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Real Story

Getting my own life back

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This time two years ago my big sister was a single mom of two, she ran her own company, performed in plays and sang with bands, studied part time at college and volunteered for a stack of charities. Even with all that going on, she had time to do things like sew my formal dress, dye my hair, and listen to me cry on the phone when I split with my boy.

Now my sister has brain cancer. After surgery, chemo, radiation and every type of alternative treatment under the sun she is pretty much a shadow of her former self. She can’t talk anymore, she communicates with a series of grunts. She can’t catch a bus or cross a road, and she can’t cook or dress herself. She can’t even remember who I am.

At first I gave up my life to support her. I showered her, dressed her, drove her around, and helped her do her exercises. I read her the paper every morning and communicated with her friends on her behalf. My life stopped and I became as much of her as I could so that she could still exist in her former glory.

It all took over me, and I became totally paranoid. I was convinced if I fell asleep that was when she’d die and I wouldn’t get to say good bye. And if I didn’t keep in contact with all her friends they’d forget about her, and my once popular and social sister, would die lonely and alone.

The cancer nurse recommended I join a support group for siblings. At first I refused to go, thinking I couldn’t handle being away from her, even for a few hours a week. But eventually my sister told me she wanted me to go.

I was totally overwhelmed by the support the group offered. It was amazing to sit in a room with a group of people who had been through exactly what I was going through. They understood my paranoia and my need to keep her old life alive.

Slowly they helped me understand that my sister had changed, and I should learn to embrace all the wonderful aspects of her now as she was, not how she used to be. And they taught me the importance of getting my own life back.

It’s been a few months now and we have a pretty good balance. I work during the day, hang out with my friends, and spend quality ‘sister time’ with her. It’s so much more rewarding for both of us to just hang out as sisters.

One of the amazing things I have discovered is that she has a wicked sense of humor we never saw before she got sick. She makes me laugh and I cherish this time so much now. I wasn’t able to see the funny side of things when I was so absorbed in keeping her life running.

Obviously if I could make her better I would, but we both agree this experience has made us stronger, and closer. It’s made me grow up a little, and helped me learn to love people exactly as they are here and now. And it’s taught me it’s OK to ask for help every now and again.

And as for my sister, well this morning she made herself a cup of tea for the first time in 6 months! Sounds silly, but it’s a huge step! And seeing the smile on her face was one of the most awesome moments of my life!

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    Spongebob212

    Im so glad that you had the courage to stand up for yourself and your girlfriend. So many people don’t have that courage and just suffer. Im glad it got better for you, thank you for sharing your story! smile  

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