out the way you want them too. 

if you ever want to be so sad yet so full of joy all at the same time, walk into the pediatric oncology floor of a hospital on christmas day. you will see extremely sick kids, with extremely sad families. but you will also see hope, happiness, and some of the most grateful people in the world. grateful to have one more day, one more christmas with their babies. 

i remember everything about that christmas. the sights, smells, the tears, even the parking spot we unloaded all of our christmas presents from. i remember walking up to coopers room praying the hardest prayers i had ever prayed that he would be awake and feel good. 

one specific memory that will never leave my mind is when coop would open his gifts. normally coop was ALL about presents. when we were little we would all sleep in the same room on christmas eve and in the middle of the night cooper was always the one to go look at what santa had brought us. but this time, no emotion, he could barely open a gift and would just fall asleep. i waited patiently for him to get excited over all the gifts people had got him, but there was nothing that could bring him joy in that moment accept sleeping and a whole lot of pain medication.

what they don’t tell you about cancer?

they don’t tell you how sad christmas morning will be in the hospital.

how hurt you will feel when your brother is in extreme pain while you sit and watch.

how many times you will cry yourself to sleep over cancer, over the situation your family is living in. 

how tired you will be of living with cancer at the center of your family circle. 

how defeated you will feel once its over…

You’re not the match

cooper fought leukemia for 3 long years, after a long battle he became severely ill once again. after lots of tests cooper would be diagnosed with a secondary cancer, Myelodysplastic Syndrome. by fall of 2015 coopers body was fighting two different cancers that had to be treated with several different medications. he became lethargic, had a constant fever that would never break, and was in bad pain from head to toe. 

the only true way to MAYBE save cooper after this diagnosis was to get a bone marrow transplant. the best possible matches for a bone marrow transplant are family members, specifically siblings with the same parents. 

my family is a family of 6 but we are blended, so i was coopers only blood sibling. 

we flew to Arizona where i would be tested to see if i was the match.

i HAD to be the match

i HAD to save his life.

it was ALL on me.

those were the thoughts constantly running through my mind as we awaited the results. during this time hundreds of people posting things like, “pray that kassidy is the match”. no pressure right? 

i mean we could probably find another donor, but the easiest way to fix this problem was for me to be the match and save his life. 

i was not the match. i had no way of saving cooper’s life but to be his match for the bone marrow transplant and that control had just been taken away from me. 

so here, we take a pause from the cancer world, for me to tell you I have major anxiety. specifically when i’m not in control (haha! aka all the time). well imagine a very anxiety-ridden kassidy awaiting the results of if she would save her brothers life or NOT. to this day, those results sit on my heart. to this day the guilt sits on my heart. now before you comment and say, “oh kassidy don’t feel guilty there was absolutely nothing you could do to be the match, it’s your genetic make-up”. i know, i am aware. BUT. the fact that my genetic make-up COULD have saved my brothers life but DIDN’T is the grief i sit with every day and that will not change. 

i am not the match. 

i didn’t save his life.

A letter to my late brother

cooper, 

i can only imagine the sights you see from heaven. the smiles, the tears, the love.

i am writing to you because i feel like we left some things unsaid. 

you never told me how much i would miss you or how much i would long for our family to be whole again. 

when you told me you would be leaving you forgot to mention how easily i would lose my breath the second you left and how i would continue to long for the last moments i had with you. 

before the doctors told you it was over – they had done all they could do – did you know it was coming? had you heard the soft whisper of God in your ear gently say, “its time to come home”? 

i feel so familiar with death yet so far away from it. i know where you are now and that i will see you again but it’s taking forever for those days to come.

we left things unsaid because you left me earlier than expected, your time was up. 

i once heard a wise preacher say that God put us on the earth to do something extraordinary, to follow his voice and go be the light. once we have done that, he calls us home. he then said something that struck my heart like a lightening bolt: some people fullfill God’s destiny earlier than others. you fulfilled the destiny God had for you at a much younger age. i am so proud of that. you did what God had called you to do in 18 years. 

i miss the 18 years i had with you.

i miss you. 

love,

kassidy

healing is not linear.

&

loss is a rollercoaster ride.

no matter who you have lost in your life you will hurt.

a good friend who lost her dad told me that she would write letters to him everyday and keep them in a journal as a way of attempting to walk through her grief.

i decided to give it a try because of all the unanswered questions i have that only cooper will be able to answer one day. if you have lost someone, this blog is dedicated to you. take the time to write that person a letter of love.

Shine your light

so you’re probably like, “kassidy! we get it. your brother had cancer and you were fearful he would die, i would feel the same way.”

you’re right, the fear comes with the situation. but for me it was deeper than just the fear that cooper would die. it was the fear that i would never live up to the life cooper lived. 

as i’ve mentioned previously, life as a sibling of someone who has cancer is lonely. you are constantly in the shadow of whats going on with your brother or sister. 

cooper lived an amazing life and impacted millions of hearts. 

he captivated people with his charm, beard, and the way he conquered the beast that is cancer. and i am proud of him for that, but it unfortunately held me back from a lot of things. 

i have sat on this blog for well over a year, because of this one simple fear: that my story would never live up to the life cooper lived… because i have lived so much of my life in his shadow. 

i had to figure out how to create this platform about him, but with the focus on me. my side of the story. 

i had to get over myself and the fear that i would never live a life as incredible as coopers or never have a story that adds up to his. 

i had to step into my true identity and realize the most important truth i’ve come across to date, IT IS MY LIFE. I was letting everyone, (including my late brother), make my life choices for me. 

allowing other people to make life choices for you will never result in joy. 

eventually you will feel like an actress, living a life thats not yours.

the day i graduated college i made the final decision to say no to the fear that i would never live up to the life cooper lived and say yes to living my own unique life with my own unique story.

i said yes to starting this blog because it had been my dream for years, i said yes to sharing my story because writing brings me joy. 

it’s baby steps to making decisions not influenced by cooper or his cancer.  so heres to coming out of the shadow and shining my own light.