Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) is recognized every September by childhood cancer organizations across the…
My name is Elicia Stern, and my sister Olivia had cancer; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia to be exact. My sister was diagnosed in 7th grade. I was in 4th grade. I remember when we first noticed a problem and my sister was going to go see a doctor. I talked to my best friend at the time and she told me her sister was recently sick, but everything was going to be ok. Then she hugged me. I remember that moment so vividly. A few days later we found out Olivia had cancer. I don’t think I could really grasp what that really meant. I was so young. I remember my teacher hugged me and told me if I ever needed to leave to go to the guidance counselor I could. That if assignments were late he would understand. I was so fortunate that everyone around me was so understanding. I felt so weird. Everyone was being so nice to me and my family. Bringing us meals and helping with rides. I never fully appreciated this because I didn’t totally think it was a big deal and I just didn’t understand it at that point.
I was so young, and I trusted the adults around me when they told me that everything would be okay. I think that was a big part of why I wasn’t so scared. It’s weird to look back on it because if this happened now, I would realize the situation. But I was still just a kid.
Her diagnosis made me grow up much faster. While on the weekends most kids would hang out with friends, go downtown, go shopping or watch a movie; I would go to the hospital to visit her. I always wanted to visit her on weekdays. Even when I had lots of homework (for a fourth/fifth grader) I pushed it for later. When she was home, I was always by her side. I had my own room but lots of nights I chose to sleep on the floor in my sisters’ room.
When Olivia was sick, I always tried to do my best to be there for her. I was there to get her juice after she threw up, so she didn’t have a bad taste in her mouth. I wanted to help with her shots although my mom didn’t let me because I was a little too young. My siblings and I practiced swallowing sugar pills to get her to swallow her pills.
I don’t think I will ever know how much my sister getting diagnosed changed me. I feel weird telling my story because I never want to steal the spotlight from my sister. She is such a tough girl and, I’ve never really been asked. I think being a sibling of someone who has/had cancer is something that can only be fully comprehended by another person who also has/had a sibling with cancer. You just know, and you don’t really need to explain because they have had so many of the same experiences. I don’t really like to talk about how my sister getting cancer affected me because obviously she was impacted most but it truly does impact the whole family.
One time I was at an event and my sister was telling her story and a doctor came up to my family and I, and he talked to me for a second and he said “You know it really impacts the siblings too.” I teared up. I felt validation because you never want to talk about your pain when your sibling is going through/has gone through much worse.
I know having a sister who had cancer impacted my faith journey. It made me think of why things work out the way that they do much more than most kids. I believe it made me grow up faster. You see the world so much differently than kids your age when you see your sibling go through such terrible things, and most of the time you can’t do much about it except wish and pray that their pain will be over soon because you know they can’t bear it.
It made me closer with my sister. It made me realize how horrible cancer is and how many children and families are impacted by it and how little funding it has. Cancer sucks but my family and I are still here trying to spread awareness. Trying to share her story for good. I can only hope that I can share my story and someone who has/had a sibling with cancer can feel validated and can feel comfortable knowing that they are not alone. That someone who has/had cancer can maybe understand the feelings siblings went through and talk to them or maybe just see what their world was like. That some family that has never been affected by cancer finds out that every three minutes the words ¨your child has cancer¨ are heard by a child and their family.
Childhood cancer affects everyone. It affects the parents, the child, but also the siblings. That’s why we want to share their stories. If you have a story you would like to share of your supersib journey, please email Danielle Torgerson at email@example.com