Brothers and sisters

You might count your siblings among your best friends. Or you might not be able to stay in a room together for five minutes without arguing. Either way, you might find that the dynamic of your relationship changes as you go through this experience.

How it affects them

There’s no doubt that your diagnosis will affect brothers or sisters. There will be some strong emotions flying around during this time, and the practical implications might have a big impact on their lives too.

This can naturally cause your relationship with them to develop and change. Your bond may strengthen and they may become a vital source of support to you. If they are a similar age to you, for example, they might prove to be a useful link to your usual life and you might be able to share things with them in a way that you couldn’t do with your parents or even friends.

"When I was diagnosed my brother became very quiet but it wasn't long until he was back to being his aggravating self again."

Or they may react in an unexpected way and start to behave out of character. Some can become overprotective; some can become withdrawn and quiet. They could be struggling to come to terms with your illness. Maybe they’re feeling scared, angry, jealous, lonely, or simply feel left out from what’s going on. Only they can say for sure. As ever, talking is likely to help you move forward. Even just hanging out together could help to normalise things for them, or give them a chance to open up.

Who can support my siblings?

It’s important your brothers or sisters have someone they can talk to about how they’re feeling about your illness. They may be able to do this with you, your parents, their partner or friends, teachers or support services at college or university. Sometimes, though, it may be helpful for them to open up to a care professional. You could ask a member of your care team to talk to them, or they may suggest someone else who could help.

This website also features age-appropriate information about cancer and treatment for children and young people which your siblings might find helpful.

Support groups

Some hospitals have support groups for brothers and sisters. Your care team should have more information on whether this might be available.

Where next?

Updated February 2017, next review due February 2018.

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