To help share my story, I want to talk about what it's like to be a Cancer Sibling. You might ask why this is important. After all, we aren't the ones with cancer. It's important to remember everybody left in cancer's wake. It's important to realize that childhood cancer effects an entire family.
I was 12 when my brother was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma. The only experience I'd had with childhood cancer was my teacher's daughter dying of leukemia. At the age of 12, I was forced to face mortality, the idea that my brother could die in the next year, the idea that this could happen to anyone.
We siblings stop living our lives for the one, two or three years our brother or sister is on treatment. We don't see our parents for days or weeks at a time, and our lives revolve around keeping our sibling healthy and safe. We don't bring friends home, we don't go out. My sister and I lived with my grandparents for 10 months in our own house.
We feel guilty. Was this our fault? That one time we said or even thought "I wish I was an only child," was that the reason this happened? And what if we get sick while our sibling is on treatment? We hide it, it's not as bad as cancer. I broke my foot, wrapped it in a bandage myself, and only told my mom when the middle school got involved because I was limping.
We often live with mental health problems for our teenage years and beyond, especially if we were over 10 when our sibling was diagnosed or in treatment. Depression, self-harm, low self-worth, and other mental health problems are common. We lived terrified of losing our sibling to a monster we couldn't even understand. That takes a toll.
After treatment though, we become crusaders. We fight back, whether it's one year or five years after treatment, as long as it takes for us to be ready to fight back. We run blogs, solicit donations, speak out. We want to become what cancer fears, because we've seen it's ugly face. We are going to end childhood cancer.