When I was an infant my older brother Adam was diagnosed with cancer. It was a brain tumor the doctors told my parents. His chance for survival was not good. The tumor was located at the base of his brain stem. My brother underwent the best medical treatment available at the time (1970’s) which consisted of a lot of body-damaging chemo. Things didn’t look good. But then an odd thing happened, the doctors were proven wrong. The cancer went into remission.
The doctors then said while he made it, the damage done to his body would not allow him to live past thirty. Well, once again they were wrong. My brother was born on July 15th, 1971. He is now 42 years old. Things have been very, very bad for him in the last year. He suffered a stroke in 2013 that all but immobilized him. At first he was confined to a wheelchair. Gradually physical therapy got him able to walk.
The cancer Adam had attacked his thyroid gland. For those of you medically savvy the thyroid gland controls your growth amongst many other important functions. This stopped Adam at 4 foot 10. Throughout school and life he dealt with the challenges being smaller in physical stature can present to a kid socially.
Earlier this spring he had to have surgery on that same part of his brain. The worrying started all over again because the doctors told my mom that his lungs were not strong enough to do the surgery without putting him on a venilator. As a family we prepared for the worst. The surgery came, the daily phone calls to my mom got a little more intense each time. They did what they needed to do and he made it out ok. So that is where we are. My brother only has partial ability to speak and move since his stroke. He is alive and has a family around him that by now is as experienced in helping cope with his cancer as any family could be. I love him and I tear up thinking about losing him. I know, though, that these things are beyond my control. I accept them but hate them with every fiber of my being.
Last year I heard of my friend Sean Webb being diagnosed with Cancer. Now, I think it is appropriate to qualify this statement. When Sean and I met I was no longer living in Wilmington, North Carolina where I met him. I was in Knoxville. So I would only see Sean a few times a year and our conversations never really got very deep as we were not around each other enough to develop a deeper friendship. I make this statement, because though I am crushed, I can’t begin to understand the level of grief that Sean’s fellow comics in Wilmington feel. I can however, understand the emotions his family is going through. Although my brother is still alive today, we have been down this road many times with that experience comes a deeper understanding of the loss.
Sean was one of the comics that helped my good friend Timmy Sherrill grow the comedy scene around his club Nutt Street Comedy Room. Sean developed deep friendship with a core group of comics in the city that shared his passion for making people laugh. Outside of his own family the comics the performed at Nutt Street Comedy Room ARE his family.
I kept up with Sean over the last year via facebook messaging. I would follow the posts from his comedy family in Wilmington and on my talks with Timmy Sherill I would occasionally ask about him. Things over the course of the year seemed to improve, then they went badly, then they improved. Very typical of the unpredictability of cancer. I got a hold of my friends at the Steve Haydu St. Patrick’s Day Lo-Tide Ride to ask about making Sean’s family a possible benefactor for their event and they told me they already had him on their radar. The charity helps families in the Wilmington area deal with the financial burdens that cancer treatments can put them through. Sean’s family certainly was dealing with this. The bills were piling up and Lew Morgante helped start a GoFoundMe campaign for Sean.
Then about a week ago things suddently got very bad for Sean. He was admitted to the hopsital with severe pain. At this point I won’t speculate on details based on the information I learned from facebook posts. I will say that on Sunday morning, April 27th, Sean Webb died in his loving wife’s arms. An entire comedy family got punched in the stomach that day.
What came next was the truly amazing part of this whole story. The comics didn’t go out and get fucked up and cry and make it about themselves for even one second. They stepped up and made a list of ways they could help Sean’s family including going to his house and fixing things, walking the dogs and much much more. Sean had advanced to the finals of my Port City’s Top Comic Contest which he was to perform in on Saturday May 3rd. The comics got angry with me for taking his name off the list of performers as they were in the process of preparing a video taped collage of Sean’s stand-up to play and compete in the contest for him. I am at a loss for word to say how amazing and beautiful the outpouring of action has been from his comedy brothers and sisters. It is unlike anything I have ever witnessed and I could not be more proud.
If you have taken the time to read this, I ask simply this. Please donate to the GoFundMe campaign for Sean’s Family. Let his love for laughter shine on and help them through these very trying times. May laughter always win in the end.