Unfortunately cancer was the number one cause of death by disease in children according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Childhood cancer is a reality for many families.
I have seen so many posts in the local mom communities asking questions about where to go next, where the best doctors are, and where to find support while going through this life altering event.
As friends, neighbors, and strangers, there are things we can do in support of our local families facing childhood cancer. As they go through hospital visits, medical procedures, and the many daily decisions they have to make, there are a multitude of ways we can help.
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1. Create a Meal Train
If you are not familiar with meal trains, you can sign a up for a rotation of meals or gift cards toward meals to be sent from friends and family. Several common ones are Meal Train, Take Them a Meal, and SignUpGenius.
I received a meal train after the birth of my last two children. It felt great to focus on my babies without having to think about dinner.
2. Share Your Talents to Provide Services
With medical treatments and caregiving needs taking precedent, many things seem so small when compared. Maybe you do hair as a side business or make jewelry. Offering what you can during difficult times can help alleviate stress.
While entertainment isn’t something most would think about during this time, having a good distraction could benefit the whole family.
3. Be a Listening Ear
Be there to listen without offering advice. There are so many different opinions on treatments and options. Be aware that the family may not want or need advice that is not coming from a professional. My husband and I try to think about this before getting too far into the conversation with each other.
We will ask if we are expected to simply listen or if an opinion is being sought. This can be an awkward practice, but it makes a difference.
4. Be a Helpful Distraction
Distractions are needed during times of stress. Many times people find ways to “escape” situations that may be unhealthy. They may turn to drugs or alcohol to get through difficult times. Having friends to help us find joy during these times is what keeps us going in the right direction and away from substance use challenges.
Invite the family over for a special holiday meal. Set up a coffee date or fun night out with the care givers. (Be sure to ask and follow what the family’s needs are when it comes to in person health procedures.)
5. Check in Beyond the First Few Days
While we may be looking in from afar, remember that this is their daily life. It could takes months of treatment to get through. Don’t forget about them after those first few weeks. This could be a gesture as simple as sending a card in the mail to show them they are not alone.
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6. Offer Break Periods for the Parents
Getting out can be difficult for the caregivers, especially those who have multiple children. Babysitting or offering to sit with the patient during or after a treatment to give the caregivers a moment of respite. This one can be hard to ask for even when its needed.
Instead of saying “Let us know when you want to get out of the house,” say, “Send me some dates that work for you to get out of the house. I’ll come by.”
7. Send a Card
Let the family know that you are thinking about them, even if it feels like there is not much else you can do.
8. Offer to Attend a Support Group Meeting
Going to a new group alone can be scary and overwhelming. Extend a hand to join them at a support group meeting.
9. Include Them in Events and Outings
We often assume because someone is going through a difficult journey, they may be too stressed to think about having fun. We convince ourselves they may be too busy or sad to join in before we have asked.
The family may not be in a state of mind to plan things like thanksgiving dinners or a night out together, but these things could still be desired. Regularly extend invitations so that they can hopefully attend one of them.
One of the biggest reasons that I love living in Fort Worth is the feel of community. I have gone through multiple traumatic experiences in the last few years. While I don’t have my family in town for support, we have found great comfort in the families within our community. Family and friends can be of great support to families who are facing cancer. Be there for them through the experience.