An Open Letter From the Sibling of a Cancer Survivor

I’ve always enjoyed reading ‘open letter’ posts online, but thought they were becoming a little over-used.  cliche.  I never imagined myself writing one, but there are a lot of things I never imagined that eventually came to fruition in my life, so here we are.

I am a cancer patient.  Let me clarify, cancer has not physically attacked my blood, bones, organs, or limbs.  It attacked my heart.  By physically attacking my younger brother, it attacked me emotionally.

I am a cancer sibling.

September 2008, I was only twelve.  On the brink of my teenage years, I was homeschooling, attending my brothers’ sporting events, horse-back riding every week, goofing off with friends and enjoying my family.

I was young.  I had a lot to learn.  I still have a lot to learn.

The oldest of my three younger brothers spent a full summer experiencing severe back pain.  On and off he would have unexplainable but undeniable pain.  Several trips to the ER brought no answers.  Several doctors brought several different possible conclusions, but still, no relief.

One M.R.I. appointment turned into two weeks of my brother living in the hospital, and a diagnosis.  Daily life for my entire family was thrown into chaos.  The terms; mass, tumour, biopsy, cancer, chemo, malignant, benign, test, scan, treatment, and many others blurred my mind those two weeks.  Still I didn’t understand.

I had no clue what cancer was.  I had no clue what chemo-therapy was.  I had no clue what the future held.

I hated seeing my brother endure it.  I hated being in hospitals.  I hated the sound of every medical term and sight of every medical device.  But I trusted God.  I also loved the treatment my brother received.  I loved the doctors and nurses who poured into him, and me.  The way they treated him with such caution, precision, and love.  The way they calmed nerves and brought the overwhelming world of cancer to a slow, still, single thing; ready to be conquered.  Every nurse and child life specialist I ever met was an expert at creating distractions and simply making reality a little easier to face.

I must say, the doctors, nurses, treatments, tests, medications, procedures, transfusions or any earthly thing in the hospital did not cure my brother.  God did.  From an earthly perspective, all of those things heal, and yes He uses them to heal, but God is in control 100%.  My hope is not in any medications, natural remedy, or expert surgeon.  My hope is in Christ alone.

Seven years later, ‘I learned a lot’ is an understatement.  To be honest, I still don’t fully understand.  To me, the physical mystery of cancer’s origin and deadly power remains unanswered.  But I do see that God worked all of it for His good (Romans 8:28).  Cancer brought me closer to God.  It forced me to rely on Him.  It brought me closer to my family.  It showed how precious my time with them is.  Cancer opened my eyes to a world that needs my service, children that need love, people that need shoulders to cry on, families that need the hope I have.  Cancer is not only a physical battle, it’s an emotional one.

My God brought me into an ocean; me and my family.  He carried us into and out of a storm we could never survive on our own.  But through it, we’ve seen more than dark clouds.  We’ve seen the beauty in the eye of the storm.  We’ve seen the way the rain makes the plant grow stronger, and the rainbow as the sky clears.  We now see a bigger piece of the picture.

Cancer hurts.  For my little brother, it was physical pain.  For me, it was emotional.  Watching my brother in pain hurts.  Meeting other cancer patients, parents, and siblings and seeing them in pain hurts.  Being torn away from a “normal” life and forced to embrace a new reality, hurts.  But that’s another thing I learned from cancer, there is no such thing as normal.  Every country, city, culture, family, and individual person, has their own idea of normal.

There is no perfect formula for normal, it’s simply not real.  Normal will change throughout your life, embrace what God gives you, blessings and struggles.  Embrace your normal.  Cancer is a battle I, my brother, and my family all fought in different ways, and continue to fight.  It’s a battle I learned a lot from and continue to learn from every day.  It’s a storm I grew in.

For my brother’s health, for those who treated him, for God’s grace, for the storm, and for being a cancer sibling, I am forever thankful.


4 thoughts on “An Open Letter From the Sibling of a Cancer Survivor

  1. You were the best cancer sibling to your brother. You were a blessing to our family at that time. You were 12 and basically handed a 15month old baby and 5 year old little brother to care for while we were at the hospital. You were the rock that didn't move for our family and we know that was because you are firmly standing on The Rock that won't move! We love you and are forever grateful for your love and care for your 3 little brothers. They are beyond blessed to have you and will know it someday. Thank you for being you! You made this whole experience so much easier on all of us.


  2. I was in bed thinking exactly that last night. I counted back and Allie was 12 years old. 12. She didn't understand the entire situation but she did have a grasp that God had this and was in control for the family and she trusted that and pitched in and again like you say, one day CJ will say, wow, what a sister. Fantastic.


  3. Allie,

    I can't believe you were Brett's age when you were thrust into this. You did an incredible job of stepping up and running our household at such a young age. We are so blessed to have you as a daughter.

    Your post brought tears to my eyes… Tears of sadness, and tears of joy. Thank you for sharing this.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s