A Story About Our Brother

On November 4th, 2006 following scans Alastair was diagnosed with Stage 3 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare muscle cancer.

On 21 February 1990, 8 minutes after his twin sister Alice, Alastair was born.

When we were younger, we certainly wouldn’t have picked Alastair to be a great sportsman. He was a clumsy child; breaking his collarbone, leg and wrist within a year, prompting the staff at the emergency room to look suspiciously on our parents. However he came into his own later on, with great success in rowing, rugby and athletics. The pudgy brother that we once called “Buddha Boy” was now 6”2 and all muscle.

Alastair was a wonderful brother. He would tolerate our physical affection of hugs and kisses, though he would impose time limits on hugs. He was known to accept monetary donations in exchange for doing things to annoy our Dad. Over the past two years Al’s eagerness to irritate Dad became a clinical test for how good he was feeling.

In late October, Al noticed swelling above his right eye

On November 4th 2006 following scans Alastair was diagnosed with Stage 3 alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare muscle cancer. He was treated at hospital under the most wonderful and compassionate doctor. His treatment involved 14 months of intense chemotherapy and radiation, including many side effects, all of which he took in his stride. He finished treatment at the end of 2007 and enjoyed a summer of remission.

On 5 May 2008, after multiple seizures and a misdiagnosis of a virus in the brain, it was confirmed that Alastair had relapsed with rhabdo in the brain. He was given high doses of chemotherapy and radiation, which caused multiple organ failure. He was in hospital for 3 months in and out of ICU, but managed to stabilise his cancer and he came home in August.

His incredible recovery had a lot to do with his doctors

Doctors Luce and Christoph and two nurses in particular, Mel and Scott, never failed to motivate and inspire him. Over the next months Al regained his strength, took up golf, resumed his social life and completed year 12 with remarkable results. He was quietly determined, and the only person we knew that just got on with it, when most of us would (and did) break down and cry.

At the end of November he started to have periods of confusion and the scans confirmed what we already knew; the cancer was back, and the prognosis poor. His deterioration from there was quite rapid.

On December 30th, 2008, Alastair passed away at home aged 18 with his parents, aunt, sisters and his wonderful nurse Daphne by his side. On January 5th we had a private cremation and the following day a public memorial service was held for Alastair at his school.

We truly believe that Alastair was sent to us as an example

He was patient, kind, compassionate and wise beyond his years. He never once complained about getting cancer, or the many difficult treatments he endured. He never complained about the strict diet we put him on, the millions of pills he had to take, or the simple fact that he couldn’t have the normal teenage existence his mates were granted. He would always find time to worry about other cancer patients we had met, and how their treatment was going. Al wouldn’t have wanted to be defined by his illness. He actually saw a benefit, as cancer formed part of his life’s education, and taught him lessons he would not have otherwise learnt.

His friend Robert described Alastair’s companionship perfectly. “People who say ‘you never know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ never had a friend like Alastair. I always appreciated his friendship”.

Even though Al was our younger brother, we looked up to him and admired his amazing strength and bravery.

Throughout life, and over the past two years especially, he carried himself with the sort of dignity and courage that we hope to one day achieve.

Alastair will always be remembered, and we know that now he is taking care of us, and is part of a group who have earned their angel wings through cancer.