The world is not a perfect place. At times, unfortunate things happen to the people who deserve them the least. Take, for example, my brother. Sure, he may not get the best grades, and yeah he’s a bit of a rebel, especially compared to myself and my sister. He’s a teenager, and boys will be boys, right? At the same time, he’s a very smart kid, and at the very core of his heart is a very good person. Perhaps at times, he’s even been the type of kid who can get in trouble with the law and not be phased by it. Yet no matter how much mischief he causes, he didn’t deserve to get cancer.
No one should have to have cancer, and certainly never twice. Unfortunately, that is just what my dear little brother has had to go through. At age six, he was first diagnosed with acute leukemia. At the time, I was only twelve years old. When you’re that young, the gravity of the situation doesn’t really hit you. Of course it was horrible seeing him in the hospital, or gaining weight from the medications, or losing all of his hair from the chemotherapy. Still, at such a young age I couldn’t quite grasp the concept that my brother’s cancer was a really, really bad thing. The doctor told us he would be fine, so I was inclined to believe that everything was okay.
For a while, everything was okay. After a few years of treatment he went into remission, and we figured his leukemia was something we could put behind us. We mistakingly believed this was something we would never have to worry about again.
August 29, 2007. The most dreaded news comes by phone. The leukemia has come back, eight years after his first diagnosis. It was his first day of school as a high school sophomore. He couldn’t even make it to his first class – he was in the nurse’s office before the first school bell rang. Off to his doctor he went – the same doctor who treated him the first time, and had been giving my brother bi-monthly checkups since he went into remission. Our worst fears had come true. The leukemia had come back, stronger than ever.
You might wonder, how did I take the news the second time around? My reaction was completely different than the first time. Now fully past my teenage years, I had the maturity to fully understand the weight of the situation. Tears. Many tears. Utter helplessness at not being able to do a single thing to make him better. I wanted so desperately to be able to give him my bone marrow, or do anything at all that would help him beat the leukemia as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I was not a match. No one in our family was. We are of such mixed racial background that it would have been near impossible to find a match in the national registry that his body wouldn’t reject, so the doctors decided to take a different, albeit longer route to rid him of his cancer.
September 8, 2008. Over a year has passed since we found out that he had relapsed. I spent the day at the beach with my brother, one of the few times he can get out of the house. His blood counts are low, so he can’t be in close contact with many people, but it’s a school day (he’s home schooled for now) so the beaches are emptier than they would normally be on such a nice day. It’s remarkable how much he’s changed since that first diagnoses. Nowadays, he’s much taller than me, although I’m six years older, and he’s growing into a man faster than I can keep track. His hair is growing back after the most recent hair loss – he cares so much about his looks these days, he hates having to lose his hair. He loves the ladies now – no longer the innocent, sweet little boy he used to be – and they all go wild over him. He’ll be driving in a few months – I still can’t believe that this kid brother of mine will soon be allowed behind the wheel of a car. He still seems far too young for that.
At the same time, he seems older than his age of nearly sixteen years. Concepts that are, even now, foreign to me seem second-nature to him. He educates me about gang life in our home town, assuring me that he isn’t part of any gang; he tells me about the parties he goes to. Popularity was never something I strived for back in school, although for some convoluted reason he seems to think I was one of the “cool kids”; he’s easily one of the most popular kids in his class.
Despite our many differences, he is still my baby brother and I love him dearly. It kills me that there isn’t anything I can do to rid him of his leukemia. Like many people, I turn to food when I feel hopeless or helpless. The difference is that I don’t start eating lots of food when I’m upset – instead I cook. It’s the only way I know how to help out my family in such times of need.
In the same way that October is national Breast Cancer month, the month of September is the national month for both Children’s Cancer and Leukemia – two causes near and dear to my heart. These cupcakes were the perfect way to support these causes for me – not only are they delicious enough to brighten anyones day, they are also just the right colors – orange for Leukemia, and gold for Children’s Cancer. I used lemon frosting to complement the sunny orange flavor of the cupcakes, and to round out the citrus flavor, mango strips served as the cancer ribbon garnish.
Want to know how you can help? There are many people who have leukemia and other bone cancers who are unable to find a bone marrow match. Please try to get tested for a bone marrow transplant registry… the test consists of nothing more than a simple blood test, like you might get at a normal physical. By doing this, your blood sample will put in an international registry, so in the case that you are a match for ant of the many children or adults who have leukemia or a similar disease, you can help save a life.
Here are some national and international Bone Marrow Transplant Registries that you can contact:
- American Bone Marrow Donor Registry
- American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics
- Anthony Nolan Trust – UK
- Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide
- The Caitlin Raymond International Registry
- Center for International Blood & Marrow Research
- Agence de la Biomédecine – France
- Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
- National Marrow Donor Program
- South Texas Blood & Tissue Center
- Zentrales Knoche-nmarkspender-Register Deutschland – Germany
Thank you to anyone who decides to register!
- 1/2 cup butter
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 egg whites
- 1 pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Sift flour and set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg yolks one at a time.
- Fold in sifted flour, alternating with orange juice.
- In another bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff and add a pinch of salt.
- Fold whisked egg whites into the mixture.
- Spoon batter into a cupcake pan lined with cupcake cups.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into cupcakes comes out clean.
- Frost with your choice of frosting (I used store-bought lemon-flavored frosting).
- If desired, garnish with strips of dried mango, twisted into the shape of a ribbon.