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National Sibling Day: The importance of Siblings and the Care That We Must Provide Them

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"Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk." -- Susan Scarf Merrell

Today, Thursday, April 10, 2014, marks National Siblings Day -- a day when we collectively take a moment to honor the relationships of siblings. Though this is not a federally recognized holiday like Mother's or Father's Day, the relationships we share with our siblings are just as important and life-lasting. In recognition of this day, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation will announce the acquisition (and continuation) of another nonprofit, SuperSibs!, which since 2002 has worked to ensure support for siblings of children with cancer.

Many of you likely know the story of my daughter Alexandra "Alex" Scott and her lemonade stands to find cures for all kids with cancer; but what you might not be as keenly aware of is the fact that Alex has three brothers. It is not a stretch to say that both Alex's battle against childhood cancer and her mission to find cures were then, and remain today, an integral part of their lives. I am certain that having a sibling with cancer changes the course of your life, but it also leaves you vulnerable to things that children should not have to face -- fear and isolation. SuperSibs! has done a remarkable job of making sure siblings affected by childhood cancer feel a sense of empowerment and know that they are not alone.

A young Alex, with her older brother, Patrick.

One story that is cemented in my mind, and proof of just how childhood cancer can impact siblings of patients, is that of a young, fourth grader, Olivia, from Michigan whose older brother was diagnosed with leukemia. Olivia's brother had to be in the hospital for treatment for weeks at a time, taking their mother with him. Olivia's dad worked to keep the family afloat, and was often at work or visiting the hospital. This left Olivia with the responsibilities far beyond her age, including cooking, cleaning and helping to take care of her three younger siblings. Olivia spent many nights crying herself to sleep, feeling very alone, but making sure to present a brave face in front of her younger siblings. Then, one day she began to receive letters from SuperSibs!, sometimes a post card, sometimes a small gift, but no matter what it is was, it gave her the knowledge that there were others out there thinking about her and willing to help.

In recognition of just how important sibling support is, we are looking forward to adding this sibling component to our quality of care and life program. Often times when children are facing cancer, they become the focal point of their parents' lives. This is not to say that they shouldn't be, or that their parents are neglecting their other children, but when your child's life is on the line, you will do everything you can to make sure they are getting the best treatment available. We are honored to be able to provide support to siblings directly, as well as indirectly to parents who may be struggling.

In life, there are only a handful of people who can say they have known you for your entire life. Among them, of course are your parents, but also those who stand beside you, your comrades, your siblings. For those of us who have been blessed with siblings, we know the integral role they play in our day to day lives. Sure there are times when you argue, or plot against each other, but when push comes to shove, your siblings are among the few people in the world who will always have your back. We are honored to be able to say that we have their backs too through SuperSibs!

I will end this by including a quote from my son and Alex's brother, Patrick, about his experience with Alex's cancer:

Obviously there's no comparison to the trauma that cancer inflicts on a child, but often times people overlook the emotional damage that watching a sibling go through treatment inflicts on the entire family. Growing up with my younger sister Alex in treatment definitely impacted me.

A later photo of Alex and her older brother, Patrick, on their way to school!