My Experience with Childhood Cancer and Ways You Can Help

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We pulled into the permit-only parking lot I used to think was for employees only, and we made our way to the second floor of the hospital. The parking lot, I had since learned, was a special parking lot with free parking. It’s location was designated due to the fact it is a short walk to second floor of the first street building – the oncology section of the hospital. We stood in line to check in and I gave a friendly half-smile/head nod to a nice couple in the waiting room.
Every time we’re in line I feel people peeking over at us and I know it’s because we’re not typical patients for the oncology floor. When I go, it’s with myself and our young kids. I know people are wondering if the patient is the young mother with young children, or one of the children – either way it’s not especially typical for the area. As much as I wish I were the patient of our group, the patient is my son, Caleb, age nine.

In November 2014, at age six, he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic T-Cell Leukemia. Getting news like that is even more Earth-shattering than one can imagine. He was moved to the pediatrics floor immediately following his diagnosis surgery, and another surgery then took place to install a port into his chest, and then he began his 3 1/2 year treatment plan. We were introduced into a whole new world of surgery, sedation, needle pokes (so many needle pokes), chemotherapy, medicine, side effects, hospital stays, doctors, nurses, and the whirlwind of emotions that accompany it all.

My Experience with Childhood Cancer and Ways You Can Help | Duluth Moms Blog

Everything was new and scary not only for us as parents, not only for his siblings, but especially for Caleb himself.

I remember pleading for hours with him to swallow the medicine he needed to take and him trying so hard to swallow it but gagging and crying because he just couldn’t get it down and knew he had to somehow anyways.
I remember him crying not to go to the hospital for not wanting to get poked again.
I remember his siblings crying because they didn’t want us to leave and/or wanted to come along as well.
I remember crying more tears and praying more prayers than I ever had in my life.
I remember bribing him to eat half of a sandwich as his weight kept dropping.
I remember it all.

The good news is that Caleb is a strong, adaptable, older boy who adjusted to this new way of life and is no longer scared of needle pokes or swallowing medicine. After several months of struggling, things started to fall into place and we all slowly started to adapt – never to a point of normalcy because this way of life is anything but normal, but to a point of being able to handle it without much upset.

The bad news is that there are millions of children worldwide fighting cancer. Some are newly diagnosed and haven’t adapted yet, and some are so young that they never really understand what’s happening and the struggles are struggles throughout their treatment.

My Experience with Childhood Cancer and Ways You Can Help | Duluth Moms Blog

Before Caleb was diagnosed with leukemia, I never thought any of my kids would get cancer, and I had the luxury of believing childhood cancer is very rare.

The truth is that no one with a kid with cancer thinks it will happen to them, it does not discriminate, and there is no way to predict which children will get it.  It’s almost impossible to prevent it and it isn’t as rare as many think.

My Experience with Childhood Cancer and Ways You Can Help | Duluth Moms Blog

Caleb’s first nine months of treatment were very intensive and we were in the hospital for close to half of that time. We got to know most of the families who were also in treatment and frequently in the hospital.

In February 2016, Northwestern Mutual hosted a Valentine’s Day event for the oncology patients and as we attended the event, I looked around and realized that I didn’t know any of the families who were inpatient. That’s when it kind of hit me that this problem isn’t going away and it isn’t gone. It’s ongoing. Kids are still being diagnosed not only worldwide, not only nationally, but right here in our own communities.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. There are so many amazing fighters out there going through so many hard times. This cause needs all the attention and support it can garnish. The color for this cause is gold, so every September – if you can – spread as much gold as you can! On your social media, in your yard, and anywhere else you can think to do it, and let people know why you are going gold – for awareness for childhood cancer!

I know how helpless it can feel to have a big cause in front of you. Most of us aren’t scientists and, very unfortunately, we can’t cure cancer.

So what can we do to help?

There are so many ways!

Spread awareness with gold, gold ribbons, and offering information to others when you can.

Make your Amazon purchases through smile.amazon.com and select a charity to receive .5% of what you spend. This is the exact same site as amazon.com.  Your cart and account is the same, the only difference is that Amazon donates a percentage of your purchases to a charity of your choosing.  It also doesn’t take any of your own money, it’s all donated through Amazon itself.  There are a number of great charities to choose from (some suggestions are listed at the bottom!).

Give blood!  Cancer patients often receive several blood and platelets transfusions which are not possible without generous donors.

Register for the bone marrow registry.  You can do this through bethematch.org.

Donate toys and items to your local children’s hospital.  Essentia’s pediatrics floor loves DVD’s (used or new DVD’s). When we were inpatient, these movies were incredibly nice to have available!  They also have a great play room and offer toys to their patients, so things such as DVD’s and toys are all great!  You can also contact your local children’s hospital to ask what kinds of donations they are in need of at that time.

If you have a special talent, come to the hospital and entertain the kids on the pediatric floor!  We have a retired science teacher that comes and does magic tricks with science for the kids and have had a clown come through as well as baseball teams and characters like Elmo and Cookie Monster.  There are times cancer patients can’t leave the rooms when their immune systems are low so having fun visitors is always nice.

Pray for a cure. Pray for all the kids in treatments. Pray for loved ones of and families with kids in treatment.

Shave your head!  St. Baldrick’s hosts events where you can sign up, create a page, raise funds, and then shave!  You can also be a virtual shavee and skip the formal event.

Join a local meal train.  Find a meal trail for a family going through a hard time.  I didn’t know many of the people who joined our train but they were all helpful!

Support causes that fight for more funding for childhood cancer research.

Donate money/time/resources to foundations that help with support and research!  Some popular ones for childhood cancer are:

Buy from supportive vendors!  These vendors sell products whose proceeds go to helping kids with cancer.

  • Catch Some Air – sells t-shirts and the proceeds go to helping kids with cancer.
  • Love Your Melon – sells amazing beanie hats and for every hat sold, one is donated to a kid fighting cancer, as well as 50% of their profits go to nonprofit partners.  They also have a Campus Crew Program (so if you are a student you can look into joining that!).  They get involved with kids, raise awareness, and run events.
  • There are many more amazing charities and vendors, those are just the ones that came to mind as I write and that were suggested to include in this list.

Please know that your support does not need to be monetary! You can also reach out to various charities and your local hospital and ask for some different ways you can help. Many are in need of volunteers and help in other ways.

If you have any other ideas on ways to help or charities that you love, please leave them in the comments!

Thank you so much for all your prayers, love, help, and support!  Please join me to both support and spread awareness for childhood cancer – especially in September which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month!

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Christine is a baby-wearing mom-to-five, who are eight and under {8, 8, 6, 4, six months}. She works mostly as a stay-at-home mom who is always, ahem, always on the go, but also works as a part-time photographer at Christine Ann Photography, is a non-traditional student, and is a caretaker to her son as he goes through treatment for T-cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Christine is your resident hot mess mom and self-proclaimed master of Pinterest fails. She loves to travel, laugh, relax, pray, binge-watch Netflix while editing photos, and take entire showers without any interruptions. You can follow Christine's work as a photographer on Facebook And Instagram And follow her personal journey on Instagram And her son's medical journey on Caringbridge :) :).