Robyn is only 11. She’s had to grow up much too fast. For as long as she can remember, her big sister, Alex, has been fighting cancer, or dealing with the after effects.
Robyn has dealt with situations and emotions that are a struggle for adults, let alone children.
We need your help to raise $60,000. This will cover the cost of the SIBS program for brothers and sisters who have a sibling with cancer, and support their families, for one year.
And, we have great news! A very generous anonymous donor has committed to giving $30,000 if we can raise the same by 30 June! That means that your donation will be double!
Your support is vital because it will provide the ongoing help that kids like Robyn often need so desperately.
Along with encouraging peer support and friendships between children in the group, our trained professionals teach coping strategies and take kids through resilience building activities.
It will also mean that each of these families have access to ongoing support during and after their child’s cancer treatment.
Alex was diagnosed with cancer when she was only four and a half years old. Robyn was just two and a half. They had just moved from South Australia to Queensland.
Robyn can’t remember a time when Alex didn’t have cancer or wasn’t dealing with the after effects. Fortunately, Alex is a fighter. Eight years later, Robyn still has her beloved sister here to hug.
Their father, Peter, says they have an incredible bond. “Robyn and Alex fight like typical siblings, but if anyone steps in their way, they stand up for each other. Robyn is fiercely protective of her big sister. Their bond is different, because of everything they’ve been through.”
The Thomas family has been fighting cancer together for eight years now.
The impact of a diagnosis of childhood cancer on siblings is immense.
There may be an immediate need for emotional and practical support. Brothers and sisters, like Robyn, often need help to understand and cope with the changes.
Your donation is so important. It will ensure that siblings like Robyn have access to the SIBS program. It also means that siblings have access to ongoing support from our trained psychologists, at a time when they need it most.
After a childhood cancer diagnosis, every family member copes in a different way. Being in Queensland, Mariann and Peter didn’t have the support of their family around them. Mariann turned to writing as an outlet for her fear and grief. It helped her cope and communicate.
Peter coped differently. “I remember when I first saw the scan I thought, this isn’t me. I’m in the wrong place.
“Work were so accommodating when Alex was diagnosed. I’d been promoted to sergeant and we had to spend more than two weeks straight in the children’s cancer ward. We were thrust into this world you don’t want to be a part of, seeing things you don’t want to see.
“Being in the military, you never want to show failure. It’s just the type of people we are. I didn’t want to say ‘I can’t handle this.’ But every morning before an appointment, I’d throw up.”
Siblings have to cope with so much.
Robyn doesn’t remember anything about that early time in their lives.
But the long-term impact on her has been enormous. Cancer has been part of her life for as long as she can remember. All the medical appointments. Waiting in hospital rooms and watching her sister afraid and in pain. Missing out on outings, holidays and ‘fun stuff’.
Sometimes, siblings can feel left out.
“It’s been so hard on Robyn. We’ve tried our best but sometimes all the time and effort goes on Alex. We would never ignore her, but it’s hard. We feel bad for Alex, and guilty about Robyn. There’s never the right balance,” said Mariann.
“A lot of time when I’m on my own, I end up crying in my room. I worry about Alex a lot, but also I feel a bit left out,” Robyn admits.
Our Super Important Brothers and Sisters Program (SIBS) has been designed especially for kids like Robyn.
At SIBS, siblings have access to professional support to assist them through their brother or sister’s cancer diagnosis.
Kids also have special outings and events and are engaged in resilience building activities. These can include coping skills such as learning relaxation techniques.
“We learn about relaxation and breathing skills; dragon, elephant and bubble breathing. They help calm me down. The slow breathing helps me relax. I’ve even been able to use some of the things we learn to help Alex when she is anxious.
“SIBS makes me feel so much happier because I actually get a chance to shine. At SIBS, I’m not invisible - which I do feel a lot of the time. At SIBS, I feel like I’m not the one in the corner crying.”
It all takes its toll.
Day after day in hospital. Coming to terms with a cancer diagnosis. Accepting what ‘might’ happen and what will happen. Looking after your baby while your other child is in hospital. Holding down a job.
When Mariann and Peter moved back to South Australia, they were referred to the Childhood Cancer Association. They say they don’t know how they would have managed without this support.
“It’s very humbling. We asked ourselves ‘why do we deserve this, when there are people who are worse off?’ It’s hard to say to yourself ‘you deserve it’, and that’s why we’re so grateful for the support,” says Peter.
“It’s good to know there are people out there who can make our bad day a good day. Even just knowing someone is there if we really need to talk…. the smallest thing really does make the biggest difference,” said Mariann.
“To everyone who donates, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support is so amazing. Thank you so much.”
Alex has been classed as ‘stable’ for eight years - technically, she is in remission. But the impact of childhood cancer never goes away.
“The anxiety is the worst. As soon as the doctor says you need to go in for a scan, you feel anxious. The raw emotions come back and hit you like a brick wall. The week before, as soon as I know they’re coming up, my brain goes to fog.
We need your help to raise $60,000 by 30 June.
Childhood Cancer Association must provide vital support for kids like Robyn, through the Super Important Brothers and Sisters Program. We must be there for other mums and dads like Mariann and Peter. They can struggle with the devastation of a cancer diagnosis and they need your help.
Will you please stand with us and support them today?