Learning lessons of love ‘Senior Brooke James reflects on grandfather’s battle with cancer’

Photo submitted by Brooke James

James has many warm memories of sitting on her grandfather’s lap while he would tell her stories.

Sofia Guevara, Staff writer

She walked past her grandfather’s secluded guest room and catching a glimpse of his exhausted body resting and healing from a week of visits to the hospital. Her grandfather’s words, “Life is precious and not to be taken for granted,” echo in her head. The tension was thick in the house and her mother’s worried face told her all she needed to know, that her grandfather’s cancer was back.

Now, after three years, senior Brooke James walks the halls with a smile. An earnest smile like that is not faked or shined halfheartedly. Through the hardships James has experienced with her grandpa she has learned to be optimistic and has learned the important value of life.

James’ grandpa, Gary Stines, survived an explosion at work that later affected his health. When James was five years old her grandpa was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system.

“For as long as I can remember he has had cancer,” James said, “I’ve seen him go through chemo and it is really hard.”

James struggled with her grandpas alternation of happiness and health to seeing him weak and isolated in consequence of chemotherapy.

The six hour drive from Pampa, Texas to Memorial Herman Memorial City Medical Center is a routine for Stines. James’ grandparents stay at her house when they come to get his treatment.

“He never complains and he always drives the whole six hours. He is always like ‘I’ll do it myself, I don’t need any help.’ ” Brooke said.

One of her fondest memories include sitting on her grandpa’s lap and learning how to play the banjo. Thinking back on the moment she smiles and laughs and tries to remember the notes he taught her. She did not know that later, he would teach her an important lesson about life.

“He told me once that he took many things for granted, and he was not going to anymore, that he was going to cherish every moment even though it is hard.” James said.

After hearing  that James’ grandpas was cancer free, the cancer returned causing tension and distress in her family.

“I remember thinking ‘I don’t want to go back to that’ and wondering what was going to happen,” James said, “Everything felt out of place, but I’ve always been really happy and even if everything is wrong I’ll pretend like it is okay. It was hard though.”

 

A week later, there was no sign of cancer. James was relieved and excited to celebrate.

“We drove out to Pampa and surprised him. He told us ‘I knew this wasn’t going to last forever. I told you.’ ”

Ever since her grandpa showed no sign of cancer, James has been free to enjoy her grandpa’s health.

“At the moment [when the cancer was present], our family just wanted to cherish every moment, but after we found out he was clear of cancer I could actually talk to him and get to know him.”

Now when she hears her grandpa start a story with a “back in my day” she smiles and listens. James gets an opportunity to get to know her grandpa, create new memories and have him in her life for the years to come.

“He taught me that it is not a bad life and even though things get really hard they will get a lot better and to cherish everything because life is really precious,” James said.