The Broken Pack™: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss

Brotherly Bonds, Brain Cancer, & Sibling Grief: Chris / Michael

November 08, 2023 Dr. Angela Dean / Dr. Christopher Ban Season 3 Episode 2
The Broken Pack™: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss
Brotherly Bonds, Brain Cancer, & Sibling Grief: Chris / Michael
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers
Sibling Loss Due to Brain Cancer:  Chris's Anticipatory Grief, Continuing Bonds, and Legacy-Building 

In this episode, of The Broken Pack: Stories of Adult Sibling Loss,  Dr. Dean speaks with surviving sibling Dr. Chris Ban, an oral surgeon and Jeopardy champion, who opens up about the anticipatory grief of and profound grief after losing his brother Michael to astrocytoma.

Listen as Chris shares how learning to grieve his brother for the duration of his illness and after his death has affected him and how Chris maintains continuing bonds with Michael from music, sports, the arts, and even on Jeopardy.

Drs. Ban and Dean discuss how sibling loss survivors in general and men, in particular, may find it difficult to talk about their grief, but that it is important to overcome this stigma and disenfranchisement and reach out for support.


For more information on:
Chris's Jeopardy appearance, honoring his brother: https://www.tvinsider.com/1097578/jeopardy-champion-chris-ban-brother-cancer/

Michael McNaughton Ban Memorial Fund - https://pittsburghfoundation.org/michaelmcnaughtonban

The Michael McNaughton Ban Memorial Boathouse- https://www.zeffy.com/en-US/fundraising/51b65f93-0d02-48bc-8377-728a8ffd25a2

For a book for children about being in the hospital, written by Chris's brother Michael, please see https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-at-Hospital-Michael-Ban/dp/1645438910

Support the show

If you would like more information or to share your own adult sibling loss story, please contact me, Dr. Angela Dean, at contact@thebrokenpack.com or go to our website, thebrokenpack.com.

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Thank you!

Angela M. Dean, PsyD, FT

Credits:

The Broken Pack™ Podcast is produced by 27 Elephants Media

"If Tomorrow Starts Without Me" © ℗ 2023, 2024
Written by Joe Mylward and Brian Dean
Performed by Fuji Sounds (feat. MYLWD.)
Licensed for use by The Broken Pack™

Dr. Dean:

Hello and welcome to the Broken Pack, a podcast focused on giving adult survivors of sibling loss, a platform to share their stories and to be heard. Something that many sibling loss survivors state that they never have had. Sibling Loss is Misunderstood™. The Broken Pack exists to change that and to support survivors. I'm your host, Dr. Angela Dean. In today's episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Christopher Ban, an oral surgeon and Jeopardy winner, about the loss of his brother, Michael, to astrocytoma. We discuss anticipatory grief and mourning and continuing bonds that Chris has found with Michael. Take a listen. Okay. So, welcome to this episode and I'll let you introduce yourself, Chris.

Dr. Ban:

I'm Chris Ban, and I live in Pittsburgh, and I'm an oral surgeon here, in town.

Dr. Dean:

All right. so is there anything else you want to say about yourself

Dr. Ban:

obviously, I have, I had a brother, have a brother. we're both born and raised in Pittsburgh. Both, fifth generation, both sides of our family. Obviously, I miss him a lot, and I'm excited to talk about him. I'm glad you... have this podcast put together. I was telling you right before we went on, I've binged every single one, every season. And every single person, first of all, I think they really honored their brother or their sisters. It's, as I'm probably about to find out, not too easy to come on here and talk about some of these things, but every single one, including yours, someone said, sometimes I said, that is exactly how I have felt at one point or another during the whole thing before he passed. And then, and since he passed,

Dr. Dean:

Well, thank you for that, that feedback. It's, it's nice to know when you're putting these things out in the world that they are helpful.

Dr. Ban:

it's very soothing. as weird as it sounds, to hear someone else break down a little bit and sometimes cuss it out a little bit. Has there, I think a couple of people have, it's like, it's really therapeutic and soothing just to hear that and comforting. So

Dr. Dean:

yeah. Well, thank you. So before we talk about losing Michael, what do you want our listeners and the world to know about him? Mm hmm.

Dr. Ban:

he was. Exceptional. he, before he got sick, even after pretty much could do anything he tried and set out to do from raw talent and he passed from a brain tumor, which we'll get into. And that slowly takes away all your faculties. it's sort of like, I described it was like a dimmer switch on One of the people you love most in the world, just slowly being turned down. He loses a little bit every day, every week. But before that, he was an attorney. He was a supremely gifted athlete. he was a division one rower in Georgetown. but, and he wasn't perfect. nobody is, but he also had a really tender heart. And he was an artist, I think at heart too, and a musician. probably a lot of, maybe his friends and some of my family didn't even know that, but he was, a really, not just gifted musician, but also it spoke to him in a way that I think speaks to artists,

Dr. Dean:

Mm hmm. It sounds like he was a very positive person, Do you want to say more about your relationship with him?

Dr. Ban:

Yeah. gosh, he's like my first friend. I remember the day he was born the oldest picture we have of us is he was probably not even a day old. I'm holding in my lap. I was about just shy of three years old and You know when you're growing up He's just it's like the sun and the moon and your brother like it's just there every day. and I I've said that my son, my mom last week, I said, one of the things that bothers me is I don't have a lot of very specific, like memories in narrative form that I can remember from while we were growing up. I remember yeah, we know we played in the snow I know we went to Kennywood, which, for those you know from Pittsburgh is the greatest amusement park in the world.

Dr. Dean:

Ha ha

Dr. Ban:

And she told me he was just always there, so it wouldn't have stuck out. He was just there with you all the time. And so, so he was. When I went away to college, he was still in high school. And he had just started, he was a freshman when I left. And when I came back, in college, he was, you know, 17, 18 years old. I had come back from a year abroad, and he was just this really confident. High school student just graduated high up in his class, and had won a national and a couple of Midwest titles in rowing. He went into rowing because I was on the team. I was his significantly less cool older brother.

Dr. Dean:

ha.

Dr. Ban:

which he never... Never let me know. I knew I was not as cool then, but he never made me feel that, which was, but he was super positive, always optimistic. When he was two years old, he actually got meningitis and almost died then. And I remember, that's a specific memory. I was probably eight and I don't know why I got, I was just a real sensitive kid or something, but I got real worked up one night. I went in his room while I sleep and he's what is wrong? He was like, he must've been five years old. I said, you almost died. He was, yeah, but I didn't. And he's it was the middle of the night. He spent his time cheering me up. but, we really reconnected when I finished my surgery training. Well, when I went to dental school, he was in DC, I was in Boston. And I went down and visited him a bunch of times. And as adults, we really. Not that we weren't close growing up, but we really saw eye to eye more. We were more peers, because when you have a little brother and he's three years younger than you, you're in different stages of life at every point from like kindergarten through 12th grade, just because there's so much change that happens in your life growing up. But when we were both adults, we really got close the last, I'd say, 10 years or so of his life. best friend at that point. When I moved back to Pittsburgh the last six years, we hung out a lot.

Dr. Dean:

It's interesting about the meningitis, So, you had this sense, this memory of his fragility even then.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah,

Dr. Dean:

how that carried through for you. Mm hmm.

Dr. Ban:

I guess it never really stuck with me that, hey, he's fragile in anyway. I think my mom always felt that way. My grandmother passed away when my brother was 11 days old, and my mom always had this residual feeling that, oh, she wasn't able to give him enough attention the first five or six months he was alive because of the grieving there. And so to him, he was always like a fragile kid, but he was bigger than me, stronger than me. He'd

Dr. Dean:

you,

Dr. Ban:

party harder when he was in college than I ever considered. yeah, to me, he wasn't ever fragile. He was he always got, he got away with everything too, but the younger brother always does. Yeah.

Dr. Dean:

Okay. I can't speak to that. So do you want to shift into the story of loss?

Dr. Ban:

Yeah. Sure. We can do that. let's see, it was 2018, which, We're recording this now, that was about a little over five years ago, five and a half years ago or so. And he was coming home from work and he couldn't read his cell phone. he was reading ESPN or something on his cell phone and the words stopped making sense. So he called his friend and basically went straight to his house and they called my dad and they thought, oh, he's having a stroke. And my dad said get him to hospital right? away. So his friend like rushed him, ran every red light to Allegheny general hospital here in town. I was out of town. I was in actually with my now wife. She was my girlfriend at the time. And we were in Mexico and I got a phone call and my dad's not really good at hiding stuff. He was trying to emotionally not tell me, Hey, something's wrong. You might want to come home. So I figured it out that, they'd found a tumor in his brain. So he had a biopsy. I was in Mexico for maybe. 48 hours and I had to navigate get an emergency flight home, not really know what was going on. So I came back and, he was diagnosed with astrocytoma, which is a stage three out of four brain cancer. and He was given, I think, six months or so, and he survived just under four and a half years. So it was a long haul. He did radiation, he did chemo, our family, everything just changes, as soon as you get that diagnosis. I knew he was not going to survive like where we're going to be 90 years old, rocking in rocking chairs on the porch I just knew. And so a long time to get ready so We were pretty purposeful for those four years in, the sense that, and we never really said openly, Hey, and I kind of regret this. I never said, Are you scared? Are you like, are you ready to go? Do you know? And he had his own ways of telling that, which we can get into, But yeah, it was a, four really tough years. He was able to work at first and he wasn't, then he was again. He was, like I said, a great athlete. And then he couldn't even, for a little bit, he couldn't even walk. And then he was able to walk again after his surgery where they removed part of the tumor. So that was hard. My mom, so we're pretty close. It's my mom and my dad and I and my brother. And she was like, you're taking his illness extremely hard and it did affect me. he was phenomenal and to see him not even be able to run, not to be able to walk without health. And as it, the last year in particular is pretty rough because last few months he couldn't even talk actually, but the time was very purposeful. We had my wife and I had a baby. it was didn't arrive till after he passed, but he was the first person I was able to tell, I took him out to lunch. I saw the receipt. Yeah. In my email, because it's all digital now, the receipt from the restaurant down in Pittsburgh, I took him to and I told him he couldn't talk, but you could tell he's real excited. And, man, he just would have loved that kid. He was, he would have been such a great uncle. There's a lot, there's a lot in there in four years. And I don't know what else your listeners want to hear about. Brain cancer is not pretty. it's a pretty awful way to see somebody go. Not that there's a good way to see somebody go slowly, but every day you just sort of lose a little bit.

Dr. Dean:

Mm-Hmm.

Dr. Ban:

I remember him telling me when we were at lunch in Baltimore, I took him down to Hopkins to see if he could get an experimental treatment. I remember feeling at one point when I, it didn't occur to me until I took him down there. I was like, oh, no one will say this to us, but he's dying. He's, and they don't have anything else to do. So we met with the, there's a doctor at Yale, they're at Hopkins. When I went to Hopkins, I could tell the guy knew my brother didn't have more than maybe a year or two, but there was no more medicine to try, no more surgery. And he just was like, just being nice until we left,

Dr. Dean:

mm-Hmm.

Dr. Ban:

but we went to lunch in Baltimore, which I was going to tell you. And He based up, basically given the idea that he'd ever be able to have a kid. and that's the only time, growing up as close as we are, he never talked to me about like the girl he was dating, whether things were getting serious or not. It's the only time he like let his guard down with that sort of thing, I think that he and his, I guess they were married then, had said they weren't gonna have kids unless he went into remission, which he wasn't going into remission. yeah, there's a lot, there's a lot of hard memories. But there are some good ones too.

Dr. Dean:

I'm curious about that amount of time. So you thought you had six months, so you. Went into this intensive anticipatory grief, and then it was prolonged for another three and a half, four years.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah,

Dr. Dean:

What was that like for you?

Dr. Ban:

it's exhausting. It's, you start thinking, you're having hope. Maybe there's just. Maybe all the papers are wrong. Maybe everybody else has passed. Maybe he's just different. Maybe he's special. Maybe something's going on here. They can't be explained because, he's basically after his surgery, he had no new symptoms, nothing for about a year and a half. So when you hear six months and then he's just doing fine. And that wasn't a period of time when he went back to work, he was able to do like sports like golf and things like that, but we weren't going to go run like a so it. It's hard. It's hard on my family. I remember saying, I feel like my family's just being put through a meat grinder because every day he'd need, my mom ended up being his primary caregiver.

Dr. Dean:

hmm,

Dr. Ban:

And it was like every day was a little bit of drama and then we get good medical news get bad medical news, and it just becomes the whole family just shuts down and lives every day with his, test results and his treatments and, I started taking one day off every week, to be with him. That was my day to take him to his physical therapy or his radiation. So at the end of it, looking back, I was emotionally just boxed up because I didn't want to add to the drama with what was going on with my family and also of exhausted. I just, I felt guilty about this at the time, but when he passed, It was like a little bit of relief because I just didn't know every day. I was like, how can we do this for one more day? How can we hold this together?

Dr. Dean:

hmm.

Dr. Ban:

it was a really long answer your question, but yeah, it was, it was not easy and it was emotionally exhausting. And I tried to be the steadying force in my family,

Dr. Dean:

mm

Dr. Ban:

and that was another role I played and that was hard too. and I had to work, I had to, I knew I had to practice, I had to build a practice and start to support my small, growing family. And so all that There's a lot more pressure at the time that I think I was willing to admit I was under., I still never till the end considered that you'd actually die. Even though I knew that he would, It's still shocked and hit me.

Dr. Dean:

Thank you for putting words to that relief. Because I think sometimes people feel guilty for and you alluded to that, you said you felt guilt. And I think we, as a society, feel like there are certain ways that we should feel and there's no way that you should feel. It sounds like too, that he suffered so long that it would be natural to have some relief in his suffering ending.

Dr. Ban:

Right.

Dr. Dean:

and I think it is an interesting idea that you had mentioned too, compared to a lot of the other guests or even myself, like I, I had no idea, right? But, you had to get used to this idea that your brother who was there the whole time was, Not going to be in the rest of your life. Where are you with that now?

Dr. Ban:

It sneaks up on me. generally I can go about my day without it derailing me. but it'll sneak up on me When I'm thinking about we have a baby now he's 10 months old and he'll never get to know Michael, in the way I knew him, I guess, best way to put it. It sucks because his first birthday is coming up and Mike won't be there. He would've been such a great uncle. So through my kid who oddly enough has been like probably the best thing that could have happened. in general, yes, but my mom and dad, that kid likes that kid saved my mom when he was born. So it's hard in that regard. I still have my own relationship with him, which I'm learning what that means now? that he's passed. And I, I go through times where I feel like he's there with me. I feel close with him, even though he's passed. And sometimes, for a few days or even sometimes a couple of weeks at time, I just won't feel that closeness. holiday, his birthday is on Monday. Today's, being Friday for, uh, depending on people are listening to this, I'm working that day. and I started working, I went to work three days after his funeral. His funeral was on a Saturday and I was working on Tuesday because it was Memorial Day, I think was the Monday, so I just went back to work and those days that I'd taken off that I was supposed to, Wednesdays were my day with him. I scheduled every Wednesday that summer. I resented having to go to work while he was alive and then after he passed. I needed it, so guess I'm okay in the sense that I can have, I can go about my life, I can be a husband, I can be a father, I can be a son to my parents, because I feel, that was probably my most important role, I would say, after he passed, especially for the first half year. I actually carve out time to be sad, In particular Friday mornings, my day driving into work. I have about a half hour commute and I have a whole playlist of all his Spotify songs to listen to and a bunch of songs that are meaningful to us. And, and I, that's when I let myself listen to that playlist. usually by the time I get to work, I'm a little bit of a mess and then I pull it together before I walk in the door and start seeing patients. and so today was Friday. So I did that today,

Dr. Dean:

Are there particular songs that you stay more connected to all of the time or how does that work for you?

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, there's a few stories behind some of the songs. When I was in college, I was down in like the rough. adjustment period to it. I think I was homesick or something. And my mom was telling me a story. This is obviously years ago. I'm a piano player. And I played at my grandpa's funeral. He passed 20 some years ago. And she was talking about, to cheer me up or something, or as I said, I missed Michael at that point. And she said, when your brother, I asked him if he passed away ever, what he'd want you to play at his funeral, and he said, rocket man. so fast forward 20 years. And that happens. And a few weeks before he passed, he couldn't talk. And the way the tumor works in the brain, he really couldn't text either.

Dr. Dean:

Yeah

Dr. Ban:

But he sent a message to my mom with my name and then that little rocket emoji. So he goes, what is this? And I said, I know exactly what that is. So I texted him. I said, you want rocket man, right, at the funeral?. He said, yes. So I did. So that one. That's a hard one to listen to for me. But there's a lot of, he was a bassist, he played classical music. And we listened to a lot of Beethoven together. We went to a bunch of symphony concerts with Beethoven. So I listened to a lot of the stuff that we saw basically. Symphonies and piano concertos and stuff. But Yeah Rocketman, actually there's another thing I wanted to say. Not that I came up with the points of things I wanted to say. But one of the things that is very hard is he had so many close, like really nice, funny friends. And sometimes it felt to me like he's been gone now for a year and a half. I feel like they forget him. Like I never hear anything from them. Not that we were friends, but, we have this charity fund at this charity that we're doing. And at first trying to get them to donate or participate, I was like, man, they don't even respond. They're saying, okay, I'll think about it or whatever. You guys like forget about him? So my parents went to a wedding that they were invited to by one of his friends. And that's all they were talking about was him. And that all they were talking about was when the rocket man comes on the radio, they all lose it. Cause they were all at the funeral, So then the Jeopardy thing, which we can talk about it. That was probably the biggest thing that's happened since he passed away.

Dr. Dean:

I'd love to hear this story. Go ahead

Dr. Ban:

Yeah I was on Jeopardy, I went through the trials or whatever, my wife and I would watch it and I, she said, you just try out because you're yelling out the answer. So I went on the show and around about the same time, our high school has decided to build this boathouse for, and we were both on the rowing team, like I might have said earlier. And I said, man, that's got to be named after him. We have to get this named after I was thinking to myself. So I was going on the show and they do this interview thing on the show. If you watch Jeopardy late, tell a story about yourself forever about keep to three sentences. Don't go on and on forever. They asked, what do you want to do with the money? That was my question. What do you want to do with the money? Uh, do you want to say my brother, Michael passed away and high school is building a boathouse and I like to see if we can get it named after him. And I'll donate all the money I win on the show to the, the boathouse to get it named after him. So at that point I was like negative thousand dollars on the show. I was like way, way, way in last place. So I was like, we'll get a little bit of, I don't know, people see the show and maybe people want to donate for this cause I'm obviously not coming out with any money. In the second half of the game, I ended up coming back and then the final jeopardy. answer was, the answer to the question was Rudyard Kipling, like the jungle book.. And when he had been sick, we watched the jungle with Mirror Grump. We watched this Ricky Ticky Tavvy cartoon. And he said, when he got sick, he's I want to get a picture commissioned for my apartment. Someone to draw it or something of a mongoose killing a snake. Cause I'm, that's me. I'm the mongoose. I'm gonna kill this snake, which is the tumor to him. So I ended up getting that picture. He hung it in his bathroom every day when he was brushing his teeth. He saw it. And now I have it in my bathroom. Anyway. So fast forward, I finally come back. I'm like tied up in final jeopardy and I was the only one that got the right answer and happened to be the jungle book was the answer. That was the craziest. I don't know what people believe out there and I don't. I don't want to put my own beliefs out there too much, but that made me feel like he had a big hand in that moment. That was the closest I've had him feel to me, maybe with the exception one or three times in the year since he passed.

Dr. Dean:

Did you get the boathouse named after him or is that still a work in progress?

Dr. Ban:

yeah, that's what, that's how we started on this whole, so it's, yeah. The fundraiser, there's having one for his birthday. They're having a fundraising dinner and now his friends, a lot of them are coming. A lot of them saw that show. They were talking about the episode or whatever. So we've raised a pretty good amount of money. They're going to break ground hopefully next year, but yeah, they, the high school actually approached me and my parents, because I kept asking them about, Hey, can we name this after my brother? And they were like, we decided before you even talked to us to do it. And we were going to surprise you at this fundraising dinner we're doing. so yeah, it's going to happen. It'll be the Michael Ban Memorial boat house, which is great.

Dr. Dean:

And I assume you'll go to the opening

Dr. Ban:

Oh

Dr. Dean:

those things.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, I can't wait. No, but I'm going to, they're doing this alumni race And all these guys I rode with 22 years ago, which is the last time we were on a boat together. I'm sure a bunch of us have beer guts and we're gonna get in the boat out on the water and I don't know what's gonna happen. Hopefully nobody drowns, but Yeah, it's gonna be ugly, but we're gonna have an alumni race

Dr. Dean:

That should be fun.

Dr. Ban:

so. It might hurt real bad.

Dr. Dean:

So you had some time to get used to this idea of losing a sibling. Are there things that you wish you knew in that process that you don't know, or that you didn't know then?

Dr. Ban:

Yeah one of my biggest regrets is that I didn't actually talk to him about whether he was scared or not of dying. I think I have my answer to that just from talking to him and the way he would act and some of the conversations he would bring up. yeah, I wish I'd had that actual talk with him. what do you think happens after you die? What, are you ready? that's one thing. The other thing is that, there's not, like most people have said, most people ask, how are your parents doing? Nobody asked how I'm doing. I never even thought. I was never even aware that no one asked me how I was doing until I started listening to your podcast. I said, man, it would have been really nice if someone maybe just focused on me as his sibling, during that time especially when he was sick, even before he passed. and I also wish just honestly that the doctors would have just said, Hey, look, make sure you have meaningful moments. Make sure you for him close up shop where you want to, so to speak, because I till the last 48 hours. I've thought, maybe there'll be some treatment, maybe it'll be something maybe they'll start getting a little better with this steroid. And part of that's on me, but. Yeah,

Dr. Dean:

What do you mean part of that's on you? Mm

Dr. Ban:

I was like him. I'm just blissfully optimistic, I guess. Just, never say it's over till It's over, I don't know. That's probably not the best way to put it.

Dr. Dean:

interesting to me that you as a medical professional, I think it highlights just how, you know, we can't necessarily be objective in our own lives when we're in the helping professions.

Dr. Ban:

it's true. It's changed the way that I talk with my patients about things. What I do, it's generally not matters of life and death and, terminal illness, but it has changed the way that I present. Possible complications, and I'm very realistic about prognosis. But when I say it's on me, I read every paper I could find on Anaplastic astrocytoma, prognosis, section margins, et cetera, et cetera. And then he started doing experimental treatment, which obviously isn't published yet. So I think that's where I hung my, I know that all this says, this literature from 8 to 12 years ago, that he's not going to make it. I just had hope, I just had hope, and every day that passed, even when things would happen I still preserved it, against my better judgment.

Dr. Dean:

Mm

Dr. Ban:

But you don't want to be doom and gloom with him. There are conversations I probably avoided with him because I was just, roads. I didn't want to take him down in conversation. Maybe there's things I didn't want to hear When he was a few months away from passing, he started asking me on a car ride. We were taking, he said, Hey, what do you want? What of my stuff do you want? and I said, I don't, what do you mean? I just want you to be around. I don't want any of your stuff. And the thrust of the conversation is he wanted to give me his nice watch. He had, it was like his favorite possession and I got real upset. Like, why are you saying this? and what I wish I had done instead was say anything you want me to have, I'll be honored.

Dr. Dean:

Mm

Dr. Ban:

So I think he knew that I just wasn't ready to have that conversation at that point. I don't think he was upset. and I have his watch. I think he was getting ready and I just wasn't ready to admit it

Dr. Dean:

hmm.

Dr. Ban:

to myself.

Dr. Dean:

Well, how could you? Right? Like, he was there most of your life, right and he kept beating the odds for a period of time

Dr. Ban:

yeah. And I remember thinking in these words, even I knew I was being dramatic in my own head. I told my wife, I feel like the world is ending, like nothing can go on after this. So as we get down to the last few minutes with him, whenever that happens, I was terrified of that world after him. And it really was just like a bomb went off in our family afterwards. Not in the sense that there's all this collateral damage and. That we weren't a family unit because we were, but it was just quiet.

Dr. Dean:

Mm hmm.

Dr. Ban:

It was like a mute over every conversation I had with my parents. We still, we don't, it's not that we don't talk about it, but we only bring it up when we're at our weakest moments, it's tough, but yeah, it was a big quieting effect on family dynamic, I guess.

Dr. Dean:

Well, that makes sense because the way you described Everyone changed the family dynamic when he had the diagnosis

Dr. Ban:

Yeah.

Dr. Dean:

and everything had to revolve around making sure his care was provided right for so long that when that was not there, how could you not feel that quietness? Plus his absence, right?

Dr. Ban:

Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Dean:

Did your fear around that time match up with what happened?

Dr. Ban:

There's my dread of what it was gonna be like after he passed that no, and that was hard enough itself because it's like hard to see the world keep turning when it seems like you just stood still. It's hard. And, other people have their lives and things. I wasn't expecting the the actual whole world to come to a stop. But, no, it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. And I feel bad that it's not that bad. I've got guilt about that. like some of your other people you've interviewed, they've had some really hard times. and I'm not saying I didn't have those. But I felt myself listening to some of these people that lost a sibling and they're shut down for a while. And I honestly felt like, why wasn't I like that? Why am I able to wake up and take care of things I need to take care of? what is wrong with me?

Dr. Dean:

Well, it sounds like you threw yourself into work as a distraction, and that your shutting down happened before he died. Mm hmm,

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, I think you're right. I remember when he passed the like last 36 hours, he was essentially in a coma at my parents house. I was the one who were asking like what do we want this moment what do you want to have, whatever this medical intervention done this that or the other. And then when he's having trouble breathing in the last few hours I was supporting his airway like, not losing it, not getting upset, just, I don't think I'm just gonna I have to see this through the right way for posterity or something. And, It's not a fun place to revisit, not just because it was in passing, but about myself, and I don't know, I don't know why in those moments I was able to stand up straight

Dr. Dean:

I think if you can have compassion for yourself, to see that it goes up and down throughout time, like you're still very early in grief, that some days you're going to be able to stand, and some days it'll knock you over. I don't know if you found that to be true.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, I'm sure on Monday, when his birthday, when I get home from work, usually the baby's being put to bed, the day's kind of wrapping up around the house, and it's quiet, and I'll probably go on a walk, and probably be on a walk for an hour or two, and that won't be okay in that time, and then by the time I get back to the house, I'll be right back at it, I don't know, you tell me, are people, you I don't know if it's compartmentalization or what, I'm sure everyone's different that way. it's odd because I just, I wish I wasn't able to do that, but I do. I just set aside the times to bottom out,

Dr. Dean:

No, I think sometimes the grief is present in front of us. And I mean, it's never not present, but it might be in the background and it's going to come back and forth. And so you learn to live with it. And so I hear that's what you're saying is if I take this walk, I can be present with my grief. and then I have to be present for my son and my wife. And so, of course, the grief is still there, but it's how you're interacting with people that changes.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, I look forward to I guess that's weird. it just is like the grief time like my Friday mornings, my like nighttime walks. Because that's my time to, I don't know, show him, man, I'm thinking about you, like, I care. And you can't do it 24 hours a day with that kind of energy, but now I can. so that's how I manage. I wanted to say, one of the things that you were asking what I wish I'd known, I wish I'd known how, wrong it is when people think you should be able to get over it.

Dr. Dean:

Mm hmm. I

Dr. Ban:

I was most recently, this is stupid, it was a movie review I was listening to of a movie called Rachel Getting Married. I don't know if you're

Dr. Dean:

have not heard of that.

Dr. Ban:

doesn't matter, it doesn't matter. But their little brother in that movie had passed away before the movie starts, before the movie. And the movie review was like, these people just can't get over it. Like they're not ever going to be able to go over it. What's Right. you know, you're not.

Dr. Dean:

Right.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, I'm not gonna get over it. I'm gonna, if I live to a hundred, that's another 60 years. I'm not gonna get over this. I don't expect to. but I think if you haven't had that kinda loss, and obviously when you're move or review, it's not actual person. but that's a prevailing belief I think, that you should just be able to get over it as a sibling, and I'm not going to, I'm not planning on it.

Dr. Dean:

Well, this is supposed to be the longest relationship of our lives. And so, now you have to live more of your life, hopefully, than you had with him. And I don't mean hopefully as in... that happens, but it's just the fact of the matter that hopefully you live to a long age.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, I'm not dreading those years without him in the way I was at first, I think, year out. I'm starting to, probably because of the baby, I wasn't depressed, but I also had this prevailing sense, there's really nothing to look forward to anymore. my parents are going to pass away at some point. I'm going to be the only one. We have a pretty small family. Most of the other people in my extended family have moved away to different cities. And it's going to be just me and I love my in laws, but they're not blood.

Dr. Dean:

right. You didn't, you didn't grow up with them.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, exactly. So I'm starting to look forward to the years to come more, And I, again, it wasn't like I was depressed. I just wasn't, I was like, man, I'm gonna see this out, but the next few decades,

Dr. Dean:

Right. it sucks. Right. Yeah. Did you find support from people in the time after he died?

Dr. Ban:

There's that initial week or two, you almost have this euphoria because. after four and a half years of him slowly passing, you finally, all these people that he'd been talking to you didn't know come out of the woodwork and you have this sort of, it really was at his funeral, like a little bit of a celebration of life. And in terms probably overused but it was everyone was sad but we were all happy to be together and there were so many stories I mean there were probably 1000 people at his funeral which for a young person's funeral. I don't know, maybe that's not that uncommon but you ride this high, and then it all dies down. And yeah, like I said, it's just quiet. I think I don't know if I answered your question there. I'm sorry.

Dr. Dean:

No, you did. Are there things that you've done that have been helpful?

Dr. Ban:

Yes. so I talked a lot. I'm practicing Catholic and actually my father in law is a Greek Orthodox priest. So I have built in phone a friend for just the big questions I think you probably go through when you have a loss like that when someone close passes My wife, because she. grew up in his household.

Dr. Dean:

She's

Dr. Ban:

been really understanding and patient. I think it's hard for a spouse to understand, but she does a pretty good job of that. And then other things I've done to help is his playlist. we had His cell phone and I was able to go in and basically copy all of his liked Spotify songs to my phone and it's 300 and some songs. So I haven't listened to all of them yet I saved some of them and so that you know when I'm listening to the music it's goofy to say but like he's part of the music, you know I feel like I'm like tapping into him when I'm listening to some really good music that he likes and some of the stuff They listen to together So that's very helpful and then obviously we put this memorial fund together and getting the boathouse. It just gives me something active to do to because like further my new relationship with him in its current capacity until I see him again. and then other than that, I've started to stay close to my family. I talked to my parents every single day. I work with my dad. We're the two surgeons in the practice, but I talked to them. Check in every day. My mom, I try to check in at least once a day. But sometimes I wonder if I'm annoying her, but I always say, how you doing today? She's fine, I'm fine. Why? so those things have been helpful.

Dr. Dean:

is there anything else that you wanted to say before I ask my last question?

Dr. Ban:

it's almost like all the other podcasts you've done, I could pull one or two lines from each of those and say, yes, that is exactly, you said it way better than I could ever say it. I'm not going to try to top anybody else came on before me, because they've all said things that I've thought, and probably much more, articulate than me. But I would say if, anyone does listen to this, that has a, sibling with a chronic illness, terminal illness, yeah, make the moments count, but think about what you really want to know about them. Because, I don't get to ask him any more certain questions about himself. And I think even though he's one of the closest people to me in my life, if not the closest, you still can't ever totally know anybody. So I don't beat myself up about it, but ask the questions. And say the things that you want to say while you can.

Dr. Dean:

I think that's fantastic advice.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, don't be afraid of it.

Dr. Dean:

Before I do ask that last question about the memories,

Dr. Ban:

Yeah.

Dr. Dean:

there's something else came to mind. So a lot of our guests have been women.

Dr. Ban:

Hmm.

Dr. Dean:

of them have been men. And I know a lot of the other male guests have said it was hard to talk about. It was hard to get this support because of the gender norms and societal beliefs about men and crying and grief. What was your experience like with that?.

Dr. Ban:

I don't have a sister. And I don't know that I can think of that I'm close with anybody who was female that lost a sibling. I can't say that it was harder for me to get help, but I also know that not much was offered.

Dr. Dean:

Mm

Dr. Ban:

other than some very good friends. And by the way, I'm not blaming anybody for anything. I'm not upset at anybody, but, other than a few texts here and there, that's pretty much. That's pretty much it. Checking in. I certainly, I'm not somebody that is afraid of talking about my feelings. People I really trust or even with with a psychologist that I'm that's not something that I feel any stigma about. but I also internalized a lot. and maybe I just have that expectation myself, but I would encourage any men Or, boys, depending on how old they are when their sibling passes. you know who you're, when you're really in the tough time, when you, when he was sick and after he passed, you find out who the people are, you can talk to, you you find out who's in it with you. And just talk to those people, and if you're down, try them out. Worst case is, they suck. They're not really your friend, you know? So, and they sort of retreat quietly out of your life a little bit, and they take a step back, and then you know who they are, too. I guess I could have done that more, but the other issue for me is, when you start to talk about it with people, you sort of lose your agency in when it's going to be talked about.

Dr. Dean:

Mm hmm.

Dr. Ban:

Because the more you tell people, the more people you tell, the more chances you're going to be asked to talk about it and how you do it when you're like, Hey, I'm good Right. now. I don't want to talk about it right

Dr. Dean:

Kind of like your mom did with you on the phone, you said.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I'm good right now. That's probably what it is. but yeah, try out your people, whoever your people are, you'll find out pretty quickly. and just lean on them a bit. Yeah. Because you'll do the same For them.

Dr. Dean:

For sure. Well, thank you for all of that. Before we wrap up, do you have memories that you want to share?

Dr. Ban:

I So the one that, as an adult, is probably my favorite one, and it always pops in my head is, we didn't fight a lot growing up, but every once in a while we would. It would stand out. And it was always about something stupid. I can't remember what day that was. So this was probably, I don't know, 2008 or something. 2009. I was back from dental school and my brother was, he's a pretty curmudgeonly guy. He didn't, he didn't care if he started the pot, rattled the cage, especially in like within the family unit, So I don't remember what was going on, but he had started some kind of drama or other and everyone's yelling each other. And he and I just bought each other's faces or screaming each other about something. And we had Steelers playoff tickets for him and I go to in like 20 minutes. So, we get in the car, we're going the, I mean, it's Pittsburgh. We're gonna go to the Steelers game. Like we're not gonna, not go, even though we're not talking to each other. So the whole drive down, not a word. I turned the radio, he goes, turn the radio off. I said, okay. So we just sit in silence and we park and we go in the stadium and we're still not talking. And the first quarter goes by, second quarter's by halftime, I think. I said, do you want a coke, he said, shut up, Okay. which is him and then I think the Steelers were losing or something and they started to come back slowly. So it gets to be near the end of the game, north fourth quarter and they're coming back and everyone's going bonkers in the stadium and he and I, it all of a sudden made it okay. We gave you guys a big high five or hug and and we're on the terrible towels or whatever. The stadium is rocking the flagpoles or because we were bouncing up and down so much flagpoles are waving and everything. and I think they ended up losing the game, but I just remember. So it was so ridiculous, because over a span of three hours, we were like at each other's throats over nothing, and then basically over pretty much nothing important. We were right back, together as brothers, hugging and smiling and the whole way back, it was the floodgates open. We were all, we were talking and laughing about whatever the heck it was we were fighting about. so yeah, that was a good time. And the other one is, I'd say that there's not a lot of specific like dialogues I can remember with him. I remember I was On spring break from dental school, I was in Boston. I flew down, he was living in DC, working for a government contractor. And I think I'd had a breakup with a girlfriend or something the night before. I don't remember what, but I was happy to get out of Boston for the weekend. And he picked me up in his car and windows were down and he blasts, cranks it, funeral for a friend by Elton John, which is like the weirdest, like he was into funk music, rap, all kinds of. What? All right, man. This is great. you're like blowing my eardrums out with this and I just knew he knew how to have fun. He was awesome at it. He had a great weekend planned. I just knew like this weekend, everything is gonna be great. I don't worry about anything. This is gonna be the best, best weekend of the year. And it was, I, it was, I always had fun hanging out with him. those are two memories.

Dr. Dean:

Well, thank you for that. And thanks, thanks for chatting today.

Dr. Ban:

Of course. Thanks for what you're doing with this. I'm excited to keep binge listening.

Dr. Dean:

Oh, well, thank you. And because you're in Pittsburgh, I have some in person things that I'll, I'll be, I'll let you know about.

Dr. Ban:

Yeah, please. Sounds good.

Dr. Dean:

Thank you so much for listening. Our theme song was written by Joe Mylwood and Brian Dean, and was performed by Joe Mylwood. If you would like more information on the Broken Pack, go to our website, the broken pack.com. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter, Wild Grief, to learn about opportunities and receive exclusive information and grieving tips for subscribers. Information on that, our social media and on our guests can be found in the show notes wherever you get your podcasts. Please follow, subscribe, and share. Thanks again.

Introduction
About Michael: The Cooler Younger Brother
Chris & Michael's Relationship
Losing Michael
Hope, Exhaustion, & Anticipatory Mourning
Chris's Surpise: Relief & Guilt
Moving with Grief Now
Rocket Man
Jeopardy & A Boathouse
Chris's Regret
Michael's Impact on Chris's Work
The Muting Effect of Losing Michael
Learning to Live with Loss
Sibling Grief: Here to Stay
What Has Helped Chris
Chris's Advice on Recognizing Support
Chris's Favorite Memories of Michael