Braedan handled Austin’s first bout with cancer beautifully. He made it through the entire thing unscathed, as if it was just another thing you deal with when you have a little brother. He was remarkably happy, well-adjusted and trusting.
The second time? Not so much.
I’ve been hesitant to write about this because I felt some need to protect him, as if his current struggles are somehow his fault or should be hidden. But they’re not his fault and hiding them certainly doesn’t help.
He is angry and frustrated and anxious and fearful and contrary and argumentative and a little bit lost. Most of all, more than anything, he’s angry. Angry at me and Mark, angry at Austin, angry at the world. The start of school, which I’d been eagerly awaiting because he loved it so much last year, has only made things worse.
I understand where he’s coming from and I completely understand why it’s happening now. It’s classic post-traumatic stress. He worked so hard for so many months keeping it together, being good because we were exhausted, being nice to Austin because he was sick. But he’s not sick anymore and we’re not quite so exhausted anymore and it’s a safe time to let that rage out. And let it out, he does.
Of course, understanding the source of his anger doesn’t make him any easier to live with! So we’ve made an appointment with the pediatric psychologist at Rainbow who works specifically with families, and especially siblings, of children with cancer. I’ve also spoken with his teacher and the social worker at his school, so I remain hopeful that we will find effective ways to work through this.
Cancer casts a long shadow, that I know, and the shadow can darken the lives of more people than just the patient. More than anything, I want my children to be happy. And as hard as we worked to make Austin better, we will work to make Braedan better. It’s his turn.