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When Your Brother or Sister Has Cancer: A Guide for Teens

  • Posted: 12/26/2013

How You Can Help Your Brother or Sister

Help by Just Being There
Help by Being Thoughtful
Help by Staying Involved

"People used to call Jessie and me 'the twins.' We are 13 months apart, but we look so much alike and we were always together. Now that Jess has cancer she's lost all her hair and --well, unfortunately, people can tell us apart. Last week I decided to do something pretty drastic to show my sister how much I love her. I shaved my head! Now, I am not saying that is the right thing for all sisters to do--but it felt like the right thing for us."
- Renee, age 15


This section has some things that others have done to help their brother or sister. Pick one or two things you may want to try this week. Then pick a couple more next week.

Help by Just Being There

  • Hang out together. Watch a movie together. Read or watch TV together. Decorate your brother's or sister's bedroom with pictures or drawings. Go to the activity room at the hospital and play a game or do a project together.
  • Comfort one another. Just being in the same room as your brother or sister can be a big comfort. Do what feels best for the two of you. Give hugs or say "I love you." Laugh or cry together. Talk to one another. Or just hang out in silence.



Help by Being Thoughtful

  • Help your brother or sister stay in touch with friends. Ask your sibling's friends to write notes, send pictures, or record messages. Help your brother or sister send messages to their friends. If your brother or sister is up for it, invite friends to hang out with them.
  • Share a laugh. You've probably heard that laughter is good medicine. Watch a comedy or tell jokes together, if that is your thing.
  • Be patient. Be patient with each other. Your brother or sister may be cranky or even mean. As bad as you feel, your brother or sister is probably feeling even worse. If you find you are losing your cool, go for a run, read, or listen to music.
  • Make a snack. Make a snack for the two of you to share. Make a picnic by putting a blanket on the porch or in the bedroom.
  • Buy a new scarf or hat. Your brother or sister might like a new hat or scarf if they have lost their hair during treatment. Get a matching hat or scarf for yourself, too.
  • Try to be upbeat, but be "real," too. Being positive can be good for you and your whole family. But don't feel like you have to act cheerful all the time if that's not how you really feel. Try to be yourself.

Help by Staying Involved

  • Keep a journal together. Write thoughts or poems, doodle, or put photos in a notebook. Take turns with your sibling writing in a journal. This can help you both share your thoughts when it might be hard to talk about them.
  • Go for a walk together. If your brother or sister feels up to it, take a walk together. Or, open a window or sit on the front porch together.

The ideas above are for those times when you have extra energy to give. Don't forget to take care of yourself, too. You deserve it. Read more about taking care of yourself in the section Taking Care of Yourself.

Can you think of some other ways to help your brother or sister?
Make your own list here: