When your brother or sister is diagnosed with cancer, the world can suddenly become a very different place. Lots of things may change. You may find yourself spending big chunks of time at the hospital or not seeing your parents very much. Of course, there’s a good chance you’re worried about your brother or sister, and that's ok.
Understanding more about the cancer your brother or sister has, and their treatment, can be helpful. Asking questions is a good thing – the more you know about something, the more chance you have of managing it in a positive way.
Along with your parents, your hospital social worker is a good person to ask for places to find useful, up-to-date information. You might also want to ask if you can attend meetings with the hospital medical team so you can ask questions directly.
You may even be worried about whether your brother or sister will survive. It's important to remember that most children and young people who have cancer do survive, but if this is really on your mind, it can help to talk to a social worker or counsellor, especially if you aren’t comfortable talking to your parents.
No matter what's on your mind, remember that the more support you have around you, the better. If in doubt, talk to your hospital social worker or contact the Redkite support team.
supporting your sister or brother
There’s a lot you can do to support your sibling. No matter what kind of relationship you have with them at the moment, there’s a good chance they’re going to appreciate you being around.
They might look different while they're going through treatment, but treating them the same as always is important. That said, be understanding if they're feeling tired and unwell, as their treatment might mean they’re low on energy or are in pain sometimes.
“It was a big shock to my family, especially for my brother and sister, who had never experienced anyone in the family going into hospital," says Rabia. "During treatment, I sort of became the youngest because they would always be watching over me and looking after me.”
If you miss school during your sibling's treatment, there are ways to get extra support if you need it. Talking to your teachers so they understand what’s going on at home is a good first step, and the Redkite support team are also here to help you find any assistance you need.
Unfortunately you might also have some trouble at school from other kids who don’t understand cancer. Some people think you can catch cancer, and others might tease you about how your sibling looks. If this happens, talk to a school counsellor or teacher you trust. Other people have found it helpful to have a nurse come and talk to their class or school to help everyone understand cancer better.
There’s a good chance that while your sister or brother is getting treatment you’re not going to see as much of your parents as usual. They might also seem stressed, scared, tired or even angry. This is understandable, but it can be tough for you.
Even though they may seem preoccupied, you can still talk to them about how you’re feeling, as they will still be concerned about how you’re managing. If you need extra help about what to say, you can talk to counsellors at:
looking after yourself
Just because your brother or sister has cancer doesn’t mean you have to stop being yourself. While life may change in many ways, it can help to try to keep doing some of your regular activities. Don’t feel guilty about getting on with life, they’ll understand. And remember, it really is okay to laugh sometimes.
one last thing...
Just in case this is something you're worried about: you didn’t cause this and are in no way to blame. Sometimes people get funny ideas in their head that something they did or said is the reason behind bad things happening. Cancer just happens. It is awful, but it’s no one’s fault.
Last updated September 2015.