Mariarose is ten years old and her younger brother is in treatment for leukemia.  She is also the creator of our Friends of Karen “Advice to Siblings.”  After traveling on this journey with her family for almost a year she realized that she had learned many things that might be helpful for other kids who are faced with a sibling’s cancer diagnosis. 

With assistance from a few other Friends of Karen siblings, Mariarose compiled lots of advice, which is represented in the beautiful artwork on this page. We thought her desire to help other siblings was pretty cool,  so she is our first Friends of Karen Sibling of the Month. You can see another pretty awesome example of Mariarose’s artwork on this page:  Instead of a photo she asked us to include her amazing self-portrait (click on it to see the whole portrait).  Here’s an interview with Mariarose so you can get to know her and her story a little bit better. 

And now, introducing Mariarose!

How old are you?

Ten.

How old were you when you found out your brother was diagnosed with leukemia?

When I was nine my mom told me and I got butterflies in my stomach.  Learning from my mom helped me the most because, even though it was hard to talk about, I am glad she was honest with me and I heard it from her.  My mom talked a lot about it at first and everyone cried a lot. After a while I just wanted people to stop talking about it so much because it felt uncomfortable.  I know now that it is good to get answers to questions you might have and to take a break when you need it, but I still don’t like talking about it and I know that is okay, too.”

What is it like to be the oldest sibling in your family?

Being the oldest is my favorite part of being ten.  I do have some extra responsibilities now, like caring for my younger brother, but I don’t mind.

What are some of your favorite things to do to “blow off steam?”

My favorite thing to do is play basketball.  I also like to sleep to forget about things sometimes.  My friend and I also put colored index cards in a secret box and filled them with any secrets we couldn’t hold onto in our heads or hearts any more.  She is my best friend since nursery school and is like a non-blood relative, a part of my family.  I really trust her and I know she understands.

You have been on this journey with your family for almost a year now and have learned a lot which helped you put together this special advice column. Is there any particular piece of advice you would like to offer other siblings who have just learned their brother or sister has been diagnosed with cancer?

Try to be there for your sibling without annoying them.  The medicines they have to take sometimes make them VICIOUS even though they don’t mean it.  Screaming into a pillow instead of getting into an argument has helped me.  I have also created secret signals with my mom when I need a break.

Sounds like your mom really gets what you need most of the time.  Any advice for other parents?

Try to stay calm when talking to the siblings and try to keep siblings calm.  My mom makes sure I get a break and sends me to a friend’s house.  This might work for other siblings too.

I know that your school has been really supportive and even held a fundraiser recently.  How has the school knowing about your brother’s illness helped you?

My whole school knows and it’s fine that they know.  They check in on me every day to make sure I’m okay.  There’s a counselor at school I can visit every other Friday and I can ask my teacher to see her if I’m having a bad day and it’s not a Friday.  There was a girl at school who was having a rough time and had a breakdown in the bathroom one day.  Maybe this could happen to a sibling if the school didn’t know what was going on at home.

Has your relationship with your brother changed?

Not really.  Well, maybe it is better.  I don’t know why, I just have a sense that things are better.  Like we both love wrestling and now we always watch it together and sing "The Miz" theme song. It’s fun.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Mariarose! 

Choose from the drop down on the left to read other interviews from Friends of Karen siblings.