Yesterday morning the world lost a super hero. His name is Mike and we lost him to brain cancer. Mike was the beloved younger brother of one of my best friends. Judy and I survived high school English with Mr Exely and started a silly passive aggressive game with her dear Aunt Helen where you wish the other person "Happy Month" as close to the beginning of the new month as you can. Not to be nice - to be first!
Though Judy and I lost touch during our 30's, happily Facebook and other good friends brought us back together, and naturally Mike and I became FB friends as well. Happily happy monthing each other to our heart's content and infecting others around us with the game.
Mike was such a positive support when I was diagnosed with cancer, playing along with gentle humour with my pirate and shark themed cancer fighting. I was devastated to learn he had brain cancer. Right away you could tell Mike was not going to take it lying down and he met each new challenge with relentless positivity. It didn't seem helpful to cry or moan since he was certainly not so I went to my strength, Photoshop apps.
Mike had to shave his luxurious moustache off when he was fitted for a radiation mask and Judy quickly found a substitute. She posted this picture (which I suspect she may regret)
I'm not saying these things made any sense and I certainly would have done a better job of making the stamp of their heads if I'd known I was going to do it more than once. The right side of Judy's head is not, to the best of my knowledge, flat.
We decided that radiation would likely turn Mike into a super hero so that became a theme.
Mike tolerated surgery and radiation very well and was soon ringing the bell
Again, apologies to Steve Carell for the tiny bicep.
Sure enough though setbacks occurred and the inner super hero emerged.
He underwent robotic arm radiation as well.
And he kept going.
One day I had a checkup in Hamilton and since Mike was in hospital there Karen and I went to visit him. I thought about getting a super hero balloon instead of flowers but this balloon was kismet. I couldn't leave it at the store. It was so much fun to walk through the hospital leaving nothing but smiles in Charley's (his name of course) wake.
We spoke of many things. The people at Home Hardware where he worked and how they have supported him but I especially remember the love and pride in his voice when he talked about his nephew and niece. The wonder of how two little people could turn into such amazing grown ups before you know it. He wasn't giving up but he was grateful for everything he had.
A few weeks later:
By the end of last year things had reached a place where there was no returning from. And still Mike and Judy - a closer and more loving sister there never was or will be - allowed me to try to send them smiles.
There were of course many tears but mostly there was the most amazing quiet courage and day after day after day Judy walked into that hospice and personified love. She was his champion and he was her hero.
And none of this is fair.
I do not show you these pictures out of any kind of pride in what little I could do for them. I show them because I am grateful Judy and Mike allowed me the gift of feeling like I could help bring a little light now and then. When I had no words I had Donkey and a moustache balloon. I am a firm believer in themes for battling cancer as a way of allowing others to help and show love.
Goodbye Mike, I'll think of you often, certainly without fail at midnight on the first of every month.