A Sister’s Story

Jocelyn Gonzalez remained by her sister Maddy’s side during her hospitalizations as she battled cancer.

Sister finds Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation supports her as she helps her younger sibling fight cancer

By Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation


When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the entire family is affected.

Jocelyn Gonzalez experienced this when her sister Maddy was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. “I had never heard the word cancer until my little sister was diagnosed. It felt like a cruel word,” she said. “One minute we were excited about Halloween and the new school year, then the next my world turned upside down.”

Jocelyn wraps her arms around her younger sister Maddy. Jocelyn’s hugs helped comfort Maddy during her cancer treatments.

The effect on siblings is often overlooked with a cancer diagnosis. Siblings experience the trauma of cancer. While parents are focused on the sick child’s treatment, siblings are frequently left with family members or stay in hospital waiting rooms for long periods of time. The guilt of being the “healthy child” adds to the anxiety of an already stressful situation.

Several studies indicate 38 percent of siblings of pediatric cancer patients exhibit moderate to severe post-traumatic stress, sometimes years after cancer treatment has ended.

From the day of Maddy’s cancer diagnosis on Oct. 20, 2013, Jocelyn never left her sister’s side. She held Maddy’s hand during her hospitalizations, doctor appointments, and chemotherapy sessions.  When Maddy was in pain, Jocelyn tried to comfort her by reading to her, hugging her and just being there. When Maddy’s hair began to fall out, Jocelyn shaved her head to show her sister she was in the fight with her.

Immediately after Maddy’s diagnosis, the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation reached out to the Gonzalez family. The local nonprofit assists families that have a child with cancer by providing financial, educational, and emotional support. The foundation serves families in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties.

Besides helping the Gonzalez family financially, TBCF also offered emotional support for Jocelyn. The nonprofit organized fun activities, like movie outings, for Jocelyn to enjoy as a respite from the stress of her sister’s illness.

“It was never about going to the movies,” said Jessica Gonzalez, the girls’ mother. “It was about helping a little girl who was watching her sister struggle to stay alive. It was about emotionally supporting Jocelyn. Giving her a moment away from sickness to laugh and be a kid helped her through a really sad time.”

Five year later, Jocelyn shares her experiences with the community. She partnered with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation to speak on behalf of siblings going through the same situation. Jocelyn has spoken at the local Rotary Club, her middle school, and at TBCF events.

Jocelyn is determined her story have purpose. She has become an advocate for pediatric cancer awareness, for siblings, and most importantly, for her sister Maddy

To learn more about Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation or to make a donation, go to TeddyBearCancerFoundation.org.


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