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To My Younger Brothers, From Your Chronically Ill Sister

Dear guys,

I feel like my existence has simply complicated your life more than it should have. You know too much about hospitals, emergency rooms, and special therapies for kids. You know so much about ventilators and suction machines, too much for anyone to know, let alone kids. You grew up with a fear that a vacation or holiday would be cancelled or moved to a hospital because of my illness. I’m sorry when I get sick, all the attention and concern in the house seem to be focused on me.

On the day of my high school graduation, everyone was amazed I lived long enough to survive high school, let alone make it into university. Every family member alive was making a giant deal of my graduating. You had no idea how much it broke my heart for you to come up to me and say “I hope on my graduation day everyone makes as big a deal of me as they are making of you.” I’m sorry you may have felt left out and forgotten again, and I am making your graduation day special just to make it up to you.

I don’t want to be an attention hog, but my health won’t allow it any other way. I try to be in the spotlight less when I’m well so you can have yours without me getting in the way. I’m sorry we live our lives in spurts, feeling like we will never stop playing catch-up. I’m sorry you spent most of your schooling struggling with English and no one noticed. I’m sorry we didn’t discover you have a learning disability until this week, halfway through your senior year of high school the second time around.

I feel sorry for all of it. In my mind, your life may have been much easier without me, but I want you to know I wouldn’t have survived without you two. You make me laugh, you give me a sense of normal where no one else can. You’ve toughened me up. We mock our parents behind their backs; we tell secrets. You told me about “Smashing Pumpkins” on Halloween. I told you about a guy who had feelings for me, and in typical younger brother fashion, you kicked me out of your room.

Thank you guys for giving me normal stories to tell to my friends. A story about your younger brothers beating each other up in the kitchen with the older and bigger one stealing the younger one’s pants, only to find the pants dangling from the garage rafters the next morning. It is a lot more relatable than a story about how I wanted to get out of the hospital so badly that they took the IV out of my arm in the hallway of the ward, with barely enough time to stop the bleeding before I bolted.

So, Thank you. Thank you for keeping me sane.

Yours truly,
Your Chronically Ill, yet loving older sister.

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