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Rare Disease Siblings, The Glass House Children – Bulletproof and Shattered – With SMA Sibling Cara Freedman

Once Upon A Gene

Rare Disease Siblings, The Glass House Children – Bulletproof and Shattered – With SMA Sibling Cara Freedman

August 18, 2022

Rare Disease Siblings, The Glass House Children – Bulletproof and Shattered – With SMA Sibling Cara Freedman

ONCE UPON A GENE – EPISODE 148

Rare Disease Siblings, The Glass House Children – Bulletproof and Shattered – With SMA Sibling Cara Freedman

August is Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Awareness Month and sibling Cara Freedman joins me to discuss her experience growing up with her older brother Jack.

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS

Can you tell us about your family?

I’m 22 years old and just graduated college with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. My older brother passed away in October from SMA Type 1. He was wonderful, always had a smile on his face and acted like he didn’t have a care in the world. 

What was it like to be the sibling to Jack growing up?

Before I went to school, I didn’t know that having a brother like Jack was out of the norm. Attending school changed everything when I realized my peers noticed Jack in a way I hadn’t before. It made me feel different and I isolated myself for a bit. If 22 year old me went back to elementary school, I’d do something and stand up for myself. I treated Jack like a normal older brother, he teased me, I ignored him, he’d run me over with his wheelchair, and we did the typical sibling things. 

What helped you cope when you were growing up?

When I met people, it helped me feel normal to withhold that I had a brother with a rare disorder so they could get to know me first. It helped me to gain power back. I also spent a lot of time by myself, learning who I was and learning that I didn’t rely heavily on anyone else. 

What boundaries did you have growing up to protect your mental health?

Something that helped was accepting that it was okay to want to get away to be alone and separate myself from chaos. It was also common for me to reserve medical talk for only when it was necessary. I did my best to remind myself that it was okay not to fit into a sibling mold and feel what I needed to feel.

What effect has growing up with Jack had on you as an adult?

I gained patience for myself and others and empathy through caring for other people. I find myself to be an empath and feel a lot of what other people feel, mostly because I could never feel what Jack and I always want to get into other people’s shoes and understand who they are. I still care too much about what others think about me.

LINKS & RESOURCES MENTIONED

Global Genes Patient Advocacy Summit

https://globalgenes.org/event/rare-patient-advocacy-summit/

Episode 090 – Mental Health and chronic stress with Rare Disease Dad and Psychologist Al Freedman, Ph.D

https://www.bloodstreammedia.com/once-upon-a-gene-episodes/episode-090-mental-health-and-chronic-stress-with-rare-disease-dad-and-psychologist-al-freedman-phd

NORD

https://rarediseases.org/

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