Sibling of the Month - June 2018
Micol is 10 years old. Her sister Lilla is 12 and was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was four years old. Micol is an amazing sister and has learned how to help care for her Lilla. It is often challenging for Micol to know what to say to Lilla or how to hang out with her sister in a way that feels right for both of them. In this interview Micol speaks about her life with her sister and about the ways they are connected and about the ways it sometimes feels difficult to connect.
And now introducing Micol (interviewed by Friends of Karen sibling specialist Melinda Ferraraccio)
What are some cool things about you?
Micol: I really like Pizza, I like dogs, I love my sister and I love my mom. I have 4 kids in my family. (Micol also has twin brothers. They are 4 years old.) It's fun, It's annoying, and it's awesome. My favorite color is cyan blue.
You just started running track at school, right?
Micol: Yes! It's hard and tiring, but really fun. I get a challenge and I get to be with my friends. I don't run that fast, but I like to run because it's hard.
Can you tell us about Lilla?
Micol: Lilla's favorite colors are yellow and pink. She's smart. She likes to stand up for me, and she's brave. She has cancer. It's called glioblastoma and it's in her brain. Walking, talking, standing, communicating, and understanding are hard for Lilla.
What are some of the things you like to do with Lilla?
Micol: I read stories to her, sometimes play games. She likes to listen to me play the piano. It's fun to make things up and to be silly. It's hard to spend time with Lilla though. Sometimes she doesn't want to do anything and sometimes it's hard to know what things to do. I don't usually get to decide what we do most of the time. I don't know how much time we have together, so I try, but it doesn't always feel right. I try to just sit and talk, but I don't know what to say and sometimes I have to repeat the same thing over and over for her to understand. And, I mean, she's not interested in what I do at school on Mondays I don't think. When we watch videos together we can spend time with each other but I don't have to think of what to say or try to help her understand. That feels easier even if we don't always like the same videos.
If you could talk to Lilla and it was easier for her to understand what would you want to share with her?
Micol: I would tell her stories about Papa's childhood. Papa always tells me these stories but, I don't know if Lilla would like them as much as I do.
What is the hardest thing about having a sister who is struggling with a brain tumor?
Micol: I think it's hardest trying to interact with her and trying to be a better sister. I want to be kinder.
You are an amazing sister! You are not alone in those feelings. Many siblings find it very hard to be with an ill sibling. It can be difficult to know what to say or how to act. You must find what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. It sounds like you have found some ways to connect with Lilla and that there have been some good moments. Is there any advice you would like to offer other siblings?
Micol: Be kind, be nice, try to understand your sibling. Think about the memories you have with her. Lilla is kind and generous, sweet and caring. I love that about her.
During this interview you worked on a drawing. Can you tell us about the picture you created?
Micol: It's a picture of me and Lilla doing a puzzle of two hearts and it says, "best sister forever." It was really hard to make this. I couldn't make the right me. I didn't know where to put me in the drawing, but I am happy with where I am in the picture now. I have learned that Lilla is a good sister, that I love her, that she has a lot of needs, and that she has cancer.
At Friends of Karen we understand that it can be really hard for siblings to know where they fit in. Like Micol said about her drawing, you might feel like you don't know how to be the "right" sibling or how to connect with your ill sister or brother. Sometimes, like Micol described, you can try a bunch of different things and new ways to interact. Some might work and other things might make you feel uncomfortable. It is normal for it to feel hard to connect when a serious illness is in the way. It is okay to find ways of hanging out that make you and your sibling feel good together. It may also help to share these feelings with an adult you trust.
Thank you Micol for telling your story. It will help many other siblings to understand that they are not alone and may share a lot of the same feelings.