I don’t know why it has taken me so long to make a post about siblings, knowing how important they are and how they play a role in our lives.
I know I wanted so much to hide my brother from the depressing hospital atmosphere, from the scary trips to the ER for fevers, from the prospect of loss. But I was powerless. Life had to go on whether I was happy about it or not, whether he was ready to handle it or not. And honestly, I think I found myself more saddened and angry about the impact my treatment was having on his life than the impact it was having on my own.
However, now that I really think about it all, and see the amazing, mature young man he has become, I try to convince myself that maybe the whole experience was not as damaging to him as I thought. Maybe, as it was for me, cancer became a chance for him to turn adversity into opportunity. His Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training and interest in emergency medicine have become his passion, and I am so proud of how far he has come.
I often wonder how other patients feel, especially if, for example, his/her sibling donates his/her bone marrow or takes part in some other serious procedure. I can see how cancer can easily tie siblings together in an incredibly strong bond, or break them apart. Thankfully, the former was the case for me and my brother and I are very close.
If you are just beginning this roller coaster ride, I suggest this: do not worry for your siblings, do not spend your increasingly more precious emotional energy on worry. Rather, act positively by letting them know you care about them. Let them know that, despite the 24/7 attention you require, they are still loved and valued by you and your family. Let them know they are not forgotten. As much as we would all like things to be different, cancer is a family disease and impacts everyone involved.
Joking about cancer with your siblings and answering questions they may have is a great way to keep them involved and relaxed. I don’t think I did that as much as I should have. Reflecting on it now, I think that can help them be less worried about you. I know in my own case, my brother never showed he was worried about me, because he didn’t want me to worry about him, but his worries were expressed much more in the year or two after I finished treatment. His most notable statement was, “I felt like the only child of divorced parents.” So, I know it affected him even though I failed to see it during the fact.
To further help your siblings and your family as a whole, try to make jokes about everything you are going through. My dad, with his ever—present sense of humor, joked about everything from my my bald head to my many medicines. The silliness we incorporated into everything I was going through, always lightened everyone’s outlook. Additionally, just chilling with your siblings or playing a game with them can let them know they matter. Siblings bonded together in friendship and mutual support makes for a much happier family and stronger support system.