When My Sister Heard People Making Fun of Me in High School


Like a lot of siblings, my sister and I were the best of friends and the worst of enemies growing up. Colleen is three years older than I am, and she did her best to pick on me whenever she could. On the other hand, she was always there to cheer me on during track meets, figure skating shows and performances.

I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) at 13 years old. I was just starting my freshman year of high school when Colleen was a senior. I was on crutches for nine straight months, constantly missing school for appointments and procedures and my peers didn’t understand. I was on crutches but didn’t have a cast or a boot, which in their minds meant I had to have been faking my pain.

I was picked on a lot and even pushed down the flight of stairs that I was trying to navigate between classes. Most older siblings try to avoid their little siblings in social settings at all costs, especially at school. Colleen was different, though. She knew where all of my classes were and where my locker was and she always checked up on me. She sometimes carried my school bag to classes and helped me to the nurse’s office when I was too sick to sit and learn.

She also stuck up for me when peers were just being cruel.

I remember one day it was snowing and the floors at the school entrance were wet from everyone’s feet. Our mom dropped us off at school, and I was walking tentatively with my crutches because I knew the floor was wet. Unfortunately, I still managed to slip and fall, and my foot went smashing into the ground. It was painful.

I was crying and trying to get up and some sophomores and juniors were just standing in the hallway laughing. Colleen helped me up and went over to them. She asked how they would feel if they were in my position — slipping and falling while already struggling to walk on crutches, with people just staring and laughing instead of helping them up.

I don’t remember their responses or anything else she probably said to them, but I remember them walking away instead of making a scene. Colleen turned back to me, asked if I was OK, and then walked me to my locker so that I could start my school day.

I know that first year of my diagnosis was hard on her. There were a lot of changes in our family dynamic to make sure I was getting the medical care that I needed. I overheard her talking to my parents one night, saying that it just wasn’t fair that I was getting so much attention because I was sick. She was right — it wasn’t fair to her… it wasn’t fair to anyone.

My parents had always done a great job of splitting their time between our activities to make sure that we had equal support at competitions and performances. Me getting sick changed all that, and it wasn’t fair.

Despite the feelings that she shared with my parents, she was always my number one supporter. No matter how upset she was at home, she was my bodyguard at school. For that, I am forever grateful, because it taught me how to stand up for myself once she left for college the following year.

Nearly 15 years have passed, and we are great friends. Colleen is still a huge supporter in my fight against CRPS and helps in any way that she can. I don’t know if my diagnosis all those years ago had anything to do with it, but I think our bond as sisters and as friends was strengthened by this medical journey she has been through with me.

I don’t think there is anyway to tell her exactly how grateful I am for her support over the years, especially that first year. I wouldn’t have made it through without her.

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