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Prinses Máxima Centrum

When your younger sister turns out to have cancer…

Seven years ago, Giel Beelen established the annual “Brother and Sister Day” on September 30, in memory of his deceased sister. On this day, the Princess Máxima Center also wants to give attention and appreciation to all brothers and sisters who have a sick sister or brother at the Máxima Center. An interview with Kim Schrik (19) and Tim van Eersel (10) about their experiences as siblings. After September 30, 2021, we will post more information for and about siblings. And in January 2022, the Máxima Center will be organizing its own event especially for siblings.

What happens if your sister gets cancer? It happened to Kim Schrik (19) and Tim van Eersel (10). Both have a younger sister with leukemia. Fortunately, both sisters are fine at the moment. But Kim and Tim were of course shocked when they heard what was the matter. How do you deal with that? And what tips do Kim and Tim have for other siblings?

“I did have to cry a little when Mom and Dad told me. And I also thought it was scary. Before Bente became ill, I had once seen a film about a girl who got cancer. She died.” Fortunately, the treatment works well for Bente (3) and Tim is over his shock. At first, he did not really understand what exactly was wrong with her, but now he does. “In the hospital we were given a booklet. Grandma read it to us. Bente had bad cells in her body. And they’re gone now.”

Don’t show your stress
Kim is the oldest in a family with three girls. Her sister Amber is now 11 and received a stem cell transplant a year ago. It is still going well, but of course it remains uncertain, says Kim. “I remember well how it started, in early 2020. My sister was bruised all the time. But we thought: it’s probably because of her breakdancing. Then she caught a fever. My parents took her to the hospital and stayed away for a long time. My mom texted that they had to wait for blood results, and I already had a sinking feeling. When my sister Isa of 15 came home later that day, my parents still hadn’t returned with Amber. That was really hard, because I didn’t want Isa to notice how stressed I was.”

Talking to grandpa and grandma

Her mother eventually came back alone. It was clearly seriously wrong. Kim: “I was intensely sad. Your heart just breaks. We went straight to the Máxima Center.” A great deal happened in the period that followed. The corona pandemic struck, and Kim and Isa often stayed home alone because they could not come along. That went well in itself, says Kim, also because the family received support from everyone around them. Tim’s parents still have to take his sister to Utrecht on a regular basis, but luckily grandpa and grandma live nearby, so Tim and his brother of 8 have a nice place. Tim: “If I wanted to talk about something or had a question, I could always talk to them.”

Racing down the corridors
Tim also came along to the Máxima a few times. “I felt really sorry for all those children with a cloth around their heads.” But he also has fond memories, especially of the hot chocolate machine. “You can also make music in the studio. And with my little brother I used to race as fast as I could through the corridors on those little bikes. Fortunately, that’s just allowed there.” Tim did not talk about what he experienced, for example with a doctor or someone else from the Máxima. “I didn’t think that was necessary.” Kim did not either, by the way, but she is glad it was offered to her. “I sat in on all the interviews anyway and could always ask anything. I could talk about my personal things with my parents and especially with friends.”

Think of yourself too
Kim would like to pass this on to other siblings: Above all, think of yourself. ‘It’s okay to think about how it’s affecting you. You really don’t need to suppress that because your younger sister is so sick.” Tim also has a tip for other children: “I wouldn’t talk about it too much and just let it go. If you talk about it all the time, you’ll get sad all the time too.” Finally, Tim – who is a fanatical fisherman – has an idea for the sibling day in January 2022: “There is a pond at the Máxima Center. I’d like to fish in it that day!”