Natalie is 15 years old. Her younger brother Saul is 10. He was diagnosed with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) in October of 2017. Saul has been hospitalized many times since diagnosis and these two siblings have been separated a lot over the last few months. Natalie graciously agreed to speak with us and to share her family’s story to help other sibs to know they are not alone in their experiences. And now, Introducing, Natalie! (Interviewed by Friends of Karen Sibling Specialist, Melinda Ferraraccio)
Tell us a little about you.
I love the color blue and the ocean and water especially in the DR (Dominican Republic) where my family visits. I’m very shy, but outgoing. I just love making people laugh! I work very hard and I challenge myself to be a better person every day. I’m very proud of myself that I still wake up, even with all that’s going on, and I carry on.
Would you be willing to share with other siblings what has helped you to “carry on?”
I recently discovered by trying out for softball that running really felt nice because it was a release. After running I just started crying and all the feelings I had been holding onto came out. A teacher helped me through that moment and told me her own story and experience with cancer. It really helped to speak with someone who understood all the feelings I am having. I feel now like I am slowly coming back to myself. Making the softball team, talking about my feelings, (because I didn’t talk about anything before –I was just hiding everything) and being more with my friends means that I can be more the “old Natalie,” energetic and fun.
What has been the most challenging thing for you about Saul’s diagnosis and treatment?
Reality hitting you. Waking up every morning and going to school knowing that my brother has cancer. I have to put on an act at school. People will look at me and not know what’s going on. Then coming home, the real me comes out and that’s hard too because my family is dealing with so much.
The diagnosis of a serious illness does effect the whole family. Will you talk a little more about how the leukemia diagnosis has changed things in your family?
I love how loving they all are with each other. Whenever we all get together there is so much laughter and the energy is so good. I miss us all being able to be together.
Have you discovered a strength or a positive in you or your family since this happened?
Seeing my brother healthy, seeing him laugh, and be funny. Seeing that reminds me that a part of him is still in there. Also, softball. I might not have tried out or pushed myself to try something new before Saul got sick.
Is there any advice you would offer other siblings?
Don’t give up. Don’t think that there’s no hope. It is challenging going through darkness, but there is light. Now that I look back there is hope at the end of the day and I have found that good things come from hard challenges.