Terminal Illness Through The Eyes Of A Child


Most of them you will have forgotten and some with stick in your mind for whatever reason for a long time. One story that I heard years ago has stuck with me for many years – and I would like to share it with you. Angela (not her real name) was in her 30’s, happily married and had 2 beautiful children. But she carried a “guilt” (her words) that she had from when she was a 10-year-old child.

Angela had a happy childhood – she lived with her mum, dad and younger brother. She enjoyed school, attended many after school activities and life was pretty good. Until….. Angela’s younger brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She said that her life changed from that moment on. If only what she knew now perhaps she could have changed things then.

Angela’s guilt was she wished her brother dead!

Oh my god I can hear you saying – some of you taking a deep breath – how awful to think such a thing. Some of you saying what a monster …………………… but please read on and through the eyes of a 10-year-old you can see what “terminal cancer” meant to her. Remember these are “thoughts” of a ten year old.

Angela said that life was pretty good. She had a happy home life – her mum didn’t work so was always there when she came home from school. She had a great social life attending Girl Guides, Swimming Lessons, and Dancing Lessons and always having friends over for a sleepover. She never wished for anything more.

Her brother started to become unwell – no one really told her what exactly was wrong with him. All she knew was that he had to go to the doctors and hospital quite a lot – this usually happened when she was at school – and on occasions she had to go into her neighbour until her mum and dad got back with her brother from a hospital visit.

Then more and more he had to go into hospital and stay. This would be for long periods of time – she might not see her mum for days at a time – even weeks – she started to resent her brother for this.

Her mum and dad then started staying at the hospital – Angela had to stay with family and friends – her social activities stopped – all because her mum and dad were not there to take her and collect her.

Her birthday came – and although her mum and dad tried to make it a happy occasion she remembers thinking that their hearts where not in it.  She felt very unloved. No one seemed happy anymore. Friends stopped coming over to stay – life at home was no fun anymore.

Why did he have to get ill she asked herself?

She was allowed to go and visit him from time to time. She would walk in and see his room full of cards, new toys – computer games – videos – books – why couldn’t it have been her there in the bed – getting all of these lovely presents – after all he looked ok didn’t he! She even doubted if he was sick at all.

When people come to visit her brother either in hospital or when he was at home they virtually ignored Angela – she felt that she was invisible – didn’t anyone care about her anymore.

No one brought her presents. Her brother came home from hospital – her mum tried to explain that he was very sick and had lost his hair due to his illness. Her mum told her that he would be at home and probably not going back into hospital again. (Angela at this point didn’t realise that her brother had come home to die).

Angela was happy – she thought that life would get back to normal, after all, mum and dad would be there again, after school activities would resume once again and she could start having her friends around once more. Home he came – Angela said that things began to get worse. She had to keep quiet all the time, she had to keep the telly down, and not make a noise in her bedroom.

Her mum was in her brother’s room all the time and even slept in his room – Angela was put out by this as her mum never slept with her when she had a cold or felt unwell.

People came to the house to visit, there were lots of presents all for her brother – nothing for her. She felt invisible once again. Angela was feeling very neglected – she started resenting her brother – she wished him dead – if he was dead life could go back to normal – or so she thought.

Two weeks later her brother died. Angela thought that it was her wishing him dead that made it happen.

Angela carried this guilt around with her for years. As she got older she realised that she wasn’t to blame, but that didn’t make her feel any better about herself for wishing it on him.

Angela wished that her parents had told her what was happening at the time, prepared her for the changes in her life – giving her a reason to what was happening and why her brothers illness was turning her safe world upside down.

Instead they thought that they were protecting her from it all. How wrong they were. Angela now has 2 lovely children, and can understand what her parents must have gone through and realises that she was loved every bit as much as her brother was – but it was him that needed them most at that time.

Children see things in Black and White. No grey areas with them. Have you ever gone through a similar thing? As grownups we maybe don’t appreciate what goes through little ones minds. Is it right to protect them from the truth – or should we be more truthful with them. We don’t always appreciate how children “see” a situation. 

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2 thoughts on “Terminal Illness Through The Eyes Of A Child

  1. Very interesting. I have two boys ( 9&12), the eldest of whom is severely disabled. We are very open and honest with both of them about life expectancy/disability. Sometimes I wonder if it is good that my youngest thinks it’s ‘normal’ for children to die. I don’t know. Parents do the best they can – too much info (such as I suspect I do) or too little. I don’t know how you get the right balance.

    • Hello Annie – thank you very much for your comments. I agree with you – how do you get the balance right. I have two girls and both would react in very different ways – Like every parent I think you can only do what you think is best for your children at the time.

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