This week, on facebook, I noticed the posts about Childhood Cancer Awareness and decided to talk about it and what you can do to help a family dealing with a sick child.
This article is taken from my book, Vive la Différence. This is the story of Caleb and his family and when I spoke to his Mom it was the fifth anniversary of his diagnosis.
Vive la Différence: Raising Children with Different Temperaments talks about a number of different child behaviours but this chapter is special. Caleb’s mother opened up to me about the reality of childhood cancer in her family. She has a lot to teach us.
When Your Child is Sick: One Family’s Story
Five years ago Caleb was diagnosed with cancer. His mother, Colleen, says that she had heard another oncology parent say, “You never get past your kid having cancer. You just get through it.” And on this, the fifth anniversary, she says this is absolutely true.
Fortunately for the family, Caleb is now a healthy, active child.
When I spoke to Colleen she admitted that she can still tear up when she remembers that time in their life. And as she spoke, I found myself close to tears.
What is it like to have a sick child? We have heard that when you get a personal cancer diagnosis it is devastating and the literature suggests that after the word cancer, you hear nothing. Colleen says that when it’s your child who is diagnosed you are shaken to your deepest core and you never totally get over it.
One of the great challenges was accepting help. “You go from being a family that is surviving on your own like everyone else to becoming a family in need.” The help is heart-warming, she says, but also requires a real shift to seeing yourself as someone who needs the help. People brought food and money and they needed to accept it. They required the help to get through this time.
Colleen was surprised by who stepped up to the plate and who didn’t. She said that the folks you expect you can count on sometimes let you down. In her case the school and community rallied.
At the time, Caleb was eight years old, his sister Abby was six and young Gabe was just one. It was the school and community that really played a major role in Abby’s life. Parents from Abby’s school coordinated lunches so that the family never needed to worry about making lunch for her. The school counsellor was an oncology parent and was therefore able to really help both Abby and her Mom deal with the realities of the situation.
Colleen’s parents were the lifesavers when it came to caring for Gabe. Colleen says that when one child is sick, the other kids get put on the back burner. She recommends that parents tell the other kids that if it were them who were sick, they would do exactly the same for them.
The daily routine of the family consisted of husband Todd going to work, then going straight to the hospital and spending the night with their son. Colleen would take Abby to school, Gabe to his grandparents and spend the day at the hospital. The only time she and her husband had together was when they changed “shifts” at the hospital.
“How did your marriage survive this life?” I asked. She said they kept talking and somehow they managed to laugh a lot. She said that they also knew that there was a time when this would end and they could get back to their regular life.
She also found that when it was over, when they were home and Caleb was declared cancer-free, she found herself physically drained. Her body hurt; she was exhausted.
She was, she discovered, going through a decompression common to oncology parents. After months and months of carrying on as best they could her body finally knew it was time to let go. And it took her awhile to feel healthy herself.
When you have a friend, colleague, family member or neighbour going through an illness don’t ask what you can do. Just step up to the plate and do something.
They may need food they can simply warm up, childcare for siblings, someone to clean house, mow the lawn or run errands.
Digital Books Make Parenting Information More Accessible.
Today we focused on one chapter of my book, Vive la Differénce. Two of my parenting books started as print versions but the third is only digital. The first two are also now in digital format. Who’s in Charge Anyway? talks about roots. It provides a clear road map for parent to focus on the tough but rewarding job of raising children to be responsible, self-disciplined adults.
But Nobody Told Me I’d Ever Have to Leave Home talks about raising children to become capable young men and women.
I am told the books are down to earth and common sense as well as easy to read. If you want some basic parenting tips and information these books are a good place to start.
How Can I Bring Kathy to My Community?
I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters.
And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:
P — is a parenting plan
U — is unconditional love
R — is respect for your child as he is right now
E — is encouragement
I look forward to working with you for your professional development, workplace wellness or parenting education event.