For George: A Sister’s Tribute to Her Brother 60 Years After He Passed from DIPG

We are deeply grateful to Irene B. Kennedy for sharing these heartfelt and moving words about her brother George:

My brother, George, was born and subsequently died from DIPG, several years before I was born. Unfortunately, I never had the good fortune of meeting him or getting to know him except through the memories of our mother.

Today would have been my brother’s 65th birthday.

George Cheney, Jr. was born November 29, 1952 and earned his angel wings April 26, 1958, almost 60 years ago.

I’ll celebrate the memories of him that my mother shared with me most often.  George was an adorable little boy, with a radiant smile that captured the hearts of all that knew him. If mom happened to be napping, or if George awoke before her in the morning, he would play quietly so as not to wake her. George was always happy and tried to radiate that feeling unto others.

Too many children have been taken from families because of DIPG, with little progress made in finding a cure since my brother lost his life in 1958 at the age of 5. Now, 59 years after George’s passing, I’m reading about your child Michael, Avery Huffman, Katherine King, Chad Carr and so many more!

I remember my mother telling me that she would stay in the radiation room comforting her scared little boy while he received radiation treatments, something that we now know isn’t allowed nor safe. Radiation was the only treatment at the time.

Sadly, not much has changed.

I remember my mother telling me, that as a last ditch effort to save their son, she and her husband traveled to the Mayo Clinic by train for a consult. Doctors there told them to take their child home and love him and comfort him as best they could, and that there was nothing further that could be done. Imagine traveling by train several hundred miles with a sick child, only to be re-told there’s nothing that could be done to save your child?

My mother grieved for her little boy every day, until she too took her last breath in 2009.

My mother lost her husband 4 years after George’s passing to a heart attack. She married again and had four more children (I was the second of the four) and nine grandchildren. As a mother now myself with two teenage boys, I understand and appreciate the bond and love a mother has for her children.

Not a day went by that she didn’t think about her little boy, and cry tears for what could have been. Growing up, it’s difficult to form a bond with a sibling you never had the joy of meeting or growing up with. Strangely enough, I think about him often and wonder myself: what could have been?

The only picture I have of my brother is a large wall mounted portrait. It is a charcoal drawing of my brother George S. Cheney, Jr. that proudly hung in my childhood home and now proudly hangs in mine. I can’t put into words, how much it means to me to know my brother will be honored after all these years. The idea that this precious 5-year-old little boy, would one day be forgotten is unimaginable.

I thank you for all the hard work you put into defeating this monster DIPG, for all families that have lost a loved one, and so that one day, other families have hope upon diagnosis. As you know, DIPG is one of the cruelest forms of cancer, if not the cruelest!

Irene Boutaikakis Kennedy