Seven years ago, Jordan Wetzel lost her little sister, McKenna, to a terminal brain tumor called DIPG. McKenna was diagnosed with the inoperable brain stem tumor in 2011, and died six months later, just two weeks before her eighth birthday.
When Jordan was a senior at the Edison High School in Huntington Beach, she was obligated to deliver a senior project. Jordan decided to take the opportunity to share her personal experience in an effort to raise awareness by self-publishing her own book, “Butterfly Sisters: The Life of Pediatric Cancer Siblings.”
The assignment was a passion project for Jordan that resulted in a positive impact across the childhood cancer community and beyond.
She started with sharing her family’s story, telling about her personal struggles with understanding McKenna’s diagnosis, sharing memories and the struggle she faced (and continues to face) after the loss of her only sister. Then she interviewed other cancer siblings and shared their perspectives in the book, as well.
Throughout the year, Jordan dedicated 784 hours to writing, interviewing cancer siblings, editing, publishing, and processing her grief through it all. While healing and cathartic, the process was also emotionally draining on Jordan and her entire family – but she refused to compromise on the quality of her story, because she knew the perspective of cancer siblings is one that is rarely shared, and their stories needed to be told.
In May 2017, she told the Daily Pilot, “I feel like cancer siblings don’t get much appreciation when it comes to the cancer world,” describing them as “silent supporters.” “In the headlines, it’s always about the parents and the kids themselves — there’s never talk about siblings.”
When her parents offered to help, or to review what she had written throughout the process, Jordan explained that she wanted the project to be something she did entirely on her own.
Butterfly Sisters is an incredible tribute to cancer siblings and the silent battles they fight every day. It is now available for purchase here.
Today, Jordan continues to raise awareness and help other cancer siblings through her own experience. Visit the McKenna Claire Foundation to purchase a book. http://mckennaclairefoundation.org/product/butterfly-sisters-booklet/
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