My brother or sister has cancer
Finding out your brother or sister has cancer will send a massive shockwave through both your lives. Being a sibling is tough - it means you might feel a bit sidelined or out of the loop. Your parents or sibling might be at the centre of everything, but that doesn't mean that you can't play a valuable role - plus get the care and support you need to cope with this too.
How is my life going to change?
Will they be able to stay at home while they have treatment?
It depends on their personal plan of action. If your brother or sister is treated in their local hospital and can go in and out for treatment, life might carry on fairly normally day to day.
The chances are they will need to stay in hospital for periods of time. They will probably go to a specialist treatment centre for young people. These are often far away so they might have to make long trips, or stay nearby.
What will my home life look like now?
If you and your family live under one roof, you can expect some changes. One of your parents might spend lots of time with your sibling, staying with them during treatment or giving up work to care for them. Your parents also might seem more preoccupied than usual under the weight of worry and keeping daily life running.
You’ll all be coping with your own emotions and stress levels might be high, but it’s important everyone can contribute and feel useful. Think about how you could work together as a team. Are there any practical tasks you can help out with to take the pressure off your parents? Would you want to spend time with your brother or sister in hospital, or help them get to and from treatment?
The big questions
We know you siblings get a raw deal. You have to cope with the changes going on all around you while carrying on with ‘normal’ life (when everything feels anything but normal). Your parents have less time for you, but might expect you to take on more responsibility. And you’ll want to help your brother or sister, while going through some tough emotions yourself.
There is no right or wrong way to get through this. Anything you feel right now is normal. The best thing you can do is to make sure you keep talking about what’s going on for you. Keeping everything in to keep the peace will only make things harder. Find someone who can support your needs – whether that’s a friend, partner or family member. The better you’re able to take care of yourself, the more energy you will have to help your brother or sister. Being in a good headspace will let you be there for them, in a way that sometimes only siblings can be for each other.
This is probably going to be your biggest fear. You might not even want to go there yet – that’s entirely understandable.
The likelihood is that your brother or sister will be fine – most types of cancer are treatable and 84% survive young people’s cancers according to Cancer Research UK.
For everyone concerned about your brother or sister’s welfare, ALWAYS the best thing to do is to carry on speaking with their consultant. They will have a better idea then anyone of how things are going and should be clear and honest with you about this.
No – but that’s not to say you won’t feel like they have sometimes. Your parents won’t mean to sideline you but there are many reasons why their attention will be taken up and their focus will be distracted.
Emotionally, they’re dealing with a lot too, including their own fears. Lots of parents cope by going into ‘survival mode’ which means immersing themselves in your sibling’s treatment and focusing all their energy on the next steps. Practically, they’ll also be under stress to keep everything together. Bills still need paying, the washing still needs doing… life carries on around the turmoil of a diagnosis. And it’s really hard.
When it comes to your relationship with your parents, try to be patient but at the same time, be honest. If you explain to them how you’re feeling, it’s more likely you’ll get the reassurance you need. You might be able to come up with ways to help each other and work more as a team to get through this difficult experience.
It’s really not surprising that you feel envious. It might feel like your brother or sister is being prioritised over you – and while it might be understandable, it doesn’t make it easier.
Because of everything going on, parents often just run out of brain space which means they could forget about things that are important to you, or not have the time to spend focusing on your life in the same way. It can feel really hard when you miss out on this, but even more reason why it’s important that you get attention and support from elsewhere. Be that friends, or other family members. Don’t feel bad about venting or asking for help – you still have your own life to live.
Read more about what your sibling is dealing with
Understanding what your brother or sister is up against can really make a difference. Browse our info for young people with cancer by topic to familiarise yourself with some of the issues they might be facing.
Being there for your sibling doesn’t mean that you’re not going to feel down at times too. Watching someone you love go through cancer can be scary and tough. It means an extra weight on your shoulders while you also have to deal with your own emotions.
It’s normal to feel sad or low – and you shouldn’t feel guilty or selfish. In fact, admitting this to your brother or sister can help you both open up to each other and bring you closer. It’s also important that you have someone who will listen to how you’re feeling. So talk to a friend, your family, doctor or a counsellor. Remember that the people caring for your brother or sister will also be there for you.