Meet Justin and Rebecca
Justin and Rebecca

 In most families there is some sort of order (no matter how diverse or disorganized at times); a hum of a daily routine, a way of doing things that makes sense and brings comfort. When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, there are changes. Lots of them. Reeling from the news and trying best to adjust to the “new normal” that sense of safety and familiarity of home life can be quickly swept out the door.

 
The sacrifices made in the family may be monumental or seemingly small - from changes in living situations, missing the presence of caregivers, donating blood or bone marrow, to missing out on playdates or going to the community pool on a hot summer day. Siblings are not immune to carrying the weight of all they must give up, sometimes with confusion or resentment, but always lightened with love.
 
The first word that comes to mind upon meeting Rebecca, 7, and her 4 year old brother, Justin is just that; Love.
 
Justin, who was diagnosed with ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia) last year, lights up when his sister returns home from school and almost immediately envelops her with the warmest of bear hugs. Rebecca lovingly returns that affection with the kindness and concern of a seasoned big sister. Rebecca, our February Sibling of the Month, shares her story with Friends of Karen Sibling Support Specialist, Siobhan Casey. Please read below for her honest and heartwarming words, just in time for the month of love.
 
What are three special things about you?
 
I like to sing. I’m a very good singer, my favorite song is Let it Go. (Sings Let it Go)
I have a little brother Justin and I'm a good big sister. I’m good at drawing - I can do cute drawings of cats. Can I say 4 things? I’m great at doing cartwheels!
 
What do you like best about being a big sister?
 
I like playing with him. We love playing “Hide and Seek.” He loooves when I play with him - when I walk in the door he says “Rebecca! Play with me!” He always wants to play because he doesn't go to school like me, but sometimes I have to do my homework!
 
How have things been different for your family since Justin was diagnosed?
 
At first he had to be at the hospital and Mommy was always with him. We visited but I still missed them both. I would cuddle Daddy a lot. I got so scared because Justin was having surgery. I was very happy when he came home.
 
What are some of the things that you had to give up? What changed for you?
 
It was really hard because we couldn't go out for ice cream or go to the playground or restaurants or the movies with my brother. Mostly we just stayed home. Nobody could come over for playdates. We had to make sure he didn't catch germs from anybody. It was hard giving those things up and also hard at first to understand why. My mom helped and now I get it. We can go to more places now that he's feeling better.
 
How do you show Justin that you love him?
 
I give him hugs and we play outside. We snuggle on the weekends. I love him because he is special.
 
How does he show you that he loves you?
 
He hugs me and says “I Love you” and he always wants to be with me.

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Friends of Karen believes that families can maintain a sense of balance and stability even in the midst of the crisis of caring for a child with a life-threatening illness.