About this blog

About this blog

Zunairah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) on 20 January 2015. She was only two. Her siblings were also affected by their little sisters cancer diagnosis. To help siblings cope The Beads of Courage UK Siblings Programme has been launched to support those that are often forgotten about and give them the support they deserve. Zunairah's siblings blog about their experiences. Blogs written by siblings of Zunairah.

  • Patient Name: Zunairah
  • Cancer Type: Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
  • Age when diagnosed: 2

Getting to know Zoya, 17 years old

19th March 2024

Q. Do you have any hobbies or interests that you love doing in your free time?

A. I am 17 years old, and I’m a middle child – sister to four. My little sister, Zunairah was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) on 20 January 2015. She was only two. I love to play videogames, especially the classics like Super Mario and Just Dance, as I grew up playing these classics with my siblings, in which we all were very very competitive. I love decorating my room a lot, because I feel that’s where I get the chance to express myself in my own way and go all out with whatever I like, so if you go in my room, you’ll see so much different décor. I love watching movies, especially my favourite classics from Disney to singalongs like Alvin and the Chipmunks (which my siblings hate me for picking so many times) I am a thrill-seeker, I love rollercoasters so much because it gives you so much adrenaline and makes you feel like you are out of this Earth, and I have my siblings to thank for that because I was originally scared of them. I’m currently studying Biology, Chemistry and Maths because I love science – especially Biology. I like doodling and arts and crafts a lot whilst listening to music because it helps to take my mind off things.


Q. What is your family like? What do you love doing with your family?

A. If I could describe my family in one word, I would describe it as LARGE. No I’m kidding, my family is quite a tightly bonded family, in which we all cannot go one day without seeing each other or asking about each other. I love having some family time with my family, for example watching movies with some takeaway together, because I feel like it’s the best time where we are all comfortable together. And I can’t forget memorising most of the words to our favourite movies like Monsters Inc, and The Incredibles.

Q. Do you remember that time when you found out that your sister or brother became unwell?

A. I was seven, when my little sister Zuni was diagnosed with ALL, but I still remember some events clearly… I remember being in the living room with my extended family when we received a phone call from my parents in the hospital, it was that my little Zuni has been diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t understand what was happening though, but I realised something wasn’t right as I watched the faces of my family members drop. When I asked what happened, they told me that Zuni has become unwell, but even then I wasn’t fully sure why it was so upsetting, because everyone gets ill sometimes right? One day, we went to go visit Zuni in Hospital, when we entered Zuni’s room, the doctor came in and sat me and my older brother and sister down, and began to break down what had occurred to Zuni and what cancer was and why it was so serious. But because I was only seven, I could only process and absorb so little.

Q. What was this like for you?

A. I obviously knew it wasn’t something amazing, so I was upset about it, but I still didn’t fully comprehend what was going on – all I could understand was that she was seriously ill. As time went on, I managed to understand more and more what she was going through. I was still really devastated about it and I always used to look at old pictures of her, because at the time she had gone through chemotherapy which can affect appearance which was also, at times, upsetting to watch my baby sister go through. I did all that I could though, I went to school and told my teacher about it so we prayed for Zuni every day before home time, by lighting a candle and keeping pictures of her in the classroom.

Q. Do you feel you still got to have lovely family time?

A. I don’t feel that we received a lot of family time as I had wished for, especially being since my mum and dad had to stay in the hospital with Zuni, but we did visit as much as we could to make up for everything and support Zuni and each other through the whole journey.

Q. Are there any specific memories you want to share with us from this time? This can be good, bad, fun, sad, anything goes.

A. I remember coming to the hospital every week to give my mum a break for a bit, which meant staying to look after Zuni with my dad, and also coping with Zuni’s mood swings but overall I loved it a lot because it only made up for the time I missed with her at home. I also remember her random cravings for different things like salty foods, like Pringles, Fried Chicken, sometimes even Maltesers. Despite her going through a very difficult battle, seeing her never failed to put a smile to my face. I vividly remember, as due to the treatment she had forgotten how to walk, she took her first steps again using the sides of the hospital bed.

Q. If you could give someone just like you a piece of advice, what would that be? Is there anything you wish you had known that could have helped you?

A. Talk to someone, anyone if you feel uncomfortable, confused or alone. Within your family, always support each other even through the bad days and just keep pushing through. I feel like its also good to visit your sibling as much as possible, so they don’t feel alone to in the hospital. I wish I would’ve known properly what was going on at the beginning, and maybe the side effects of the treatment in advance, but don’t let this put you off as your brother/sister is still the same person beneath. My final tip would be to have patience. Patience is key in this whole battle as you and your family might experience some ups and downs but like I said before it’s important to keep together and fight the battle as a family. 

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