01 Sep The Sibling Side: Childhood Cancer by Jazmine Gallienne
Childhood: sunshine, friends and playtime? No. Hospitals, nurses and family. Spending nearly 3 years driving backwards and forwards from the hospital every day after school, helping the nurses sort out all of their syringes and clearing off the whiteboard when a patient is allowed to go home is what most children will never experience, luckily. Spending my ‘free time’ in the playroom with the nurses, or sat in room two entertaining the bundle of joy in my life that was my sister are my childhood memories. Spending countless hours waiting, looking at mum and dad and knowing that there was more to this than my brain could comprehend is what I remember about being 5.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom
here were times where it felt like the best thing in the world to walk down the corridor and see Olivia’s face light up when she saw me coming, and getting to play with her in Sam’s house in Bristol was one of the best memories I have with Olivia, but there’s something about the whole experience that, looking back, shaped me to be the shy, introvert person that I am today. There were hospital classrooms, for patients who still wanted to go to school and siblings of patients who were missing a lot of school, but I was too shy to go, I always wanted to be with mum, dad or Olivia, and there were only a minority of nurses that I felt comfortable around. Spending 3 years of my life with family and only seeing friends when I was either at school, or when I played with my two best friends that lived in my close (when I was at home) was the only real socialisation I got as a child. I’m still too scared to speak to someone I don’t know, and people my age are terrifying if I don’t know who they are because I’m not used to being around them, the hospital changed me, and I’m not the only one.
When you hear ‘my sister had cancer’
You hear ‘my sister spent a lot of time in hospital’ but you don’t hear ‘I also spent a lot of time in hospital, supporting her and watching every painful, happy, excruciating moment of her short-lived life’ but that’s the reality of it, and that’s what people need to hear about- the pain that the families go through, the way it damages and destroys everything you’ve ever known until you don’t know who you are anymore.
Losing a sibling isn’t like losing an uncle, aunt, grandparent or cousin
The pain is unbearable when anyone in your family dies, I get that. But losing a sibling is losing a part of you, your soul mate, your best friend, the one who was supposed to get her heart broken so that I could tell her that boys are useless, but there is one out there waiting for her. The one that I was supposed to take shopping for cute outfits and guide her on how parties go and annoy her and her friends when she has a sleepover, the one I was supposed to spend my life arguing with but unconditionally loving is gone, and there’s nothing more painful in my life than the realisation of that every single day.