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Drew Kelley’s winning entry from Gilda’s Club Chicago’s Teen Essay Contest

Drew Kelley

Drew Kelley

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Updated: March 27, 2014 1:58PM



I’m not a young man with a lot of words. I guess sometimes life makes it hard to find words. I had no words when my older brother, Will, first went to the hospital with my parents. I had no words when I found out that Will had cancer. I had no words when they told me it was leukemia, a blood cancer. I did not know what that meant.

I had no words when I first saw him in the hospital, when I saw a chart that said acute lymphoblastic leukemia had the highest survival rate. I had no words when he finally got to come home after eight days in the hospital. I had no words when I saw he was not as strong, that his face was pale and all the weight he had lost. I had no words when I learned that he would be gone at least once a week for chemo. Thursday was chemo day. We all dreaded what that meant for Will.

I had no words when I learned that he would have weekly treatment for almost eight months. I had no words when I learned he would have chemo every month after that for a total of 3 ½ years. I had no words when I realized if he got sick with a low temp, he would have to be in the hospital for several days. I had no words when I learned I couldn’t be around any family or friends who had been near someone who was sick. I didn’t want Will to get sick. I had no words when I learned what chemo was like. It meant lots of shots, IVs of strong medicines, lots of pills.

I had no words when I learned that the chemo, which was supposed to make the cancer stay away, was going to make him sick and cause lots of side effects. He slept all the time and was nauseous every day. I had no words when I would hear him in the bathroom or his bedroom vomiting. I had no words when he finally got strength to play games and sports with us again. I missed my brother. I had no words when I saw how other people acted differently. Everyone acted differently. Some people had no words. Some people had the wrong words: ”I know how you feel.” Some people asked about Will and it seemed like they really didn’t care. I had no words when strangers who were “friends” came up and hugged me.

I had no words when I knew my parents had to spend more time with Will and less time with me.

I had no words when others were always coming up to me and their first question was, “How’s Will?” and not about how I was.

I had no words when Will finally finished weekly chemo and radiation. He only had 2 1/2 years of monthly treatment left. He was finally a little better.

I had no words when I woke up and learned that Will and my mom left for the hospital because he was really sick with appendicitis. I had no words when I learned Will was in ICU. He’d never been there before. I had no words when I learned that Will was very, very sick. He was on a breathing machine and had lots of medicines and blood being given to him. I had no words when I finally got to see him in ICU. He didn’t seem himself at all. He said no words.

I had no words when my parents came home to say Will was gone. I had no words for many days. I had no words when all the people showed up for the service.

It’s more than a year later and I still have no words. No words to explain what happened or his story. I have no words to describe how much I miss and love him every day. Sometimes there are just no words when cancer shows up.

Drew Kelley is a student at Fremd High School who was awarded first prize Feb. 26 at the annual Gilda’s Club Chicago Teen Essay Awards Reception.



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