When Cancer Invades A Child’s World

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Maddy was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two. For several years, she battled the disease. Her family and friends did the best they could to help her and be there for her, but as her mother said, “It’s not the same as being around other people who are going through the same thing.”

To the children and their families who hear the dreaded words, “You have cancer,” a calm and certain world suddenly turns topsy-turvy. This is why so many children and their families come to the free programs at the Cancer Support Community of the Greater Lehigh Valley: to help them regain a footing.

One of these programs is Kid Support™, an eight-week program geared to children and teens who have been diagnosed with cancer or have cancer in their families. Kid Support™ helps lift their spirits as they regain control of their lives, redefine hope, reduce stress and isolation, and become better educated in managing their care. In fact 96 percent of participants report an improved quality of life.

“I felt that if I talked about it [having cancer], it made me feel really, really
better,” said Maddy, who is now 8 years old and whose leukemia is in remission.

Under the guidance of five licensed mental health professionals and instructors, the participants break into three groups: one for kids 5-12, one for teens, and one for their adult caregivers.  Over the course of eight weeks, the two younger groups cover a different and critical topic: 1) meeting one another; 2) understanding cancer; 3) appreciating yourself; 4) loss and change; 5) feelings; 6) learning to relax; 7) changing family roles; 8) problem solving, and summation.

Children begin to understand these subjects through age-appropriate activities like skits, becoming Captain Chemo wielding a foam noodle sword or becoming a red blood cell; arts and crafts; books like Can I Catch Cancer? or When a Parent Has Cancer: A Guide to Caring for Your Children;  DVDs like Why, Charlie Brown, Why?, and kitchen safety in the event children take on the adult responsibility of cooking.

 

“I don’t think my [eight-year-old] daughter would be where she is today if
not for Kid
Support™,” says Amanda, a breast cancer survivor. “First, I sent her to a
counselor to help her through this, but she wouldn’t talk.”

Since the Cancer Support Community of the Greater Lehigh Valley offers free programs and support groups for everyone–regardless of the type of cancer or stage in the disease–hospitals and health professionals refer many of their patients to it.  Most hospitals do not have the financial or personnel resources to provide support groups, seminars, and gentle exercise, meditation, or expressive arts programs that we do—especially for children.

“We both benefited from Kid Support ™,” continues Amanda. “She saw she wasn’t the only kid with a bald mom. She could talk to other kids. And I could talk to other moms and dads and find out how they handled things.”

 

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3400 Bath Pike | Bethlehem, PA 18017
610-861-7555 | www.cancersupportglv.org     

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