Sibling Strength: Breaking the silence and stigma that surrounds invisible illness to show the world our #InvisibleFight.
AWARENESS,  Chronic Pain,  Disability

Sibling Strength: Our #InvisibleFight

To the best friend I can’t get rid of: I know that whatever I do, you will always be there for me.

When I was five years old my parents introduced me to my younger brother, and only sibling, for the first time.

I was horrified.

I thought I was safe. I thought I was destined to be an only child. Then my parents sucker-punched me with a sibling, and a little brother at that!

I just wanted him to disappear but my parents insisted on bringing him home from the hospital.

It is a relationship that has provided me with as much grief as it has pleasure. As much love as it has pain.

It was clear from day one just how different we were: I was quiet; he was loud. I was a homebody; he was a party boy. I studied hard to get good grades; he had a naturally high IQ and rarely needed to crack open a textbook. I could take him down a peg or two with words; he could even the score with a punch.

Our whole childhood and adolescence was a classic sibling love/hate relationship and power struggle as we attempted to outwit, outlast and outplay each other. There were times when I could have willingly strangled him, as I’m sure he me.

It only took the better part of 24 years and a couple of chronic illness diagnoses for us to grow up and realise that we actually do like each other.

Now we are siblings and superheroes in arms; bonded by our invisible fights and now mutual admiration and respect for each other.

Our diagnoses may be different – me with Guillain-Barré Syndrome, he with Ulcerative Colitis – but our journeys’ and challenges are similar.

Illness has revealed us to share many characteristics; we aren’t as chalk and cheese as we once thought. Tough as nails, with ironclad wills, we are both determined to make the best of life’s draw cards.

To look at how far my brother has come is so rewarding to see. Seeing him struggle through the lowest points in his life with his illness to keep moving forward, working through the adversity and obstacles that keep being thrown in his way, for me that’s just an unreal role model in my life.

Can you imagine a condition so severe and debilitating that it robbed the better part of the last two years of his life?

Can you imagine trying to explain to people that you need the bathroom up to 30 times a day; that you can’t go out for a meal; that you need to carefully map out your driving route (if you can even get out of the house) based on bathroom availability?

Can you imagine the constant fear and anxiety that takes over your head at the possibility of being caught short somewhere?

My brother can. This is the world he lives in.

And yet in spite of all this, he somehow finds the inner strength and willpower to pick himself up day after day and keep fighting the good fight.

That’s human spirit right there for you. The Warrior roars loudly within.

I draw strength from this incredible human and was so proud when he said he would stand up in support of Invisible Illness Awareness with me.

So here we are:

Sibling Strength: Breaking the silence and stigma that surrounds invisible illness to show the world our #InvisibleFight.

Brother and Sister, separated by time and geographic distance, united in a display of sibling strength and support, breaking the silence and stigma that surrounds invisible illness to show the world our #InvisibleFight.

Watch out world we’re coming for you!

Please support Invisible Illness Awareness Week 2015 (September 28th – October 4th) by sharing this post using the hashtags #IIWK15, #InvisibleFight or #SufferingtheSilence. Thank you!

All photos and content the property of Starbrite Warrior and Bree Hogan


  • Rhyce Hogan

    Awesome post sis. I always shed a few tears everytime i read this. Im so glad to have you as a sister. You are always so strong and look at things in the most positive way. Love you always.

    • Bree Hogan

      Right back at you little Roo. I’m so lucky to have someone like you in my corner; someone who truly ‘gets it.’ It’s a shame we both battle chronic illness but together we are unstoppable! Xx

  • Shann Eva

    I’m sorry that you’re both suffering, but it’s nice to see that you’re fighting together and have each others’ backs. I also have a younger brother, and we’ve been through good and bad times. I know that he would be there for me no matter what too.

    • Bree Hogan

      Exactly Shann, we have each other’s backs and can be a source of support to each other because we both ‘get it’ (as in really, truly understand what the other person is going through). It’s good to know that there are people we can count on to be there for us no matter what.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Cara! With a 5-year age gap between us we basically spent most of our childhood, teenage years and early twenties fighting. Then we grew up. And our shared battles with chronic illness certainly helped to bridge any remaining gap. As I’ve told my brother before, I have always loved him but I haven’t always liked him. His response: Right back at ya! LOL!

    • Bree Hogan

      Hi Liz, yes we are close now but growing up…nuh uh! That can often be the way with siblings, particularly when there is a big age gap. We just needed to grow up. 🙂

  • Dia All The Things I Do

    I think it’s amazing that these conditions brought you and your brother together, time and distance be damned. Me and my oldest sister have alway fought a lot and when my grandmother passed in August it brought us a lot closer.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Dia 🙂 I suppose it could be viewed with a touch of sadness that it takes a big life conniption to bring people closer together, but it’s often what is needed to bridge any ‘gaps’ (e.g. sibling rivalry) that may exist. At least we are close now! And the same for you and your sister.

  • Missy - Getting Fit to Find Myself

    I so LOVE this post! I am in tears because your brother and your relationship remind me of my relationship with my younger brother. Did I mention how much I love this post? I had never thought about writing about my brother but he is an important part of my journey to this point. Thank you for giving me a post idea! Again, I LOVED this post!

    • Bree Hogan

      Thank you so much Missy! It certainly sounds like the post resonated a lot with you. I’m glad it has given you an idea for a future blog post of your own about your relationship with your own brother.

    • Bree Hogan

      Thanks Michelle! Sharing our story helps us along our healing journey and the best bit is, it seems to be helping other people too. The power of connection!

    • Bree Hogan

      Yup we are pretty lucky to have each other for support Emily. I tell him he won the genetic lottery by being related to me, lol!

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