It is coming up on a year since I was diagnosed with cancer. An amazing year it has been. A year of strength, as well as a year of fear. It has been filled with a sense of accomplishment as well as disappointment. I have experienced the whole emotional gauntlet for the last 12 months.

It seems like yesterday, sitting in a room at the hospital with my wife, a couple of nurses, a doctor, and a support worker. “I’m sorry to inform you that you do have cancer.” Amazingly, it didn’t bother me. I’ve experienced cancer before with my ex-wife. Not as the survivor but rather as a caretaker.

Memories came back of vomiting, not eating and basically just feeling like crap. I knew these things would attack me but I thought I would be able to handle it. What bothered me more though was that I would be putting my new wife through this. It is so hard being a caretaker. No matter how much you do, it often feels like it isn’t enough. So while I felt I had the strength to be a survivor, I also wanted the strength to let my wife know how much her help and support meant to me.

The treatment was more than I expected. After 19 of 30 radiation treatments I wanted to quit. I was beat up and defeated. I was scared, nervous, and just wanted to run away and hide. I ended up being admitted to the hospital and would stay there for over three weeks. During that time, I did manage to finish my treatment and got to ring the bell!

What happened in the hospital still bothers me to this day. Even though I was being well looked after I was still attacked while being a patient. Not by the hospital or by anyone from the staff. I was disappointed from a family member. A brother. A lifetime of disappointment continued even when I was weak and very fragile, mentally as well as physically.

On Christmas Eve, which was my birthday, he sent me an e-mail, not wishing me a happy birthday, nor even asking if I was OK. Oh no, the e-mail was about how he couldn’t believe how disappointed I was in them. “Them” being my brothers. The note said, how they (again… brothers) forgot the past and have moved on. Nothing like a little passive aggressive behaviour, eh? How ironic to get a note like that talking about disappointment… wow… just wow.

I’ve never been close to my brothers. They are all within two years of each other, while I was nearly eleven years younger than my oldest brother. I say “was” because he past away last year. I found out through an e-mail. Imagine that. The e-mail said I was so hard to get a hold off, oh and Mike has died.

Proper etiquette and thinking of someone else’s feelings, the e-mail should have said, “Is it possible for you to call me? My number is ###-####. Please call at once, it is important.” Nope, can’t do that. So, I try calling him. Twice I got an answering machine and twice I left my phone number. I never did get a call back.

Though I am not close to my brothers, it still hit me hard. Not because of past memories but rather it was knowing that a relationship will never happen. It would have been comforting to share those feelings with a sibling but no that wasn’t going to happen.

I didn’t go to the funeral. Yes, he was my brother, but I didn’t know him. The last time I saw him was over a dozen years ago and since my father’s death in 1980, we’ve seen each other a grand total of three times.

Just because someone is family doesn’t mean you need to tow the line. They can be disappointments. They can be great if you keep your place in the family tree and never rock the boat. But as soon as you want your feelings acknowledged you are risking blowing everything up.

By letting go of my family’s secrets I found freedom. My parents weren’t gods. They were sick human beings. I’m disappointed that I am the only one who can acknowledge that fact. They were drunks. They were out of control and they were in control of me. I learned how to survive because of that childhood. Those survival skills helped me find the strength and courage to survive open heart surgery and cancer. Even through all my disappointments with my birth family, I do owe them my thanks because they taught me how to survive.

Author's Bio: 

Dave Harm is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for over 20 years. He is an NLP Master Practitioner, Hypnotist, and Life Coach. He is the author of three books and the creator of two musical CD's.

He shares his experience and journey on his website