Tuesday, August 28, 2012

yes, i know you aren't technically "littler" than me anymore...

Growing up, T and I had a very balanced relationship: both far edges of the grey area between adversaries and colluders were evenly stacked. Sometimes he was the typical obnoxious, youngest sibling; sometimes I was the disappointing- or antagonizing, middle child. There have been a few painful verbal volleys, particularly as we both struggled to navigate adolescence and young-adulthood, but when I think of my little brother I think of all the times we've looked out for one-another.

One of my earliest memories of T being my brother and not just some wiggly baby in the house is of liberating him from his crib during nap time so we could play on the floor of our room. We had to play very quietly, but I think we got away with not taking naps for about two weeks before our mom got wise and turned the crib so the drop-down panel was facing the wall.

When we were 9 and 13, our parents divorced. T and I handled the new family turbulence differently, and neither of us particularly well. We fought more, as teenage siblings are wont to do, but it hurt extra when we did because we were the most constant constant each other had. I think I was supposed to be a good older sister and screw up less, help him more, but I didn't know enough about taking care of myself to know how to look out for people who might need me. Still, it always felt like T and I were in this little boat together in a big, crazy ocean... and who can not fight when you are two people in a little dinghy in the middle of the sea? It's inevitable when you are frustrated and don't know what to do. It wasn't all arguing and angst, though. We helped each other through homesickness at camp, teamed up on the hard dungeons in Zelda, devised ways to circumvent our parents, and commiserated when life was feeling a bit too overwhelming.

As adults, our relationship is the best it has ever been. We have become interesting, loyal, clever people and continue to grow as individuals. I get some of the best encouragement from him when I need it, before I have a chance to ask. I am impressed with the man he is becoming and I try to live my life the way I wish I had when I was not a very good sister because I want him to be proud of me, too. We share an unbreakable bond as siblings, and we take that bond seriously. We have an amazing older brother, as well, but T and I grew up on that little boat together.

T is the only relative I have that could be considered as a bone marrow donor. He is my only full sibling, and still there is only a 25% chance he'd have matching HLA markers. He also happens to have the immune system I always wanted. When I had chicken pox for 3 months, he had it for 3 days. Every time I had the flu, I would end up with bronchitis or a sprained rib from coughing; I can only think of a few times that he even had a cold. T didn't miss a beat when he offered to be my donor. My mom let him know as soon as we found out I had MDS, and while I was home trying to think of how I was going to ask him to go through weeks of discomfort so I could have some of his bone marrow, he texted me that he wanted to be screened as a donor. 

We've waited a long time to find out if he's a match. First, I had to get on Medicaid. Next was the long wait for Medicaid to approve my bone marrow transplant. The total timeline there was about six months and when the transplant was approved T got a swab in the mail. The two weeks it took for the lab to get his cheek swab, test it, and compare it to my work-up were the most tense of all. Dealing with Social Security and DHS is a frustrating mess, but I want T to be my donor more than anything. Not just because he has a rockin' immune system, but because it would mean the world to me to know that my little brother is the one saving my life. I would be just as grateful to get marrow donated by a stranger, but T means so much to me I would rather have his marrow kicking all the crazy out of my bones.

Imagine my elation this morning when I read an e-mail my transplant doctor sent this morning that said T is a perfect match!

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