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Loss and Gratitude: The Power of Family

By Hannah Arney, Marketing Intern and Former KC Member

When I turned 8, my eleven-year old sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor. My sister spent many weeks and even months at a time in the hospital where she received chemo, radiation and stem cell treatments. This meant one of my parents and sometimes both would be with my sister. Throughout my sister’s two-year cancer treatment, there was always the mystery of who would be at my house when I woke up or when I got home from school.  It could be my babysitter, my extended family, family friends and sometimes even my parents. My two younger brothers and myself never knew what the day would hold. One of my favorite people to wake up to was my Uncle Mark.

Uncle Mark would come over to make breakfast on many mornings so my Dad could go to work or the hospital. He always greeted us with a smile and a funny story.  His sense of humor sometimes involved flipping the breakfast pancakes to the ceiling or telling us silly jokes.  I loved having my Uncle for breakfast because the conversation wasn’t how my sister was doing but how us kids were doing. If we wanted to ask questions or talk about my sister, we knew we always could talk to him. He would make us lunches and walk us to school. He always made us laugh.

A few weekends and school vacations, when other friends were out of town with their families, my Uncle Mark and his family took my brother, some of my other cousins and myself to fun places and vacations at a Wisconsin Waterpark Resort. He gave us fun filled weekends, while my sister was in stem cell treatment in Chicago.  There was a mutual understanding between my cousins and I that they understood what was going on in our family and there was no need to talk about it. We were able to escape our cancer-filled world. We lived in a small town and wherever I went in school or was out in our community, I was asked how my sister was doing, Sometimes I did not know and sometimes I did not feel like discussing it.

kira and i

Kira and Hannah

My Uncle, Aunt and my cousins gave my brothers and I the opportunity to be kids again and have fun. There was a sense of normalcy when I was around them. Losing a sibling and having a sibling sick places a lot of stress and tension on the whole family. It was really hard to talk about what I was feeling watching my sister’s cancer journey. Sometimes I used to feel guilty about wanting to be a normal kid when I wasn’t the one who was sick.  I will forever be thankful and filled with gratitude for my Uncle Mark and his family for making the unthinkable be bearable. I always felt like I could talk to him and he was there to help us understand what we were going through. Even after my sister died, I felt like he really understood the impact on our family.  I probably never shared with him what a difference he made for us during those couple of years. Thank you Uncle Mark!

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