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By Jessi Wachtel
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Growing up with a brother who had a brain tumor wasn’t easy. Granted I was very young but I still remember what it was like visiting him in the hospital and taking care of him at home after each and every surgery. My mom was always the one who had to stay overnight with him because my dad had work the next day. I remember crying in the car on the way home with my dad because I wanted my mom to come home instead. I used to cry to him, “why can’t you stay and mommy comes home. It’s not fair!” He just told me that he couldn’t stay because of work, but I just didn’t understand why she had to be there. 

I remember feeling like all the real attention was on him, which it was. I always tried to be part of the attention around Tory, I wanted to help him. My parents always tried to make me feel included and important, and they did the best they could do considering I was two years old. Once he was home from the hospital I used to clean his arm with an alcohol wipe and help get the supplies ready while he was going through chemotherapy. After that I would sit next to him so that he wouldn’t feel alone and neither would I. Siblings often feel kept away from things going on with a sick sibling because parents usually focus on the sick child and don’t keep their other child updated or informed. Being kept away increases anxiety and fear of the unknown. My parents luckily never kept me away and found age appropriate ways of including me to make me feel like I was in this with them. Even in the hospital my parents found ways for me to help. They used to put me in the playroom with the sick kids which gave me the opportunity to feel empowered and important by helping others while being with my family as well. If I was ever scared or anything seemed different to me my parents talked about it with me. They always assured me that we are a family and Tory would be okay.

It wasn’t until I got older and was more on my own that I felt the sting of jealousy. At ages fourteen and fifteen Tory had several facial reconstructions and was showered with presents. He had gotten autographs from his favorite sports players which I really didn’t care about, but there was one present he got that made me jealous, a brand new TV. At the time a TV in his room seemed like the coolest thing in the world to me, but what did I know I was only eight. At that young of an age any present no matter how big or small seemed enormous and I felt unimportant. I wished so badly that I could get a present like that and I may have said something to my parents about it, but it didn’t matter what I said, there was no way I was getting a TV too.

I kept a lot of my feelings to myself like my unimportance, feeling ignored and jealousy. I was so jealous for years and never said anything because what could I say? I wasn’t jealous he was sick and wasn’t jealous of him having to be in and out of the hospital, no. What I was jealous of was the concentration on him. The continuous focus around him but I couldn’t say that because it would make me sound like a little brat and I didn’t want to be that kind of person, so I hid my feelings. I was angry at my parents because they made me feel like he was the favorite. But I never said how I really felt until over ten years later because at that point none of it mattered anymore. We were so far past the point of sharing how I actually felt that I just buried my feelings about everything deep within me. Over the years those feelings of jealousy faded farther and farther away until they disappeared completely. I’m happy to say that after all years of being jealous and angry, I don’t feel the way I used to. Now the only negative feelings I have towards my parents are the average aggravations any teenager or person in their twenties has. Well most of the time at least.

So, what’s changed now that we’re all grown up? Well for one thing I’m not jealous anymore, but there are things my parents say that seem unfair at times. Like when they say, “things are different for Tory, it’s harder for him,” as in actually starting life is harder for him now that he’s “cured” just because he looks different. The way I see it is, starting life has nothing to do with what you look like or what happened to you in the past, it’s how much effort you put into it and how determined you are. 

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