Still Handsome This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

August 17, 2011
“I hate my hair so much!” I complained to my mother. It had bothered me all my life, but more in the winter. The wicked winter wind had a way of turning my hair into a giant knot. When I reached over and turned the heat on full blast, I noticed my little brother, Jason, was shivering uncontrollably. I figured it was from the chilly temperature, but it seemed odd that, after a half hour, he was still complaining of being cold and that his arm ached. Mom didn’t seem phased, but I realized he had been complaining a lot lately about his arm. The night before I had awakened to hear him crying. I’d crept to his door and listened as he sobbed in the dark, murmuring about his arm. When I told my parents the next morning, they responded he was just having trouble adjusting to kindergarten.

The next day Jay and I were playing in the driveway. We took out the new power-wheels Jeep he had received for his birthday. His favorite trick involved spinning in circles on the dirt, but he rode over a bump and toppled out of the Jeep. I scrambled over as he began to cry hysterically. He was screaming about his arm. The next thing I knew, he began to vomit. I scooped him up and ran inside the house. My mom and I immediately took him to the doctor, who sent us to the hospital. Jay cried the whole way; I had never seen him carry on like that.

There we waited for the x-ray results. The doctor asked to speak with my mother alone, and said Jay needed a bone specialist. We found that Jason had broken his arm, and had bone marrow cancer in that area. I tried not to cry, but I couldn’t help it. All I could do was ask God how He could do this to my little brother.

I can’t tell you how many times I went to the hospital, and even if I could, you wouldn’t believe the number. I told myself I had to be strong for Jay, that I couldn’t let him see me upset. Our family had to be strong; we would get through this together. Once while playing Nintendo in Jay’s room, I started to cry and Jay did too, but only because I was. He didn’t understand what was going on. After that I vowed I would not cry again. There was nothing to cry about; Jay would win.

I had no idea what chemotherapy would be like. I didn’t know I would spend Christmas day holding my six-year-old brother’s hand as he threw up uncontrollably. I never would have guessed he would lose so much weight that dark circles would form around the sockets which used to hold shining blue eyes. Or that the medication swabs he wiped in his mouth would make him gag and vomit. This little boy went through times many could not survive. He was so brave and so strong; it killed me to see other children play and run while my brother was cooped up in a hospital room. But worst of all was when he lost his hair. I recall sitting on the floor of his room playing Hungry Hungry Hippos. I lost miserably every time, which amused him. He’d toss his head back as he erupted in giggles, but when he shook his head, a clump of hair fell onto the game board and our laughter ceased. We stared at the wispy hair.

“Why is my hair falling out?” he asked innocently. I gulped and replied it was only happening to make him better. He began to scratch his head and more fell out until the board was covered. I bit my lip so hard to keep from crying that it bled.

He looked up and smiled. “Do I still look handsome?”

“You look totally awesome,” I choked out. “Just like Michael Jordan.”

He started to giggle again. He took the hat my grandmother had bought for him and put it in the dirty sheet bin. He said he was proud to look like Michael Jordan, and didn’t need his hat anymore.

That night I cried myself to sleep. I was worried Jay wouldn’t make it. This little boy who had not even finished kindergarten had to struggle through each day just to make it to the next. I cried remembering how full of energy he had been just months ago. And I cried harder because it wasn’t fair.

The doctor decided Jay needed surgery. We were so nervous, but he got through it perfectly. Finally Jay was on the road to recovery. Even when he began to improve, it was tough. I can’t even describe what he dealt with. His hair eventually grew back and he gained weight, too. One day, as I was helping Jason with his arm brace, I thought back to when he was diagnosed with cancer. It had been winter, a season I despise because it was always so cold and windy, messing my hair into knots. And I remember complaining how much I hated my hair. Since then, I have never complained about it. I am thankful I have it. I pity those who moan and groan about bad hair days.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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NinjaHummingbird said...
Aug. 17, 2011 at 9:30 pm
Your poor little brother! I am so glad he is recovering. Great story!
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