Advice for Helping Siblings of Cancer Patients by Guest Author, Lynda Tinnin Young


Lynda T. Young, MEd, MRE

Lynda Tinnin Young is no stranger to the impact cancer has on children and their families. A retired educator, Lynda lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, John, who is also retired after spending his career doing cancer research. Over the years, Lynda has volunteered at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she befriended countless cancer families. Her experiences walking the path of faith and encouragement with those families inspired her to write Hope for Families of Children with Cancer. Lynda is also a professional speaker who shares her message of hope with families of children with not only cancer, but other chronic conditions as well.

We are excited to have Lynda as a guest blogger on The Cancer Mommy today! Please enjoy this excerpt from her book, Hope for Families of Children with Cancer.


Siblings—it’s not easy being the well one.

Make time for siblings. Get on eyelevel and ask, “What do you want to do?”

There are over 15,000 children diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States and 370,000-plus childhood cancer survivors. There are at least that many children thrust into the cancer arena with them—their siblings—the well ones. Both are victims of cancer, which affects the rest of their lives. They’re on the same road, “But miles apart,” a sibling said.  We need to bring families closer together, and help them not to pull further apart.

Siblings are not small adults; they are children, with childlike perspectives and needs. It’s easy to shove a teen sibling into the adult role in your family—but they aren’t adults—they just look that way. They communicate in various ways with the child with cancer—depending on personality, age, where in birth order.

(sidebar: Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. Charles Swindoll)

Viewpoints from siblings:

“My parent’s world is now Tiffany and all the rest of us stand in line—way down the line.”

“He’s the one who’s sick. Why do I feel like I’m the burden?”

“I feel invisible—everyone asks about my brother, or they just look through me. I have needs too.”

Viewpoints from the parents:

 “Cancer siblings are a wealth of misinformation. I’d never guessed he thought that in a million years.”

“I can’t meet all their needs—I don’t even know what they are.”

“As long as a sibling doesn’t demand attention I think she’s ok. I just wish that were true.”

Helpful Hints for those who’ve been there:

 *  Tell them the truth (use age appropriate words—ask your Child Life Specialist)

*  Widen the circle—have others help with siblings (be specific with the help you need.)

*  Keep everyone in the loop: sibling’s teachers, coaches, bus drivers, friends (and their parents), anyone working with               your child.

* Take a special time with your child and do what she wants to do.

*  Keep daily routines—this gives a sense of security.

*  Give them permission to let out their frustrations and fears. You aren’t the only one on this challenging journey.

Fill sibling’s emotional tank:

*  Touch—this includes hugs for teens too.

*  Time—stop, look eye to eye, and listen. Don’t just mumble, “uh huh’ when your child talks to you. Ask where sibling would like to spend time with you.

*  Talk—encouraging words give courage to keep on keeping on. They may get daily dosages of discouraging words.

*  Gifts—not particularly expensive, just something to say, “I’m thinking about you.” Choose something meaningful just for them.

*  Deeds—what does the child DO for others- thank her for those acts and find things to do for them.

(Taken from Dr. Gary Chapman’s books on Love Languages)

And now for their unique personalities:

If your child is an extravert, give them attention they need, and make sure they spend time with friends. They need a “people fix” each day!

If your child is an introvert, give them space—a place to be alone and regroup from other people and noise.


I pray that these words encourage you as you affect the lives of your children, whether one with cancer or a well one. I pray that He will sweep away the fog, give you clarity to view each child, and strength to meet their needs—one step at a time.

Lynda T. Young, MEd, MRE

The You Are Not Alone book series:

Hope for Families of Children with Cancer

Hope for Families of Children on the Autistic Spectrum


Books are online, in bookstores (may need to ask for them), and on ebooks.

Leafwood Publishing.

(Taken from Hope for Families of Children with Cancer, by Lynda T. Young, Leafwood Publishing.)


5 Ways to Bring Peace to “‘Roid Rage”


“Mommy, I don’t like that medicine – it’s mean to me. It makes me feel angry when I’m not really angry!”

That’s what my 6-year old son said to me on the last day of his first round of DEX (Dexamethason), a high-powered steroid that also happens to be really great at fighting leukemia.

If your child has been on DEX, then you are well aware of its effects on his or her emotions – the stellar meltdowns over seemingly small things, the quivering lips and curled up little fists shaking with anger, the darling pixie eyes glazed over with a foreign rage that goes as inexplicably as it comes.

When these ‘roid rages hit, you may feel overwhelmed and at a loss for how to handle your child. Do you discipline her? Do you ignore his behavior? Do you give in?

‘Roid Rages are difficult to deal with, and sometimes emotionally draining and painful. But, I want to encourage you. This time is temporary, and as hard as it is, try to remember that you and your child are on the road to recovery and healing! This too, shall pass, and, in time, DEX will be a distant memory. We just have to honor ourselves and our children by making the best of a hard situation.

So, after much real life trial and error, I’ve put together 5 ideas to try the next time your child is on DEX, and his emotions are trying to get the best of him (and you!)

1. Talk about DEX with your child. Explain that this medicine might make him feel upset, but that it is important to take it because it helps the leukemia go/stay away. Let him know that you will understand if he gets upset, and that you will help him. You’ll get through it together.

2. Plan ahead as much as possible to avoid overstimulation or changes in routines. Even under normal circumstances children tend to have trouble controlling themselves when overstimulated or if there are major changes to their routines. When you know your child is going to be on a course of DEX, try to keep life as simple and familiar as possible for them.

3. Designate a Cool Down place. It might be their bedroom with the curtains drawn, or a beanbag and blanket in the corner of the living room, but a safe, calming area for your child could be very helpful in keeping their ‘roid rage from escalating, and can help bring peace more quickly.

4. Let your child vent his anger in a safe and healthy way. You cannot reason your child out of a chemically induced rage. As long as they are safe, if they need to yell a little or throw a pillow, let them.

5. Take a breath, step back, and look at the big picture. Remember, a meltdown just lasts a few minutes, but healing lasts a lifetime. It’s true that this journey isn’t an easy one, but you’re not traveling it alone. And, in the end, all that really matters is that your child is well. This too shall pass.