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. 

Fear

the next 3 years after high school were a blur of coop dealing with everything that goes with having cancer. doctors appointments, procedures, medications, pain, getting sick, the most horrible things you could imagine seeing someone go through. several times i would go to sleep with everyone in my house and wake up to texts that coop had a fever and they were at the ER. it wasn’t uncommon for me to leave events or not go to things because i was just too worried that if something happened to coop i would be gone.

cancer held me back from A LOT.

and it wasn’t even my cancer.

it was the fear that coopers cancer had more control than i did. 

and that fear was valid, and at that time there was no way i was NOT going to live in fear. my brother had cancer and at the end of the day we NEVER knew if he would be “okay”. so you live in fear. or at least thats what i did. 

the problem with living in fear is that at some point your mind and body can no longer do it. you give up because you are exhausted with living a life of fear. thats what i did, i gave up. i gave up on friendships, on school, on whatever made me happy. i devoted 100% of my time to the fear that cooper would die and the perfect puzzle would be broken. 

but there comes a point where giving up gets exhausting and you long for those things that made you happy in the first place. 

for me this didn’t happen until after cooper passed away and i had to enter the “real world” again. over the last 2 years i’ve realized that my time on this earth is precious and i want to live it joyfully. i want to love the way Jesus loved and live the way he lived. i want to do things that bring me joy instead of doing things i hate. i want to be at peace with myself because i never know when he will call me home. 

its a choice, to live joyfully.

ask anyone who chooses joy and they will tell you its a choice. it is definitely not easy, but choosing joy instead of fear will win every time. 



Graduation

i don’t remember much from the first year of Coop being sick. i only remember super big moments like my high school graduation, Cooper had just been released from the hospital and was in isolation, meaning no one came in our house and Coop didn’t leave unless he was going to the doctors. his immune system was very weak so he could get sick easily, because of this he could not attend my graduation. luckily we had a very close family friend who was able to stay with him and take care of him so that my parents were able to attend the big day. 

its situations like this that i look back and try to digest how i was feeling.

because quite honestly even though it was MY graduation day, it was never about me. as a cancer sibling the light is never on you. you are constantly in the shadow of cancer.

the common questions you get asked as a sibling of someone going through cancer are something like,  

“hows coop doing?”

“how are your parents?”

“whens his treatment done?”

“does your family need anything?”

“does Coop need anything?”

i was never really asked how i was doing and thats no ones fault, it just wasn’t about me even when i needed it to be. thats one of the sacrifices you make when you try to assemble a puzzle thats not fitting together just right. the puzzle that was our family, all perfect and put together lovely, was suddenly broken. it was ripped apart and all the pieces were spread out unevenly. all six of us desperately trying to figure out how to put it back together all while knowing with everything in us that our puzzle could finish with one less piece.