SickKids recognizes siblings’ experiences in cancer journey with 4th annual Sibling Appreciation Day
When there is a sick child in your family, all the attention tends to be on that child, leaving siblings feeling overlooked and sometimes left behind. Twin brothers, Jacob and Noah McInerney, 4, know this firsthand, as just last year life as they knew it changed when their baby sister was suddenly diagnosed with infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
On Saturday, June 6, Jacob, Noah and 18 other siblings of kids with cancer or other blood disorders were honoured at “It’s All About Me”, the 4th annual Sibling Appreciation Day at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids).
“Caring for a sick child has an impact on the whole family dynamic. Parents may be away more often, spending time in the hospital. Siblings may miss out on regular activities they would have done before the diagnosis,” says Wendy Shama, co-chair of the event and Social Worker in Haematology/Oncology at SickKids. “This event is an opportunity to acknowledge the impact childhood cancer has on the siblings. They deserve recognition for what they have had to go through as well. Sibling Appreciation Day is a special and fun event that showcases how special and important they are in the family too.
The siblings participate in a variety of activities that promote self-expression and self-esteem, and then later in the day, they take part in the Recognition Ceremony, where each child is called to the front to receive a medal and a few words are said about why the child is special and unique.
This was the second year that the McInerney Family attended Sibling Appreciation Day. “It was such an amazing day! The boys got to come to the hospital for something good, and for something that made them feel so special, probably more special than they felt in a long time,” says Tammy McInerney, mother of Jacob, Noah and 20-month-old Jordan.
The McInerney Family’s Story
On February 12, 2014, four-month-old Jordan was diagnosed with infant ALL, a diagnosis that changed the family’s life in an instant. Parents Tammy and Stephen McInerney immediately headed to SickKids, where Tammy and Jordan stayed for the majority of the next eight months.
“In Jacob and Noah’s eyes, I disappeared overnight,” says Tammy. “Until then, my husband and I had never really been away from our kids and at only three years old, Jacob and Noah were still very needy of mommy and daddy.”
While Tammy stayed at SickKids with Jordan, Stephen was at home in Barrie trying to maintain some form of normalcy for their boys. “It was hard. They wondered where mom and Jordan were, and missed them,” says Stephen.
Today, the family is back at home together. Jordan is undergoing treatment at home and is doing well.