When Cancer Hits Siblings

When cancer hits, it never hits just one. Families are not made of one…

While it inhabits one body, it hits all. During our family vacation, I watched my boys play with their cancer sibling. The boys are 17 and 13 and 10…exactly that amazing, frustrating conundrum you’d expect from those ages, but in the one moment, the moment of just our family together without the outside influence of social media or friends, the boys played together so lovingly that anything juvenile melted instantly.

They know so little of the heartache we’ve been through, yet so much of the pain that it’s caused. They are wise beyond their years and watching them together unfiltered caused me to recall that they one of the many…and the many are on my heart most days. So, siblings, this is for you.

Dear Cancer Siblings,

I may not know you, but I want you to know that I see you. I see the pain of wondering if a beloved playmate, friend and brother or sister is going to die.

I see that pain in your heart while the other kids your age hardly understand the words let alone the concept.

I see you standing in the doorway of your house…a friend’s house…a grandparents house…while we, your parents and protectors pull out of the driveway and go to another doctor, another hospital, another appointment without you.

I see you standing quietly in the halls of the hospitals while doctors and nurses buzz around and make a deal about seemingly everything and everyone but you.

I see you in the shadows of the flashing lights when the only words they’ll tell you are “it’s okay” and “stay out of the way, it’ll be okay”.

I see your frustration when your broken, sick sibling that you love so dearly hurts you as if they don’t care.

I see the guilt when you have a moment of resentment or wishing it all could have been different. It’s okay… we all have those.

I see the playgrounds and school halls through your eyes as you protectively and with a righteous anger watch social situations go over your atypical sibling’s heads or behind their backs.

I see you crouch low over their bed and tell them it’s going to be okay because you’re there.

I see you talking to and playing with the air in front of you as you live out their memories and remember their presence.

I see you being the one who doesn’t get the special gift or amazing experience.

I see you stand helplessly by and watch grown men and women sob scarily and uncontrollably.

I see you having a different, often less understood life from the other kids around you.

I see you marking birthdays and holidays with an empty chair at the table.

I see you visiting a cemetery while your friends visit a park.

But here’s what else I see…

I see your bravery.

I see your unconditional love.

I see you standing up when you’d rather fall down.

I see you stepping up when you’d rather sit down.

I see the hard things developing justice and mercy in equal, beautiful parts of your soul.

I see you living out the truth that no child should ever be left out; left behind.

I see you developing a sensitivity to others beyond that of your peers.

I see hints and teases of who you will someday become and it takes my breathe away.

You will hold the world and you will run it.

Today, you may feel like the one abandoned, but one day soon, you will be the one who includes, who leads, who fights, who dominates and you’ll be able to point back to these moments when it felt like nobody saw you and you’ll say: “This was when I grew.”

So quietly, bravely grow, my dear cancer siblings…You are seen and we can’t wait to experience the incredible person you become.

Love, Your Parents

Jennifer McCord