Sibling Perspective

By: Rachel Jones
Director of Patient Advocacy
David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation


“September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, for my family it’s every month.

Childhood cancer isn’t easy for anyone involved, it affects the ENTIRE family. One part of the family that often gets overlooked are the siblings. I should know, I’ve been one.

I was 9 when my youngest sister (2) was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia).
I remember not just the day, but also the days leading up to and shortly after her diagnosis like it was yesterday.
She had been running high fevers, was lethargic and very fussy, along with these symptoms she had labs drawn, X-rays, etc. over about 4 days leading up to her trip to Boston Children’s Hospital, where she received her official diagnosis.
I’ll never forget being in school and the teacher calling me to her desk to give me the message she had just received, that my parents were rushing my sister to Boston and we (my other sister and I) would be picked up by a friend.
I remember the fear and worry that I felt. I remember wanting to go with them and know why and what was happening.
My sister went to Boston on a Wednesday night, we didn’t get to see her or my parents until that Saturday, when we were told she had cancer.
That word, especially back in the 1990’s was something very rare for kids to know much less talk about, especially regarding another child. Yet, here I was and that word was describing my sister.
The next 2 1/2 years were filled with hospital stays, trips to Ronald McDonald House and clinic visits. Everything and everyone’s focus was on my sister and how she was. Don’t get me wrong, mine was too but I think I can count on one hand the number of times someone asked me how I was and what I was feeling.
You see siblings are expected to maintain life as is, in spite of a diagnosis that literally rocks your world and turns everything “normal” about your life into the unknown.
You’re no longer a family unit like you’ve always known it, now life revolves around your sibling with cancer. Trips, plans, sports, school activities are all worked around chemo, fevers, steroids, etc.
Even when treatment is over, you still often feel second to your sick sibling. Whether it’s make a wish trips, camps or other things that are all part of the cancer world.

So what does all this mean for you, what can you do to help?!?
If ever you cross paths with a sibling of a cancer patient.
For just a moment, forget the patient or the parents and ask how the SIBLING  is feeling, doing in school, sports, etc.
You will never know how much that will mean to that child but I can tell you the light in their eyes and smile on their face when they realize someone’s interested in them will give you a small picture of how special you made them feel.

Cancer is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but I wouldn’t change the person I am or people I’ve met from being part of the cancer world.”