The National Children’s Cancer Society Highlights Challenges and Needs of Pediatric Cancer Parents During National Family Caregivers Month

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Parents who have been told their child has cancer are tossed immediately onto a roller coaster ride with no known end in sight; a scary and often confusing journey rife with emotional and financial twists and turns. The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS), which works closely with families of these ill children, offers resources for coping with all facets of pediatric cancer to highlight the importance of November as National Family Caregivers Month.

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“We exist to help families deal with the emotional and financial tolls of childhood cancer,” said Julie Komanetsky, vice president of Patient and Family Services at the NCCS.

Parents who have been told their child has cancer are tossed immediately onto a roller coaster ride with no known end in sight; a scary and often confusing journey rife with emotional and financial twists and turns. The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS), which works closely with families of these ill children, offers resources for coping with all facets of pediatric cancer to highlight the importance of November as National Family Caregivers Month.

“We exist to help families deal with the emotional and financial tolls of childhood cancer,” said Julie Komanetsky, vice president of Patient and Family Services at the NCCS. “We know from working closely with families for many years that help from organizations like the NCCS has a positive impact on their ability to cope with their child’s illness.”

From the overwhelming task of meeting with multiple doctors to planning treatment, juggling care for other children, plus handling exorbitant medical bills, caregivers experience a myriad of stress. One way the NCCS offers help is through its comprehensive parent guide, The Other Side of the Mountain, which provides helpful information about diagnosis, school, emotions, spirituality and health insurance.

Especially encouraging in the guide are thoughtful comments and suggestions from other caregivers who have cared for a child with pediatric cancer.

“Just as every child with cancer is unique, every family handles this journey differently,” Komanetsky said. “Learning how other parents have dealt with the struggle to maintain family structure provides practical information for this difficult experience.”

The book is divided into the following 13 sections covering many of the issues a family will face when a child gets cancer:

  • At Diagnosis: Seeking Answers and Finding Your Way
  • Building a Support Team
  • Second Opinions
  • During Treatment
  • After Treatment
  • Healthcare Coverage and Health Insurance
  • Communication With Your Child
  • The Impact of Childhood Cancer on the Family, Including Siblings
  • Emotional Concerns and Support
  • School Issues
  • Healthy Living
  • Spirituality
  • Dealing with Loss

“We view every child as a survivor,” said Pam Gabris, coordinator of the NCCS’s Beyond the Cure survivorship program. “Survivorship begins the day of diagnosis and lasts a lifetime. We also view parents as survivors and our goal is to help meet their needs at every step of their child’s battle with cancer.”

The emotional toll of caring for a child with cancer can be overwhelming and exhausting. The NCCS suggests the following tips to caregivers who are struggling emotionally:

  • Give yourself permission to experience both positive and negative feelings. Remember they are all normal.
  • Understand that some questions may not have answers.
  • Find ways to express your feelings.
  • Take care of yourself: get sufficient sleep, eat properly, and exercise.
  • Find a relaxing hobby like crocheting, knitting or woodworking.
  • Spend time with your other children.
  • Learn relaxation techniques, how to pace yourself and how to set priorities.
  • Keep a journal and record special moments, both happy and sad.

The NCCS encourages relatives and friends of children with cancer to also use the guide to learn how they can best support the caregivers during this difficult time.

About The National Children’s Cancer Society
The mission of The National Children's Cancer Society is to provide emotional, financial and educational support to children with cancer, their families and survivors. To learn more about the NCCS and its support services, visit thenccs.org. The National Children’s Cancer Society is a 501C(3) organization that has provided over $63 million in direct financial assistance to more than 40,000 children with cancer. To contact the NCCS, call (314) 241-1600. You can also find the NCCS on Facebook and Twitter.

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Lori Millner
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