Coping with school or work when my brother or sister has cancer

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Keeping up at school, uni/TAFE or work while your brother or sister is sick can be a challenge. Even getting there some days may be hard.



If you’re in school it forms a big chunk of your life. Having a brother or sister with cancer can affect you at school in lots of ways:

  • You may have difficulty concentrating because you are worried about them.

  • You may be tired because you are doing extra things around the house.

  • You have less time to get your homework done because of these extra jobs.

  • Motivation may be down.

  • Your work might not be up to the usual standard.

  • Friends and teachers may act weird.

It will help if you don’t have to pretend that everything is OK. While you might not want to be treated any differently, letting your teachers know what is going on may mean they cut you some slack.

Years 11 & 12

If you are doing your final school exams you may be able to get ‘special consideration’ if you have missed work or you have just had a hard time coping with it all. You will need to speak to the school counsellor who can organise this for you.


Having a brother or sister with cancer can sometimes make you or them a target for the bullies at school (especially if how they look or act has changed because of treatment).

Some people also have weird (and wrong!) ideas about cancer – like that you can catch it – and they think this is a good reason to give you or your brother or sister a hard time. You don’t have to put up with that. Let someone know what is going on.


If you are at uni or TAFE, talk to your lecturers, tutors or department heads to work out a strategy to cope with your study workload while you are supporting your brother or sister and family.

  • If you’ve had to take on a lot of extra responsibility at home, you may want to defer your studies for a year or apply for special consideration when you take your exams.
  • Most campuses have a Student Services Centre that provides counselling and support.

Take advantage of whatever is on offer to help you get through this stressful time.


What you tell your employer or work mates about your brother’s or sister’s cancer is completely up to you. You don’t have to tell them at all. However, you will probably find that if you do they will be supportive and understanding, especially if you have to take time off or are just having a bad day.

Check with your supervisor, manager or HR manager about your rights when it comes to taking time off. You may be entitled to take paid carer’s leave, to look after a family member who is sick, or paid compassionate leave, if a family member dies or is about to die.

The Australian Government’s FairWork website has info about your rights at work.


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