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Meet Our First Sibling Blogger in Residence
Hello! My name is Connor Graver and I am a 22 year old finishing my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science in the Chicagoland area. The consequential event that put me on a collision course with CPN was the diagnosis and eventual passing of my younger sister Lauren to pediatric cancer in 2017.
If you’re a regular CPN reader, my last name might look familiar as I am the son of fellow CPN blogger, Amy Graver. I have a niche goal and area of expertise that I am excited to stoically provide to CPN: it’s the sibling experience of a life threatening pediatric disease. Siblings can come in countless combinations which entail different social dynamics and norms. For the Gravers, I am the oldest along with my younger sisters Claire and twin sisters Lauren and Emma.
For my first post, I want to elaborate on a seemingly insignificant and arbitrary moment – a moment that has since come to represent the chasm of before and after in my life.
It’s myself, the summer before I entered high school, sprawled across our family room couch playing Madden 15 on my Xbox 360 -not a care in the world.
Within minutes, I’ll receive a call from my Dad frantically explaining that Lauren’s checkup went awry and he’s coming home to pack a bag for the hospital. We hang up and I divert my attention from the game in front of me. This phone call and moment will be the snowball that triggers the avalanche of diagnosis, treatment, recovery, pain, triumph and heartbreak that defined Lauren’s courageous two year battle.
I grip this moment so tightly because I would come to realize it was the immediate and sudden transition from childhood to adulthood, although that wouldn’t be clear until the dust had settled. My perspective and world would never look the same again as I was forced into roles and responsibilities I didn’t want but had to do for my family.
I was forced into the role of make-shift parent since one would have to be with Lauren at the hospital during extended stays for treatment. Unlike my sisters, I wanted and needed to know every detail of Lauren’s treatment as a way to cope and handle what was in front of me.
As a result, I struggled socially — feeling years ahead of my classmates’ emotional maturity. I began battles with depression and anxiety that last to this day. All of these consequences stemmed from Lauren’s diagnosis, and I still feel sheepish saying I struggled because I wasn’t the one fighting the disease.
From the start of this ordeal, it’s as if a wave machine was turned on without ever planning to turn off. Each day, hour and emotion that arise is unique and different but flows like the rest. In years past, the water was considerably more choppy with waves like “Will Lauren survive?” and the subconscious rip current of the start of my depression.
Later on there would be the crashing and high tide of her passing and the aftermath of that.
So as I sit here, now as a regular at the Emotion Beach (to take this analogy to the next level), I’ve learned not to fear the waves or even fight the waves but to sit back, observe and enjoy. Silver linings I never would’ve expected will start to show, just like this opportunity to write to you.
We’ll talk again in December.