Barretstown offers free, specially designed camps for families affected by illness – including siblings. Here Megan Deakin, big sister of Eliza who was diagnosed with Rb as a baby, gives us the lowdown on what makes this holiday camp so great… 

My name is Megan and I am 10 years old. My little sister Eliza is nearly four and was diagnosed with retinoblastoma at the age of nine weeks, when I was six.

I am really glad that I have got Eliza as a sister, but it can be hard as well, especially when she is away overnight on trips to the London hospital. I’m pretty sure that I have had more sleepovers than anyone else in my class!

I think that one of the things that makes being a sister of Eliza easier is all the things that me and my sister Freya get to do. Sometimes we do things as a whole family and it’s great to see how much Eliza enjoys it, but I love doing special things by myself as well. My favourite is Barretstown.

My first trip to Barretstown was when I was eight. The hospital play specialist had asked mum if I would like to go and I said YES! Barretstown is the most amazing place and they run one camp a year just for siblings.

Mum took me to Heathrow Airport and I met the chaperones there and flew to Dublin with them. The first time I saw the camp it was really unexpected as it is this beautiful old castle surrounded by activity stations and bright colours and signs. There is a climbing wall, a lake where we go canoeing, stables with horses we ride (my favourite is Thor), archery, a theatre, a silent disco and lots of cottages that we stay in.

We spent our week doing amazing activities and making new friends. We didn’t talk about cancer or our siblings all the time: it was as if we just understood each other’s situations without even speaking. My little sister Freya is eight and she came to the camp for the first time last year. She says: “Barretstown was the best experience ever and I can’t wait to go again!”

I have been to Barretstown three times now and on my first camp I shared my cottage with another girl whose sister had Rb. It was really nice to get to know someone else who understood how I felt about it because at my school people feel sorry for me and for Eliza but they don’t ‘get it’ like my new friends did.

If there are any other siblings out there thinking of going to Barretstown I’d say the most important thing is just to go out there and really enjoy it! Have a great time!

We know that brothers and sisters of a child with cancer can be affected in different ways. There is support, including events and trips such as Barretstown that you may be able to access and your CHECT support worker will be only too happy to help. Availability may vary from area to area. You can also nominate siblings to receive a CHECT Champion award. Please speak to hospital staff or your CHECT support worker if you are concerned about siblings and would like help.

Megan’s story features in the latest edition of our newsletter InFocus, out now. You can download a copy on our publications page. All our members receive a copy of each edition in the post. Find out more about becoming a member of CHECT.

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