Children's Cancer Foundation
Carlee shared her sibling experience of childhood cancer with us, after her brother Hayden’s battle with a brain tumour.
Siblings are vulnerable when a brother or sister has cancer. Parents aren’t available as often to support and guide them. Routines are disrupted and uncertainty is built into their lives as they handle a surge of new emotions.
The Clements family recently shared their children’s cancer experience with their son Hayden, who was diagnosed with the brain cancer pilocytic astrocytoma in 2015. While Hayden’s condition is currently stable, it has been a difficult time for the whole family.
Simple daily incidents can trigger memories, as Hayden’s twin sister Carlee told us, ‘’I had a sad day recently because I listened to a song and it reminded me of the time Hayden got cancer. I cried, and I hugged my Mum.”
When Carlee has days like that, she likes to dance her emotions out and write in a diary. She also does mindful colouring, and Facetimes friends when things get tough for her.
Carlee and Hayden are very close, and love spending time together as a family at the beach and playing tennis. But there was a time when that couldn’t happen.
‘’Having to go to school without Hayden was hard, especially starting Prep. I went to school, and he went to the hospital.’’
‘’I had never spent a day apart from my twin brother until the day he got diagnosed with a brain tumour.’’
Carlee had friends who supported her during Hayden’s diagnosis and treatment, but other children were not so kind, ‘’I did tell my close friends, and they were sad and felt bad for him. Now they are fine and sometimes they don’t even remember. Some children did tease Hayden, and that upset us all, but most people understood’’.
Remembering Hayden’s diagnosis, Carlee recalls how confusing it was being so young (both aged six at the time). ‘’I didn’t know how terrible children’s cancer was. I didn’t know you could die from it, but I do now, and it frightens me. I worry about my brother dying.’’
Carlee said she missed her Mum Simone who was often at the hospital, and that she and her brother Riley had to make sacrifices while Hayden was in treatment.
‘’Mum and dad couldn’t always afford to pay for the activities we love when Hayden was unwell and sometimes couldn’t go to parties and playdates’’.
Rare hospital visits to see her beloved twin brother were difficult for Carlee. ‘’It upset me seeing him all hooked up the machines and having needles’’, But she made the most of those moments.
‘’When he was asleep I used to lie next to him and sometimes I cried’’.
The Clements family joined the Foundation at this year’s Moomba Parade walking alongside our inaugural float, the Rainbow Island.
‘’I loved all of it so much, it was awesome!’’, Carlee told us. ‘’My favourite part was seeing my friend Violet who also was in treatment for children’s cancer now that she is well. It was so colourful, and it was like a big celebration for getting through a difficult time. I loved all the people cheering us on and waving at us.
I felt like a special person, and I loved the atmosphere. Everyone was so happy I forgot all about Hayden’s cancer for a moment’’.
Thank you, Carlee for sharing your sibling experience of childhood cancer with us.
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Photo credit: Simone Clements, Mother of Hayden