Sibling of the Month January 2020
Aryana is 11 years old. Her sister Aleyna is 9 years old. They are very close and only 20 months apart in age. Aleyna was diagnosed with medulloblastoma (a brain tumor) in September 2018 and recently completed her treatment.
Aryana loves to play sports, watch Disney and Marvel movies, play with her sister and cook. Her sister, Aleyna is quieter than Aryana. She likes Star Wars. She does not like sports, but she is very tough.
(Art work pictured is a self-esteem shield, showing different areas of Aryana’s life that impact her in a positive way).
Aryana speaks with Sibling Support Specialist Jenn Costa.
What has changed since your sister was diagnosed with cancer?
I joke a lot and before we used to laugh together at my jokes but now that doesn’t happen as much. She is a bit more moody now. But we are now closer and I’m more protective of her. I don’t feel like I’ve been treated differently since she was diagnosed.
Who do you feel is most supportive of you and how do they support you?
I would say my friends from both my new school and old school. My best friend helps me a lot by talking to me and when my sister was still in treatment my best friend would comfort me and tell me my sister was going to be alright. My friends from my new school are supportive and they all make me feel better.
Do you think it’s helpful for your school to know what is going on?
Yes, because sometimes there may be pressure at school but for them to know what’s going on at home may be better, so they understand if you’re having a bad day or a hard time.
What do you like most about being a sister? What is your favorite thing to do together?
Annoying my younger sister (laughter). We love to watch movies together- that is one thing we don’t argue about. It doesn’t matter what movie, but we usually watch some sort of Disney movie.
Throughout this entire process and her treatment what emotions have come up for you the most?
Before I used to cry a lot more, but now I don’t cry over little things. I sometimes get jealous that my sister gets all this attention and she can do things that I can’t, and sometimes I get mad. I get angry at the cancer because I think “why” did this happen and then I also get worried about it coming again.
How do you and your family communicate?
We talk about it sometimes but not as much recently. At the beginning when I was feeling jealous, I didn’t want to share that with them, but I talked more to my friends. But if there is something I feel needs to be addressed I would tell my parents.
How did you find out your sister had cancer?
My Dad got a phone call from my Mom and he needed to go, so he was dropping me off at my neighbors so he could go meet her. He was speaking Hindi to them to tell them what was going on, and I don’t really understand Hindi, but that day I understood every word he was saying and I just broke down in tears. So that day he didn’t exactly tell me, it was more me understanding what he was telling them.
We went to the hospital the next day and I played with my sister. The child life specialist came in and told me what was going on and showed me a lot of stuff, and then my sister went into surgery.
What advice would you give to other brothers and sisters who have a sibling that is just getting a diagnosis?
Your sibling doesn’t really change and they will get through it. You have to keep supporting them and try not to get angry. Sometimes it’s not them talking, it’s the cancer, and it’s not that they are being mean to you, it’s that the cancer is affecting the way they are thinking.
For me, when I felt angry I would play sports better because I would let out my feelings during the games. It was an outlet.