27 Sep The Sibling Side of the Story by Elisha Barry age 14
HAVING A SIBLING DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER:
Hearing that someone you are so close to has been diagnosed with something so big is never easy. No one wants to hear that their sibling that they have a bond with, a bond that they don’t have with anyone else, has cancer. What do you say? What can you do? Although you want to help, sometimes it can become the hardest thing! When you feel helpless its horrible and a feeling you never want. You could be seeing someone, who you have grown to love, in hospital and you can’t do anything to stop their pain. It’s challenging.
My sister, Freya, was 9 years younger than me so I was her protector as a big sister that is my job. She was diagnosed when i was 10. It wasn’t easy to want to care for her and to stay with her when she was in hospital. I was always reassured by nurses and doctors that she was ok but putting all trust in strangers is a lot to process. It got difficult and at times when all I wanted to do was help and it felt like I couldn’t. I was determined to be there for her. Anyone would be! My advice would be to realise sometimes you can’t be, sometimes no one can and you just need to recognise it. It may seem impossible but it’s true. Your sibling is in safe hands, nothing would happen to them.
HOW IT AFFECTED ME:
In many different ways it affected my life. Small things would make me worry about her. If my grandparents picked me up from school i would worry where my parents were, if she was ok and I wouldn’t even consider that they could just be busy. Normally it would just be that she had a temperature or a hypo again or sometimes she would just be sleeping but there is always fear that it could be something worse. It didn’t affect my life physically that much I had to sometimes change or cancel plan’s if Freya got taken into hospital but that wasn’t a huge issue as I would have rather been with her anyway.
If ever my mum was in hospital with Freya my dad would be looking after us. My brother would be constantly texting my mum asking how my sister was. I however was much more calm about it as I knew I would see her soon and my dad would tell me how she was doing. Sometimes if I was in school and Freya was in hospital, I would text my mum and ask how she was doing.
HOW I COPED:
Everyone deals with situations in different ways. I liked to be distracted most of the time so that I didn’t think. I would meet with friends, do painting, or play games on my I pad. I sometimes didn’t cope very well if my sister was at home and poorly i would always want hugs and reassurance from my mum that she would be ok. I was very open and honest with my mum about how I felt and I’m glad I was. We would cry a lot and then talk about why and what was going on. I was very emotional when Freya was on treatment.
There was always things to cry about but there were also things to smile about. If Freya did something simple like open a Christmas present at the end of January because she was too ill to over Christmas, every one would be so happy even though it was only one present. To just see that she was well enough to do something as small as that was a huge achievement. Everyone copes in different ways but there is always people to talk to. My brother found that counselling really helped him. It didn’t helped me, I preferred talking to someone who knew the situation that was in the family like my mum. Another thing that helped me process it all was freya’s beads of courage. I counted them on many occasions and sorted how many she needed of each it was a good distraction and a good way to see what she was having done.
When she wasn’t in hospital we would make the most of it by going out. Preferable in a clean place but somewhere not to cold for her and if it was hot then sun cream was a priority. Everywhere you went there was something wrong with it and if there wasn’t, there would be people. You realise that people stare when you are out as they may feel sorry for her/him or want to know what is wrong with them.
My sister, when she had no hair, people would look at her and a few would ask if she
was ok and what was wrong with her. Then she had a ng tube and then when she got her hair back and no tube she was 4 to 5 and in a pram people would look and wonder why. Some would just give sad smiles. This is just a normal reaction. People don’t understand, friends won’t know how to react. In a situation like this you don’t want attention as you would rather not have it at all.
You may feel embarrassed but regret it as it isn’t there fault. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed, everyone goes through problems in life even if they feel tiny compared to yours. It doesn’t matter if people stare most of the time they will just feel worried or sorrow for your sibling and family. They don’t mean to stare or annoy you they are just concerned about your sibling.
WHAT I REMEMBER:
I have blocked out a lot of my sister’s early treatment days. I remember small things like the 1st time she came back from hospital which was near Christmas and I also remember when she had her hair shaved and that day and how she loved the feeling of it. I remember knocking on the door and seeing her smile when we visited her in hospital but I know there is a lot that i don’t remember. I don’t want to remember some things as I don’t want them to hurt me.
I remember one of the 1st times seeing her in hospital and she was asleep and had just had her hickman line fitted. She had blood on her chest and I wanted to cry because she looked in pain. She was normally so bubbly and happy and now she couldn’t move. I didn’t want to cry I wanted to be strong but I couldn’t bare to look at her chest. I don’t remember a lot of other times when she was in hospital as she was so poorly.
I also remember the day I found out what she had and my dad telling us. I didn’t cry and I didn’t think that was normal but I was just in shock. Everyone reacts in different ways. My brother cried straight away but I just wanted to know everything. What was going to happened now and what I needed to do. It’s ok to cry sometimes but sometimes you don’t always feel like it even when you think you should. Cancer is such a shock. Everyone reacts differently. I also remember the day she finished treatment and her ringing the bell and it was over. She got given her final purple bead and a certificate. It was such a precious moment and knowing that she had the all clear was such a relief. Everyone felt happy that day even though there was side effects to treatment, we weren’t bothered as she no longer had cancer.
WHAT MY ADVICE WOULD BE TO A CHILD WHOSE SIBLING HAS JUST BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER:
Time is an important thing and it may feel that time goes so so quick but patience is also a thing and those two things are on your side they will help you. At times there are moments that you will feel so down and so low that you don’t even want to get up but one day they will get through it and you will forget all of the hospital visits and all of the worries will stop. It does take over your life and it does affect your whole family but it will all be ok.
Something my brother really struggled with was that there was a favourite child. There isn’t. Your parents share the same love for all of you which is why they always get your names confused. If may feel like they love the ill child more but in reality it’s just that they have to give more attention to the poorly child and they are as worried as you are. Your parents will help you and give you attention too just not in the same was your sibling needs it. If you feel down your parents will try to be there for you as much as they can. They are your parents too and they love you and your siblings all the same.
You will remember the small things like them smiling at something so small. I promise it’s going to be ok. Also just embrace every moment and be there for them but also yourself and always talk to someone about how you feel even if you know they wont understand it will help to get it off your chest. Also even when it feels impossible, don’t worry! Some days all you want to do is worry but soon they will be home and all that worry would’ve been a waste of time. Crying is also a sign of strength, cry as much as you want and smile every other time you can!