Losing a child to cancer is every parent’s worst nightmare, but imagine losing two children within a year and a half of each other. This became our family’s reality when our twin boys Seth and Joel both passed away from cancer before the age of 5 years old.
It is still hard for us to comprehend Seth and Joel are never coming home. Since the moment our twins were born, they were best friends who did everything together. We often think back on our time together as a family, watching our three boys playing at home as some of our most cherished memories. We miss the contentment of those years and often yearn for the time we had before the boys got sick.
Both twins were diagnosed with low platelets in the summer of 2016, just a few months before their second birthday. After weeks of tests and endless time spent waiting, our worst fears were confirmed when we learned Seth was diagnosed with Myeloid Sarcoma, a rare form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Even after learning of Seth’s diagnosis, it took us weeks to process this was happening and our baby was sick. This reality became even more daunting after learning that since the boys shared identical DNA that Joel, too, may become sick.
As parents we wanted to get a plan in place, creating a list of tasks to give us a sense of control in what was an uncontrollable situation. We felt like if we went step by step and checked each treatment and therapy off the list, we would get past the cancer and back to our normal lives. Unfortunately, this is not how cancer works. After Joel’s AML diagnosis and relapse, it hit us that checking off all the boxes on our list did not ensure the boys would get better.
Through the unimaginable loss of Joel and Seth just 18 months apart, we have learned so much about life and the importance of family. Some of the most valuable lessons we learned include:
Finding joy through the sadness
Since the boys’ passing not a minute has gone by when we haven’t thought of them. On the hardest days when the grief is overwhelming, we think back on the boys’ journey, and how even on their most painful days they always found a reason to smile. We have learned through the twin’s strength throughout their battle and their older brother, Nathaniel, that although the pain of losing Seth and Joel will never fully go away, we can always find a reason to smile.
We are resilient
Watching Joel’s and Seth’s strength and positivity radiate through one of the most difficult experiences a child can go through has given us the strength to keep going when we no longer think we can. Through this experience we have learned how resilient children are. Through the boys’ battle with cancer they had to endure so much pain, but they never stopped fighting to get better. Our son Nathaniel has taught us so much as we have watched him try to navigate life without his two best friends. He’s done an amazing job of continuing to live his life, and he is teaching us every day to try to live a life with joy while keeping the boys’ memory alive.
Family is everything
Through this experience we have learned the small things many people get worked up over are meaningless. The most important things in life are love and family. We have a deeper appreciation for our loved ones and have a greater understanding of sharing our love with those around us. We now take the time to slow down and enjoy being together, and celebrating the boys lives while creating more memories as a family.
Although our lives will never be the same and the void the boys left will never be filled, we are devoting giving back in their memory. We volunteer at the hospital Seth and Joel were treated at to offer our guidance and support to other families who are navigating similar hardships. We are also working with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, who selected Seth and Joel as their 2020 Ambassadors, acting as their voices and sharing their journey in an effort to raise awareness around the importance of funding cancer research to ensure no other family has to experience the loss we have.
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