Sibling Art

Throughout September the nation recognizes Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. At Friends of Karen we take this time to honor the many families we serve and reflect on the work we do to help them. One of our signature values is the deep understanding of the impact an illness has on the entire family. Everyone is affected by the diagnosis. Everyone struggles in some way. The worry, sadness and confusion, as some say, is the price of love. If you are looking for it, you will always witness acts of love when meeting our Friends of Karen families.  Sometimes they are small; quietly considerate, other times they are gestures of solidarity or rallying support from communities. Whether expressed through words, art or action- each family has their own way to communicate -often improved with the help of the family support team.  They are all special and distinctive, yet the humanity shared in the families is threaded throughout each of their stories.

Our Sibling Spotlight, Caoimhe and her family embody these unique yet universal acts of love. Caoimhe, pronounced “Kee-va”, quickly bonded with Sibling Support Specialist Siobhan, over their unique (almost impossible to pronounce) Gaelic names. She is the baby of her family, with two older brothers- Liam and Jack. Caoimhe is a charmer, with an exuberant personality, sense of humor and spunk that she wears like a badge of honor. She can clearly hold her own with her big brothers, yet delights in girl talk, clearly gifted with the Irish “gift of gab”.  After Jack was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of the pandemic, Caoimhe’s mother had the insight to connect with FOK to provide illness education and emotional support to help Caoimhe better understand her brother’s illness and her own big feelings.

Please read Caoimhe’s story below as she shares her experience with having an ill sibling. Though there were difficult times, what she seems to remember most of all are the helpers; those who showed her and her family kindness. In times like these what a much needed reminder of the power of perspective and how at the end of the day, we take care of each other.

What is it like being the only girl with two big brothers?
Being the only girl and the youngest..they tease me and play a game where they pass me around.  The best part is I don’t get bullied because I have two big brothers. They play with me on Roblox.

What was it like when you found out Jack had cancer?
We were driving in the car to the hospital when we found out he had cancer. I felt sad, a little nervous. Also I wasn't really sure what was going on.

What was it like when he was in the hospital?
Mom was in the hospital with Jack and I was sad because she couldn't come home much. I missed Mom a lot but we did things with our dad.

What do you like to do with your dad?
We’d go to a big park with a frog sprinkler. We’d watch Irish football- my dad is Irish.

You have a beautiful Irish name. How many people can say your name correctly?
Nobody! My teacher kept calling me “Cobbie”- it makes me a little mad but I’m used to it.

There were lots of changes when Jack was in the hospital. Can you tell me more about that?
There were lots of changes but there were a lot of people who helped us in different ways. The bus driver picked me up right in front of my house. Friends gave us rides. And Friends of Karen sent gifts and art supplies and I had sessions with you (Siobhan).  My dad shaved his head with Jack- he didn’t want him to feel like he was the only one.  When my mom came home from the hospital , I was so happy she was home. It was ok to just spend quiet time, because we knew she was tired.

Now that things are better with Jack and your mom has to be in the hospital less, what do you like to do with her?
Now that things are better with Jack - I like getting mani-pedis with my mom.

What do you like to do in Sibling Support sessions?
I like to do art and talk about feelings. It helped me because sometimes I’m confused with feelings. I have the art I made hanging up on the wall. You know how different cancers have colors? Like pink for Breast Cancer and blue for Colon Cancer? The color for Jack’s cancer is green- at first I thought it actually meant it was green but now I know it's just for the ribbons and bracelets. 

What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Sassy - Nice - Foodie ( likes to snack). Also, I'm gifted with beautiful natural highlights.

What makes you feel better when you're sad?
Alone time, art and watching YouTube.

What makes you awesome?
Just being me!

If you were a superhero what would your name be?
Super Caoimhe stretchy arms

What makes your family special?
Jack had cancer and he fought through it and survived. We have fun together and we love each other.