As we were walking to Ward C (oncology) today to have Boeta’s Broviac flushed my heart just exploded in my chest. With love, sadness, everything at once.
Boeta and Carien were running ahead and as they approached the end of the main corridor and had to turn left to ward D or right to ward C someone walked up to them from behind. Boeta didn’t even bother looking around. Carien on the other hand swung around, spread her arms wide and kept herself between the visitor and her big brother. She inflated herself like a startled cat and hissed “Los uit my Boeta. Boeta pypie afbjeek.” (Leave my Boeta alone. Boeta’s little pipe will break off.”)
I’ve always taken my children’s love for each other for granted. Given the choice of being together or apart they will always choose to be together. The surest way to stop them fighting is by scolding one of them. Even while I am busy telling one off the other will give me the evil eye and run over to side with the enemy of 2 seconds ago. Wouter and I haven’t spent a night in the same bed in a long, long time. Boeta and Carien have started insisting on falling asleep in our bed and it didn’t take long for us to realise that they both sleep a lot better that way. Where they would both wake up at least once during the night in their own beds, they sleep right through in ours. Throughout the night they reach for each other and sleep like logs with their bodyparts thrown over each other. Carien is particularly fond of flinging her legs on to anyone and everyone near her. Very early this morning Wouter woke me up to have a look at them. Boeta was lying with his head on the pillow, cuddling Carien’s feet which were also on the pillow… And with them cuddling each other’s feet they had no duvet covering them. So they were cold and cuddled even more. I am planning to move both their beds into one room and using the other room as a play room. Since they prefer sleeping together I may as well get them out of our bed and into their own.
Of course, being typical children, they also try to lovingly rip each other to bits every now and again (OK, a bit more often than that). Boeta teases Carien mercilessly and she doesn’t take it well. Carien on the other hand has no concept of “my stuff, your stuff”. In her frame of reference everything is her stuff. So she appropriates whatever she likes whenever she likes and heaven help anyone who tries to tell her that she can’t have it. It is an interesting life trying to mediate.
The reason why I bring this topic up at all is that I spoke to Annelize, the occupational therapist / play therapist yesterday and she mentioned how rare it is for siblings to really truely love, or even like, each other in the cancer world. There are so many possible issues.
The healthy child becomes resentful because the sick one gets more attention, time, gifts. And depending on the cancer, the healthy ones may be required to be stuck full of needles too to donate blood or bone marrow or some other piece of their bodies to the sick one.
The sick child becomes resentful because the healthy one has it so easy and can continue with his/her life like normal.
And whether the issues are real or perceived, the impact on the relationship between the siblings is huge.
Once again I am struck by how immensely, indescribably, wonderfully blessed we are. Why didn’t our children go down that road? Carien has so much reason to dislike Boeta. Because of him I was away from her so much. Because of him she even now gets ignored by many people who greet him, talk to him, engage him but don’t bother talking to her – she is the healthy one after all. Because of him they spent the last year and a half mostly indoors and cut off from the outside world. Every day her nose gets rubbed in the fact that Boeta is still “special” because he has the Broviac that needs to be protected.
But instead of becoming resentful she has become the ultimate little mother hen. Last week she was already in the bath while Wouter was still herding Boeta closer. Very earnestly she told Wouter: “Ekke nie Boeta se pypie natspat nie” (I won’t splash Boeta’s little pipe). She is 2 years old…
If possible, Carien is even more attached to Boeta’s Broviac that he is. And let’s face it, Boeta and his Broviac are as close as one can be to something that is surgically implanted into your body. With the removal of the Broviac looming we have to get both of them emotionally ready to let go of it. And I suspect Carien is going to take it even harder than Boeta.
But they will survive. They will see each other through.