For siblings, who often share a deep bond, a cancer diagnosis can really hit hard as life turns upside down for both of them. It’s one day at a time, powering through, delivering support and trying to help preserve normalcy in the midst of an anything-but-normal situation. The pain and worry are often well hidden as they strive to put on a brave face for each other and enjoy the present as best they can. And when a sibling doesn’t survive, the brave face often continues as the bereaved struggle to reimagine what life even means without their loved one there and the impact on their own future.
“One of many things you’ve taught me is surviving isolation. Days and nights in a hospital room for months at a time, in the moment time just passed by. We spent our time building legos, playing Mario Kart, making puzzles, playing cards, painting, walking the hallways, making fun of each other, at times fighting….honestly anything seemed fine confined within those walls as long as we had each other. Kinda wish quarantine consisted of you keeping ME company, but I’m glad you are away from this world at the moment. I would have been terrified for you.
Anyways, the past three months have been spent sick trying to find health insurance and giving into the help I need. Next month starts a new chapter in my life with a new doctor and going back to therapy, not the way I expected things to go, but I thought of you and knew you’d probably want me to stop being prideful and kind of cowardly and face my fears head-on. I haven’t even processed the loss of friends and just came straight home from funerals to work nonstop until now I’ve had time to feel my body and mind struggle. I guess this moment in time where the world is at a pause was what I needed to realize the lord is telling me to just be still…and start to take care of myself again.” — Estefania Olivera
Ruben Olivera (left) and his sister Estefania Olivera
The Healing Process
The stigma of loss among young adults can make it particularly challenging to verbalize these emotions, depriving them of part of the healing process. As part of the AYA cancer support community, let’s all remember how important it is to make room for young adults to grieve, process, and talk about their loss, concerns, and struggles. Comfort and healing are facilitated by just listening. And most importantly, remember to keep their sibling’s memory alive in conversations that celebrate how they lived, the things they taught us and the light they brought into our lives. It should never feel like we have moved on, but instead, it should feel like we are moving forward…together.