Children's Cancer Foundation
Riley shared with us what childhood cancer has been like for him as the older brother to Hayden, since his brain tumour diagnosis in 2015.
A childhood cancer diagnosis rocks every family member, as the life they once knew is deconstructed and rearranged in unimaginable ways. Sport, laughter and play are replaced by hospitals, surgery, treatment and uncertainty.
Siblings of children with cancer must adapt to these life changes and come to terms with never-before-experienced emotions as their brother or sister fights for their life.
The Clements family know these feelings all too well. Mum Simone shared her family’s story about the impact of her son Hayden’s diagnosis and ongoing recovery from pilocytic astrocytoma (a brain tumour).
Older brother Riley (and sister Carlee) have both shared the sibling perspective of what it’s like seeing your little brother fight back against one of the toughest childhood cancers.
Riley is twelve years old and like most boys his age, he enjoys playing Roblox with friends, building LEGO, Star Wars Battlefront II on the PlayStation 4, and watching YouTube.
However, he has had to step up and face things many children his age won’t ever have to think about, after his younger brother Hayden was diagnosed with childhood brain cancer in 2015. As a result of chemotherapy side effects, Hayden is not fully independent and requires a lot of support.
“I do more chores around the house because Mum and Dad have to help Hayden. I try to help out, taking care of him where I can.“
“We usually have to leave places early because Hayden gets tired easily. He doesn’t always have the energy to play with me for long, and sometimes not at all. I’ve had to learn to be patient with him because it’s not his fault”, Riley told us.
When Hayden is feeling up to it, Riley said that riding their scooters to the park and having family games or movie night are his favourite things to do together.
Remembering the day he was told Hayden had cancer, Riley says, “I told my closest friend Max first, and he felt awful for our family. He spent a lot of time with me and stood up for Hayden and I at school when other children put us down”.
“I was heartbroken and sad. I didn’t know much about cancer then, but I do now, and I realise it is a huge deal”.
Sibling’s experience of a child with cancer can also be one of isolation and loneliness. Riley says the most relatable thing he saw recently was the movie, Wonder, empathising with lead character Auggie’s sister Via. In the movie, the parents spend a lot of time with Auggie because of his condition, a rare facial deformity that required surgeries and ongoing support.
“I didn’t go and see Hayden in the hospital much because it would make me cry. But when I did go in and see him, I sat next to him and held his hand’’.
When Riley needs to take time out from everything that is going on, he has a few tricks up his sleeve, “I mostly watch funny YouTube videos to help take my mind off things. We got a pet rabbit when Hayden finished chemo. Her name is Bella, and I often go and pat her when I am sad”.
“Hayden has come a long way after all he has been through. It’s been hard. I’m proud of him and that keeps me strong’’.
Big high fives and thank you to Riley for sharing a sibling’s experience of childhood cancer with us.
You can help see the day children’s cancer is gone by donating today.
Photo credit: Simone Clements, Mother of Hayden