Mike Coppola/Getty
November 24, 2014 04:00 PM

Diem Brown chronicled her lengthy cancer battle with candor and courage, opening up about everything from her hair loss to her darkest days.

But one thing she never wanted to discuss publicly was her age.

As a result, when the aspiring journalist and MTV star died on Nov. 14, there was much confusion about her birth year.

The funeral program listed her birth year as 1982, but PEOPLE confirmed via public records and loved ones that her correct date of birth was, in fact, June, 12, 1980.

Now her sister, Megan Brown, is speaking freely about why Diem felt the need to conceal her true age.

“Cancer robbed Diem of 10 years of her life,” she says in a statement to PEOPLE. “She worked in an industry where age matters.”

RELATED: Inside Diem’s Brave Cancer Battle

With the disease recurring three times over the course of a decade, “Diem took a couple of years off of her age because of all the years lost, starting and stopping her journalism career because of treatments,” Megan says.

Ultimately, Megan says, “She felt cancer took away enough from her. We all agreed whatever age she wanted to be, we would support her.”

Diem Brown’s friends and family have requested that donations in her honor be made to her health advocacy charity, MedGift.

Diem Brown and her sister Megan on Sept. 10
Courtesy Diem Brown

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Friends And Family Of The Late Diem Brown Say Goodbye At Her NYC Funeral

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