Cancer Siblings Part Two

Nathan is our oldest child; a role he has always taken seriously.  He has made a conscience effort to set a good example for his siblings which has made my job much easier.  Greg has always been his best friend.  As an officer and pilot in the Air Force, he is an incredibly patriotic man.  Yet I know that he true allegiance is to his family and his God.

Nathan was not home when Greg was in the hospital.  He was gone for two years serving a mission in Tacloban, Philippines.  In fact, Mark and I dropped him off at the MTC (Missionary Training Center) on a Wednesday.  We flew back home to Washington on Thursday morning and drove directly to pick up Greg from school and go to the hospital where we learned our diagnosis of osteosarcoma and how they had mapped out our life for the next seven months.

Nathan did not miss out on the experience.  He had to deal with what was happening, just like the rest of the family.  His experience, however, is unlike what the rest of us went through.  He did not have the family surrounding him to offer support.  He didn’t have friends to bring in meals, leave surprises on the porch or share pints of ice cream.  He had to learn to reach out in a way that has strengthened him ever since.

He wrote this in October of 2015:

Mine Arm of Mercy is Extended

Jackie entering the MTC.

This week my sister Jackie entered the Missionary Training Center. I am so proud and excited for her. She will be a great missionary. Her entry to the MTC is almost exactly 5 years after I entered the MTC myself and has provided me an extra opportunity to reflect back on my first few weeks in the MTC.

Me holding Greg when he came home.

 Leading up to when I entered the MTC my brother Greg started to have a tumor grow in his leg. I don’t remember all of what happened, but at first I know I blew it off. It did not seem to be that big of a deal, until it started to grow really, really big. In the few weeks before I left for my mission he started to go to the doctors and have tests done. It was scary. I am very close to Greg. He is and has been my best friend since basically the time he came home from the hospital. It was really hard to watch this tumor grow on his leg and think of the possible things that it could mean for him, and for my family.

Its difficult for me to share my thoughts and emotions with people. As the oldest child I have always taken it upon myself to be there for my younger siblings. I have a very protective side to me and would do pretty much anything to protect my family. As Greg started to go through his medical tests, I tried to always be positive for the benefit of my siblings. I figured if they saw that I wasn’t worried, they would not be worried either. It also served to mask my own worry from my friends and family, though I am sure my parents saw through it. I also spent a lot of time coping by walking through our woods and reading my many books on airplanes.

With less than a week for me to go into the MTC we learned that Greg’s condition would require him to go through some pretty intense surgeries and chemotherapy. I had some experiences during this time that I will share at some other point, but in short, through giving him a priesthood blessing and some time alone I knew that Greg would be okay and that I would see him again after our missions.

When I entered the MTC, I was feeling confident knowing that Greg would be okay. This does not mean that I had no hard times though. I felt like I was abandoning my family, especially my younger siblings. I also felt very left out. I couldn’t shave my head with my brother or be there to share in the adventures of exploring the hospital with my dad and siblings. I also did not have my airplane books, which had been my coping mechanism. Before the MTC, I would just read these books and be lost in daydreams of flying the most advanced fighter jets in future conflicts, or old WW2 bombers on missions over Nazi Germany etc. After a few weeks it got the best of me.

One day in particular was very hard for me. That night I laid in bed and the weight of it all started to crash in on me. Learning Cebuano (a Filipino language) was hard and I just wanted to be there with my family. I also did not want Greg to go through all of this cancer stuff. I broke down and started to cry. I also started to pray.

While I have been praying my whole life, I have never had such an honest conversation with God. I let him know how I felt so alone and how I felt like I wasn’t able to help my family while away from them. I also begged that the cancer would miraculously be taken away from Greg. I asked for that for a while. God let me struggle for a while, and when I was out of tears and at the peak of my sorrow He finally gave comfort to my soul. In a very deep and extremely personal way He answered my prayer. I knew then that everything would be okay.

My favorite picture of Christ. 

God let me know that the timing of this happening was no accident. There was a reason this was happening while I was not at home. He let me know again that Greg and I would be able to see each other again and spend more time together. He told me that he knew the struggles I had, especially with my trying to learn Cebuano, and the rather intense desires I had to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force. Most importantly, God let me know that I was his child and that he was looking over me and my family. He also let me know very personally about the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and that I could always turn to Christ when I felt alone (Alma 7:11-13).

This lesson has stuck with me since that day. There were many times in the MTC, in the Philippines, and in the years since I have returned home that I have felt alone and helpless. Each time though I think back to that night of prayer and the answer I received and remember what I learned. And each time I have felt alone I have turned to God again. And each time he has healed my heart and given me the strength I need. And whenever I do this, I don’t feel alone. I know that our Heavenly Father listens to us each individually and helps us all individually. He knew what I needed that night, and the lesson I needed for my life. It has been a great blessing to me since that night. I know that God will help us all individually and is just waiting with his arm outstretched to us, waiting for us to reach out to him. And when we reach, he grabs our hands and lifts us a little higher (3 Nephi 9:14).

2 thoughts on “Cancer Siblings Part Two

  1. Nathan, this was such a humbling article you wrote. You have been through many challenges in your life. Both you & your family. I am so grateful to have known your family. I know our family misses your family so much. You all are inspirations to us. I, like Aparicia Sessum, shed many tears while reading your account. I know the Lord will watch over you & all of the Andrus family. Patti Scrivens


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