There were a lot of moments when his pain and exhaustion and boredom got the better of him. We never blamed him his temper, but there were moments when we wished we had enough space to separate. But the Ronald McDonald House doesn't work that way. New York doesn't work that way.
Once, my mother stormed out of the House in tears to escape our burnt-out back-and-forth. And despite his debilitating treatment, David had to indulge in drinks and wild nights downtown to keep his sanity. My father and I had heated arguments on the street; my brother and I never got over discovering his "friend" who lost her husband to cancer and knew "exactly what he was going through."
Nevertheless, we all came back and slept in the same room. As long as he was sick – for better or worse – David was never alone again like on that first night.
Most of the time, actually, my brother had a terribly good sense of humor about his illness – he joked about jarring and pickling his amputated testicle! He wore a big yellow pin on his Colorado State University sweatshirt that read "Cancer Sucks!" And once, when asked by a radiologist if he had been a smoker, he said, "No – I got my cancer for free!"
Now David's hair and complexion are just beginning to return. But
the surgeries were incredibly intrusive, and left him noticeably
insecure, scarred and gaunt. And yet, when I look at this picture
of the two of us, to me we look like twins. Strangely enough, that
year was the only time since we were kids that anyone surveyed our
faces and agreed. It was the only time since we were kids people
even recognized that we were brothers.
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