Claire was only 6 years old when her younger brother Owen was first diagnosed with cancer. Even at her young age though, she understood the ramifications of Owen’s situation for her family. Her parents spared her the difficult details, but knew she could always ask for more information if she wanted.
The initial stages after diagnosis were tough for Claire. Owen changed considerably after his brain surgery, Claire’s once-talkative brother suddenly only uttered the words “no” and “momma.” While doctors said that was fairly typical given the whirlwind of treatment, it might take weeks for his usual speech to come back. They even said there was a chance of mutism, a condition where someone is unable to speak due to psychological causes like trauma. Claire and her family could only wait and see.
Several days after Owen’s surgery, Claire was finally able to visit him at Texas Children’s Hospital. Suddenly, fears of Owen remaining mute washed away. Owen’s face lit up like the sun and he rattled off words he hadn’t said for weeks. The most important of those was of course “sissy.” Everyone in the room was brought to tears by Claire and Owen’s connection, except the siblings. They were too preoccupied playing together.
Throughout Owen’s fight, Claire continues to be an incredible SuperSib to Owen by helping keep things normal around the house. That includes all the typical sibling activities: playing, laughing, loving and the occasional sibling fight. Owen looks up to Claire and nothing makes him more excited than tagging along with her around the house. Even on his worst days during treatment, nothing cheered Owen up more than playing with his big sister. Claire’s protective of Owen too, something she’s already factoring into her future career focus.
When she grows up, Claire hopes to be a child life specialist. They were there for Claire’s family through thick and thin and helped explain Owen’s diagnosis to Claire. She won’t ever forget that and hopes to one day help kids facing the same childhood difficulties that accompany a sibling’s cancer diagnosis. Like any smart planner though, she also has back up career plans: a pediatric oncologist or a teacher.
No matter where the intelligent, mature 8 year old goes in life, she will carry with her a lifetime of advice for other kids facing what she has bravely gone through.