Dashley's Artwork
DJ's Artwork

Siblings of the Month

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Dashley was diagnosed with a brain tumor in June of 2015 when she was 7 years old.  DJ, her older brother, is 11. They also have a two year old baby brother, Max. This month we asked Dashley and DJ to speak to us about how they have faced the challenges of Dashley’s illness and treatment. Please read on as Dashley and DJ discuss what it was like to be separated during Dashley’s long hospitalization, the difficult feelings they have had to struggle with, and the important people and activities that have helped them during this time.

And now, Introducing, Dashley and DJ!
(Interviewed by Friends of Karen Sibling Specialist, Melinda Ferraraccio)
You both just went back to school and DJ just started at a new school.  What grade are you in now? What is your favorite part of school?
Dashley: I am in 3rd grade.  I love school because my friends are all there and I love my teacher.  She was my teacher for science last year and I am really happy she is my teacher again this year.
DJ: I’m in 6th grade.  At first I was really nervous about starting a new school, but I love it.  First of all, I love my school because one of my best friends goes there too and if I have a question I can just ask her.  Also, I have made a lot of new friends, and finally I love all my teachers and my robotics class.
What is your favorite thing about your sibling?
Dashley: He’s kind.  He gave me a doll when he came to the hospital to see me.  It was this really great umbrella doll.  My little brother Max made it fall and break, but I loved it.  It was made of clay. 
DJ: I really love playing games with Dashley. At first I wanted to give her a stuffed animal, but she had 1000’s of those so I decided to get her something different.  I chose the doll because it’s cute just like her. It was kind of sad and happy to visit her in the hospital because she was there so long and I missed her.  But, I was happy to finally see her.  It was sad too, because she couldn’t play or anything.
Dashley: But, sometimes some of the people at the hospital came and did crafts or played music with me so I could get out of bed sometimes.
Can you tell me about when you were first diagnosed?
Dashley: I went to two different hospitals before they figured out that I had a tumor in my head. Then they kept me in the hospital for a long time. I was there for two months.
DJ: It felt like a year. I got really happy when she finally came home.
Do you understand why Dashley was in the hospital for so long?
Dashley: It’s kind of hard to explain.  I had to have surgery to remove the tumor.  Then I had to have chemo in my port.  Then the doctors put me in a machine that took pictures of my brain and the tumor was still there, so then I had to have radiation for six weeks.  I had to go every day except Saturday and Sunday. My mom was always with me, but when she had to leave for a little while someone else would come and stay with me.
DJ: My Tia stayed with me and my Abuela when Dashley was in the hospital.  My dad told me about the tumor.  We were downstairs watching TV.  My dad got a phone call and he started to cry.  I asked him what was wrong and he told me Dashley had a tumor and would have to stay in the hospital.  I started crying because of everything that was going on and how scared I felt. Lots of strange things happened, whenever there was something new, like Dashley’s tubes or port, I asked my Dad and he would explain it to me.
There are so many confusing things about a cancer diagnosis and treatment.  It sounds like you both had people around you that you trusted to ask questions. What was the hardest part of learning about Dashley’s diagnosis and treatment?
DJ: The hardest part was that I couldn’t play with her like I used to and that I had to be careful with her.  Everything was hard, but right now she is getting better so now I feel happier. 
Dashley: The only thing that was really hard was that I couldn’t see my baby brother except on the tablet. I was a little sad. Max couldn’t come to the hospital because he was too little and he could get sick from the germs or he could give me germs.
What helped you to get through the most difficult moments?
Dashley: I really liked having the tablet at the hospital.  It helped when I was bored because I could talk to DJ and we could play games together on it.  I also could talk to my friends sometimes.  It made me feel less lonely.
DJ: Making her feel more comfortable made things easier, because helping Dashley helps me feel better. I also really like making art. I like expressing myself and being creative.  Art makes you feel better.  It helps us tell what we know and what we don’t know.
During this interview I invited you to create a picture that told a story about your sibling.  Can you share what you created and tell us about it?
DJ:  I drew this dragon because both of us (Dashley and I) are fierce just like the dragon.  This dragon can resist anything that comes his way and it protects his siblings in a way that no other creature can.
Dashley: This is me in my hospital bed.  DJ is knocking on the door.  He is holding the doll he picked out for me. Everyone is smiling.  I was so happy he was there to see me.
Is there anything you would like your sibling to know?
Dashley: That is a cool dragon DJ! I would like to draw like that.
DJ: I can help you with anything you need and I will always be there for you Dashley.
Thank you for telling us your story Dashely and DJ. Many other siblings will be able to read this and will hopefully learn that they are not alone and have some of the same feelings and concerns as Dashley and DJ.  Siblings might even find it helpful to create a “story drawing” about their sibling too.  Just like DJ, making art might allow you to express feelings and may help to make you feel a little better. Please check back next month to meet our November 2016 Friends of Karen Sibling of the Month.