An Anonymous Story

An Anonymous Story

My son was diagnosed with metastatic cancer at the age of 2 years and 2 months.  He was diagnosed following a lengthy five week battle with the GP and hospital who refused to believe he was so seriously ill.  They thought I had post-natal depression because I had just given birth to my second child.  They finally agreed to carry out a scan.  My daughter was five weeks old the day our world came shattering apart.  We were told he would die, he was placed in palliative care, we were told it can be hereditary.  We had six long months to await the DNA results to let us know if we had to test our daughter or not.  Every time I held her, I was frightened of loving her too much because I was convinced that she was going to die too.  I forced myself to ignore those feelings and tried to be the best mother I could be to both of them, whilst all around me the lack of control took over our lives and we gradually mixed only with our very inner circle.  It was like the world had stopped turning.

Fast forward 14 years, my son survived and went from strength to strength.  He had been given an experimental regime.  It was brutal and involved a stem cell rescue and he took at least 5 years to physically recover and finally could play football with friends when he was 9.  Looking at him, you would not know what he had been through.  He shows no physical scars.  He also shows no mental scars.  Post cancer battle, he breezes through life.  He passed all of his GCSE’s, he chooses his friends well, everybody likes him, he doesn’t get into trouble.  It is like he has read the ‘Rules of Life’.  He knows how to navigate life and does it with ease.  During that time, we had another child, another son.  He too breezes through life, unaffected by the battle the rest of us went through.  Untouched by cancer and what it did to our family.

But not my daughter.  She adores both of her brothers but is unsettled with her position of middle child and only girl.  She has been given – commanded – more attention than the boys combined.  She craves attention, be it good attention or bad attention.  As she entered the teenage years, she became full of resentment for us, full of anger at us, defiant and angry.  Her behaviour at school spiraled.  I found razers in her room.  Vapes.  Strange letters expressing anger at me.  I felt like my little girl went to bed one day and woke up a different person.  Her adolescent self is angry, sees red mist, cannot handle her temper, and has a terrible sense of injustice.  It is hard to watch, and hard to live with.  I constantly question what mistakes I have made.  I was so consumed and distracted by my son’s illness, but I always thought I made so much time for her and made her feel special.  No matter how much love and attention shown, it never seems enough.  She feels like an outsider and the more I try and include her, the more she pushes me away.

Aside from dealing with childhood illness, this has been the hardest time of my life.  I know that much of her behaviour stems from being the sibling of a seriously ill child. She was born into this, and it has also been her life.   I feel constant guilt about how she feels, and deeply ashamed and confused by the way she behaves.  I reached out to my son’s medical team to see if they could give me any guidance as it occurred to me that other families who live through such trauma must also have had knock on consequences.  The hospital connected me to Mind Over Cancer who provided me with 10 counselling sessions.

The sessions were invaluable. I could discuss with full openness all the feelings I had about the situation.  The impact that my daughter’s behaviour was having on the family and the possible triggers to that behaviour.  The counselling has not resolved the problems, but it has made me feel far less alone and given me coping strategies that I can practice.


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