Stories about: pediatric cancer

How to talk to children about cancer

Our colleagues at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC) recently shared this very helpful blog post on how to talk to young children with cancer about their illness. After reading it I wanted to share with Thriving readers, as many of the suggestions apply to a number of pediatric illnesses. For more information on pediatric cancer and its treatment, please visit DF/CHCC’s blog, Insight.

Helping a loved one face cancer is never easy, but the challenge is especially daunting when the patient is your own child. The clinicians at DF/CHCC work with pediatric cancer patients and their families every day. Lisa Diller, MD, Anna Muriel, MD, and Jorge Fernandez, LCSW – offer these tips for talking with your children about their illness.           

1. Include them in the discussion. For many parents, the natural instinct is to not give their child information about their diagnosis to avoid scaring them. But children can view this protection as exclusion, a feeling that they are not important enough to include in the discussion. It’s also anxiety-provoking in that it creates uncertainties and fears that the situation may be worse than it really is.

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The many faces of childhood cancer: Sarah Levin

Sarah Levin is 11 years old, and has beaten acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) twice. This is her story.

Sarah and her mother Michelle

The first time I got diagnosed with ALL I was only three, so I don’t remember that much about it. But what my mom and dad have told me is that it was a really sad and scary time for my family. It happened a week before my 3rd birthday. I actually spent my 3rd birthday in at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC) on 7 West, which used to be the oncology floor. It was very challenging for my mom and dad to split time between me and my sister. They both wanted to be with me, but they also wanted to be with her and help her through such a hard time.

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The many faces of childhood cancer: Fernando Morales

Fernando Morales is a student athlete. Last year he was sidelined from the life he knew after he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma. Now done with treatment Fernando is back with his teammates, sporting a positive outlook and a new appreciation for life. This is his story. 

Fernando

As a soccer player and member of the track and field team at my high school, running is a big part of my life. But one morning I started getting shooting pains in my knee. All of a sudden walking and running became very difficult. In the blink of an eye I lost a big part of my identity, which hurt almost as much as my leg. Almost.

I saw a doctor who put me on a physical therapy regimen and took X-rays of my knee. When that didn’t seem to help I underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to see what the problem was and why it wasn’t getting better. The MRI results said it all: a tumor was growing in my right pelvis.

Less than a week later my parents and I were driving to the Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC). There were so many questions floating around my head. Would I need surgery? Would I ever play sports again? Was I going to live? If you compared my sanity to a dam, the pressure in my head was building towards dangerous levels. The walls were starting to crack.

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The many faces of childhood cancer: Caitlynne McGaff

Caitlynne McGaff is an active 17-year-old. She owes a lot of her mobility to an innovative surgery she had at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Hospital Cancer Center to treat her osteosarcoma. This is her story.

Caitlynne McGaff

When most people my age talk about a day they’ll never forget, they mention getting their license, or a great sweet sixteen party. For me, it’s a little different. I’ll never forget March 1, 2001, because it was the day I was diagnosed with cancer.

I was just 6 years old at the time, and honestly didn’t fully understand what was happening when the doctor said I had a bone tumor known as osteosarcoma growing just above my knee. But from the shocked looks on my parents’ faces I knew it was big. The rest of the day is a blur. We went from doctor to doctor, office to office, as my new medical team explained my treatment plan to me and my parents. It was a whirlwind, but over time everything became normal, almost comforting.

The Dana-Farber/ Boston Children’s became like a second home to my family and me. Wednesdays were the longest day because that’s when I had chemotherapy. But the staff at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s offers so many entertainment options to its patients you almost forget why you’re there. I may have spent hours tethered to an IV that delivered my medications, but all I remember are the endless arts and crafts projects I did, or the time spent with nurses and doctors I came to see as friends. (Not to mention hours and hours of board games.)

When my chemotherapy session was over I’d head to my room on 7 West, Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s own treatment wing. The similarities between the Jimmy Fund Clinic and the hospital inpatient area are plenty; there’s a surplus of activities in the craft room, tons of movies to watch or games to play and people to hang out with that understand just how much a simple smile can mean to a child in the hospital.

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