An Open Letter to the Siblings of My Patients

You are brave

You didn’t ask for this life. One day, you were playing with your sibling, living a care free life and your biggest worry was if your parents would find out about the typical sibling war you had earlier in the day… the next, you’re sitting in a hospital room finding out they have cancer.

You are strong

Your new normal is anything, but normal. Weekends at the beach and playing outside turned into weekends with IV poles and chemotherapy. Your parents are splitting their time, sometimes at home, sometimes at the hospital, doesn’t matter where they are though, things are different. You miss your sibling, you miss your parents and you miss your old life.

You are a warrior

I’m sorry that we met this way, but I’m thankful for it because anytime I get to meet people that I look up to is a win in my book. I call your sibling a warrior all the time, but the truth is, you are too. You’ve been forced to adapt to a life that wasn’t meant for you. You’ve been forced to handle emotions that most grown adults struggle to handle. You’ve been forced to be flexible with your time because one minute you can be home, and the next, you might be rushing to the hospital with your family because your sibling has a fever. But you hardly ever complain. How do you do that? Adapt on a whim?

You are loved

I’m sorry that you were introduced to the cancer life. Whether you’re the older or younger sibling, you’ve been affected. Your parents have to make decisions on where you all spend your time during treatment, and it’s not easy. I see you curled up on the cot, adapting to life at the hospital, when you’re not even the patient. I see you helping your brother and sister early in the morning so your mom can get a few more minutes of sleep. I see you silently wipe your tears away as you’re told you won’t be going home today and I see you growing up quicker than you’re supposed to. I hate that you’re having to adjust to this life, but you’ve done it so well.

You are appreciated

“Why him and not me?” I’ve heard it more than I like, and it’s crushed my soul every time. I hope you don’t feel guilty that you are not sick and they are. They don’t deserve to face cancer, but neither do you. Unfortunately, there’s nothing any of us can say or feel that would take cancer away, so please don’t carry that burden.

You are valued

I think it’s magical, the relationship you have with your sibling. It would be easy to be bitter and angry about the attention they require, but you handle it so gracefully. I’ve learned a lot from you and how to overcome adversity and adapting to challenges that happen so fast. It’s amazing to me, the things I learn from children, when I’m supposed to be the one teaching. That thing you did for them, even though it was painful for you? The bone marrow tests, the blood draws, waking up at 3am to rush to the hospital, hitting milestones without one of your parents being present… those are important and I know your family cares deeply.

You are a hero

You really are. I know it can be easy to think that you don’t matter during this time, but you really do. You’re not forgotten about. You’re not any less loved. I know it can’t be easy being the sibling of a child with cancer, but you make it look that way. Even when you’re getting cafeteria food for the 5th day in a row, you still have a smile and sense of humor. I also know sometimes you feel guilty about things you’re feeling during a particularly tough time. These feelings are normal, and so are you. Thank you for telling me about them.

You are human

You’re allowed to feel. Every single emotion that comes with this, you’re allowed to feel. If you’re feeling strong, feel strong. If you’re feeling scared, feel scared. If you’re feeling happy, feel happy. If you’re feeling like you want one on one time with your family, feel that, too. Nobody expects you to be a pillar of strength, we expect that you’re human.

You are strong. You are brave. You are loved. You are equally as important and you are valued. We see you. We hear you. We are here for you. Thank you for being there for them.

Love,

A Pediatric Oncology Nurse

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