As most of you know, Olivia is a twin. Her brother Wyatt was born exactly one minute before her and he has taken on the big brother role ever since. Their bond formed immediately, long before they left my womb. During our 20 week ultrasound we saw Wyatt kicking around like a wild man and Olivia holding on to his leg as if she was saying “relax, brother.” This was exactly how their relationship was for the 20 months they had together on this earth. Wyatt was wild and outgoing. Olivia was a soft spirit and incredibly calm. Nothing fazed her.
After Olivia got cancer, Wyatt became her protector. He seemed to know instantly that his sister was sick and he needed to care for her. We never could’ve expected this from such a young child. He would bring her toys, hold her hand, bring her a pacifier, push her around the room in a walker so she could get around, and cheer her on. It was truly amazing to watch! And Olivia adored her brother.
There are several moments in their journey together that stick out to me. One is captured in the picture above. Olivia had lost her eyesight completely from the cancer in her brain that had wrapped around the optic nerve. She couldn’t see any of us. This picture captured the time she first got to really see her brother after her eyesight began to come back as the tumor shrank. They just stared at each other in awe. It was such a beautiful moment.
Another occurred during the last month of Olivia’s life. She was in the hospital for a week after her infantile spasms came back. She and Wyatt hadn’t gotten to see each other much during her stay and the moment they were reunited at home, Wyatt threw himself on top of her in a huge embrace. He was so happy to be back with his sister.
Their bond was amazing. In fact, Wyatt was so bonded to his sister that the moment she passed away, he cried out from his bedroom where he was sleeping. And he has not looked for her once since then. He talks about her. He blows kisses to pictures of her. But he knows she’s gone.
Although Wyatt loves his sister tremendously, he took a back seat during her life. Olivia needed a lot of care and required most of our attention. We doted on Wyatt too, but as any parent with a sick child can attest, it is different and the siblings are somewhat neglected. Wyatt had to become accustomed to waiting for attention. He learned that Olivia needed more than him and that meant sitting to the side. It was hard. There were times that he would cry for attention. He would crave being held but couldn’t be because Olivia needed us then. He would look so sad when he left the hospital room with his grandparents while we spent another night there without him. It was truly heartbreaking. I would spend nights crying because I felt so torn. I wanted to give Olivia everything and I worried about how this was affecting Wyatt. Did he know how very much we love him too?
In order to make sure Wyatt could see how much we adored him, we would try to make special time for him whenever possible. Most of the time that was as simple as setting aside quiet time to read to him alone. Or one of us would take him with us to run errands so that he could get some quality time. It wasn’t much, but it was all that we could do. Cancer is a full time battle. It takes up everything in every single person in your family. Relationships are tested and many don’t survive. Siblings can become angry or resentful despite their deep love for their brother or sister. Cancer can destroy everything!
My advice to any parent going through a serious illness with one of their children (whether it is cancer or not) is to make the most of your time with all of your kids. Give your everything but know that it is normal to feel exhausted. It’s okay that you aren’t super mom or dad. Your kids will love you if you love them. All you can do is your best.
There are a few ways to donate to the Olivia Caldwell Foundation. You can mail a check to Olivia Caldwell Foundation P.O. Box 1112 Rawlins, WY 82301. You can donate to our bank account by visiting any U.S. Bank branch and asking to donate to the Olivia Caldwell Foundation #147490735163. Or by clicking on this link to donate now via GoFundMe: http://www.gofundme.com/5j5h4w Every penny donated goes directly to pediatric brain cancer research to find a cure.