My Other Child

A few months ago I posted a photo of Henry on Facebook. We were on a day out, just me and him. A treat day to spoil him a little, because it's tough when you're the sibling of a child with cancer.

It received more 'likes' than anything I had previously shared and anything I have posted since. Henry was delighted and enjoyed reading the kind comments. I was pleased that it had given him a lift and proud that I was raising awareness, telling the whole story of life with cancer.

But it didn't. It didn't tell the whole story, far from it. It was a shiny social media snapshot, easily taken and easily shared, but it was just a glimpse. A brief moment in the spotlight for my other child.

It didn't tell of the frustration and anger that Henry often feels, much of it directed at his brother, at the inevitable imbalance of attention. Of how this anger sometimes spills over into his behaviour and affects his school life.

It didn't show the counselling sessions we attend where Henry tells them he feels less important, or the times he has 'jokingly' told me that he sometimes wishes he was the one with cancer.

Or how his confidence has dipped and his spark has dimmed. The questions he asks about blood cells, about cancer, about death. The conversations where he struggles to articulate how he is feeling, because what 9 year should have to try and put this into words.

How so much of the time his life seems unfair and no longer entirely makes sense. It doesn't tell of the sports days I have missed because I am at the hospital, or the days out that don't happen, or how often he is aware that Hugo needs to come first. Why sometimes people ask after Hugo and not him, or why Hugo has a Facebook page and doesn't have to eat his vegetables. Why the rules are different for him.

It doesn't tell of the guilt I feel in my role as a mother. That maybe we have missed something, that we aren't doing enough. Did we take for granted for too long that he was fine, all the while knowing that he couldn't be, not really. If we as adults struggle to make sense of this strange new normal that has become our life, then how could he possibly be fine?

I suspect much of his behaviour is a natural stage of development for children of his age. To start to doubt themselves and feel frustration. To begin to realise that perhaps they are not the best at everything after all, to dislike and argue with their siblings. But Henry is being forced to deal with so much more in his life and this has exasperated things. Made it a little tougher than it might have otherwise been, brought to light feelings and emotions that might otherwise have been passed by, or saved for a time when he was mature enough to process them.

Whether it is a phase or because of Hugo's illness no longer matters. I have a 9 year old who has now spent over 2 and a half years of his life feeling like the other child, and that is just not fair.

However, it also doesn't show how much more there is to Henry. How brilliant he is at building lego, the wonderful imagination he has, or how hard he works at his swimming. How he is always willing to give anything a go and try new things.

It doesn't show how often he tells me he loves me, or of the cup of tea he wanted to make me on Mother's Day.

It doesn't show how every single night, without fuss, he comes upstairs and pretends to search for Hugo, when we can all see he is hiding under the covers, again. That he helps and encourages Hugo with his walking and looks out for him at school. Or of the beautiful bond that is developing between them.

Or that he knows and appreciates the treats we get because Hugo is ill. How much he has enjoyed the charity trips to Legoland and Chessington, the gifts he receives and how proud he is that he has now met the wonderful David Walliams 4 times.

It doesn't tell that he tries his best to understand Hugo's condition and accept the unfairness of the situation.

It also doesn't show how very proud I am of him. That despite everything, despite the difficulties and all that goes unseen, he is still somehow managing to be an amazing little person.

We will continue to put one foot in front of the other. To try all we can to make him feel valued and important, to balance things out as best we can. This is his journey too and we will help him and trust that he has the strength to get through it. That he will come out the other side stronger and wiser because of all he has endured. That his confidence will grow and his spark will set the world alight. Because he's a fighter too and he is so much more than just my other child. You've got this Henry, you've got this.


  1. Wow, just wow.

    Too often we don't think about how it affects other members of the family.

    What an eye opening post.

  2. What a special and beautifully written post. X