On December 17, 2011, the doctor gave my younger brother, Michael, devastating news: He had cancer. Specifically, Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, a type of leukemia that is more often seen in someone when they are older. He was only in his 20s.
I accompanied Michael to his first appointment at the hospital for moral support and to ask questions. When diagnosed with cancer, it is easy to start thinking of all of the worse possible scenarios—to fear the future, to see a grim future.
But less than two months later, Michael began going out with Stephanie, whom he knew from high school. Knowing about Michael’s recent diagnosis, Stephanie chose to continue going on more dates with him. Even with the uncertainty of his condition and feeling bad from the chemo pills, they increasingly spent more time together. They later celebrated his full remission in August 2012, he proposed in April 2014, and they will be married this May.
I used to pride myself on being older and wiser than Michael, but as I get to know Stephanie more and see her and Michael together, I am discovering that there are many things that I can learn from them.
- Be open to love in the midst of pain.
When life throws us a curve ball and all seems dark, be open to the good things in life and to love. God may have just the right gift in store for us to lighten our days.
- Love people as they are.
My brother has cancer and takes chemo pills daily to remain in remission. Stephanie saw good things in Michael that were more important than the fact that he has cancer. Perhaps she also saw his faults (I’m his sister and I can think of a few!), but ultimately we should focus on the good in others. We are more than our weaknesses and they are not what define us. We are to see the dignity in others and to love them as they are.
- Love can lead to greater love.
Once Stephanie shared how my brother had done something for her – cooked dinner maybe? I was surprised. My little brother did that? When I shared my surprise, Stephanie jokingly stated, “I’ve trained him well!” Really, she loves him well. And being loved as we are can help us to better sacrifice ourselves out of love in return.
- Love is beautiful.
When Stephanie hosted our families for Thanksgiving, I observed how her thoughtfulness in small actions made the celebration beautiful and helped us feel welcomed and loved—like when she gave my mom and me tiny carved Nativity scenes from the Holy Land and hung a handmade banner to welcome us. Michael and Stephanie also shared about their marriage preparation class and I was impressed with how in tune they are with each other and how this class strengthened their relationship. The way they complement one another makes for a beautiful relationship.
Come this May, Stephanie and my little brother, Michael, will be saying “I do” to spend the rest of their lives together. I will always be Michael’s big sister but Stephanie is now the one to walk with him in good times and in bad. I am thankful to God for sending Stephanie to Michael. Cancer may be ugly but love is beautiful, and so is my brother’s fiancée.