Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month!


September is, among other things, Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. I was particularly interested in writing about this awareness celebration, because I am a sibling of a cancer survivor. My younger brother had a cancerous tumor in his eye, which was discovered when he was seventeen months old. At the time, this was a very rare type of cancer, and the doctors didn't know how to begin treating it. If left untreated or undiscovered, it would have spread to his brain and killed him. Eventually my brother's entire eye was removed, and he grew up with a plastic eye.
My parents were very young when my brother was diagnosed, and they didn't have many resources to help them out. Unfortunately, the American Cancer Society refused to help them out because they said my brother's type of cancer wasn't serious enough. So my parents were largely on their own.
Luckily, in this day and age, this isn't the case anymore! Although a family with a child diagnosed with any type of serious illness probably feels very alone, they should know that they have entire armies of concerned people, including tons of cancer survivors, marching behind them.
One great website I found was the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer FOundation. They've created an absolutely wonderful site filled with all sorts of resources to help families. From this site you can find all sorts of information about different types of treatments, clinical trials, medications, and more. You can also find support groups, advocacy groups, references to books and websites that can help, and even financial aid and help with airfare to transport children to places with the best medical help for them... and more! If you ever are in the situation where you have a child diagnosed with cancer, or know someone who does, this page is a great starting point.
While doing some research for this blog entry, I also read a little more about St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. This hospital is one of my mom's favorite charities, and she donates money to them and buys things from them all the time, so I already knew that this hospital does amazing things to help children with the toughest to treat cases of cancer and other diseases. But did you know that this hospital takes on children, regardless of the family's ability to pay? The hospital accepts whatever payment the family's insurance is willing to pay, and the families are never asked to pay any extra, even though their children continue to get the best treatment possible. And families with no type of insurance don't have to pay at all. What a wonderful thing! That's the way life should be, especially when it comes to children's lives.

There are also so many organizations out there... many created by cancer survivors or their families... which donate products or provide services to children with cancer. Check this out!

STUFF FOR YOUR HEAD
Hugs-U-Wear - Special hats with real hair attached to them, available free (when ordered by a hospital social worker or children's life specialist) from the Childhood Leukemia Foundation. When filling out the order form, the kids can choose the color and style of hair, and the color of the hat.
Wigs For Kids - Provides wigs, made with donated hair, for children who lose their hair due to medical treatments, burns, etc. (This is different from Locks Of Love, which provides wigs to children who cannot grow hair due to medical conditions.)
Heavenly Hats Started by a ten-year-old boy whose grandmother had breast cancer, this organization will provide hats to children and adults who have lost their hair due to medical treatments or illnesses.


THINGS TO DO IN THE HOSPITAL
Letters Of Hope - Because living with cancer can be so boring (among other things) for kids... they can't always go out and play like other kids do, and often can't even attend school and see their friends... children can write letters to the Childhood Leukemia Foundation and explain what types of things would cheer them up and make time a little more bearable. The Childhood Leukemia Foundation will supply children with the things they'd like to have, up to five hundred dollars in value. A child who loves art may want an easel and art supplies to keep in her hospital room. One child who loved music had always wanted a bongo and a conga. Many children ask for Ipods or laptop computers that they can bring along on hospital stays.
Jared Boxes - Created by the family of a little boy who battled cancer, this organization provides shoeboxes filled with things like crayons, markers, coloring books, writing journals, word searches, Matchbox cars, card games, puzzles, silly-putty, Play-Doh, bubbles, stickers, fun costume jewelery, and small toys. They are donated to hospitals, which pass the boxes along to children receiving chemotherapy, dialysis, and other treatments.

KEEPING IN TOUCH
Phone Cards - Often kids have to travel away from home in order to get the best treatment for their illness. They and their families have to use payphones to keep in touch with family members. The Childhood Leukemia Foundation provides phone cards for children and families to use!

CHEERFUL MAIL AND SURPRISES
Kids Cancer Crusade - Sends cheerful cards and packages to children with cancer.
Make A Child Smile - Letters, cards and packages in the mail for children with illnesses, and their siblings!
Chemo Angels - Matches up people going through cancer (including kids) with a special pal who will send cards, gifts and encouragement.
Hugs And Hope - Letters, cards and gifts in the mail for children with illnesses and their siblings.

COMFORT
Crocheting Hearts - Sends special homemade, blessed blankets to children with cancer.

WEB COMMUNITIES
Cancer Kids - Children and their families can build websites and post them here to keep loved ones and others updated on the children's progress. There's also a message board!

Starbright World
- An online social networking community specifically for teenagers with serious illnesses. Provided by the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation.
Care Pages - People facing serious illnesses (both children and adults) can create these websites and invite family and friends to view the pages in order to stay updated on their progress.

THINGS FOR PARENTS
Hope Binders - When a child has cancer or another serious illness, parents will want to document all the different treatments, etc. It can be hard to stay super-organized, but the Hope Binder, sent by the Childhood Leukemia Foundation, gives parents an easier way to keep track of treatment protocols, medicines, doctor's appointments, blood counts, physicians, hospitals, nutrition concerns, insurance benefits, calling cards, informational booklets and more.

THINGS FOR SIBLINGS
Super Sibs! As you might see from this blog entry, tons of resources exist for children with cancer, and their parents. But often, siblings get lost in the shuffle! This organization exists specifically to help siblings of children who have, or have had, cancer.

TRANSPORTATION
Air Charity Network - A network of all different organizations that coordinate free plane trips for people with cancer and their families to get to and from different hospitals and treatment centers. Through this site, you can quickly find an agency that works in your area!

CAMPS AND RETREATS
Children's Oncology Camping Association - A network of camps across the world that specialize in giving children with cancer, or cancer survivors, awesome camp experiences!
Believe In Tomorrow Children's Foundation - Has several special resorts for children with serious illnesses and their families to stay in, free of charge, and enjoy vacations together.

HOSPITAL HOUSING
Believe In Tomorrow Children's Foundation - Provides low-cost housing for families of children undergoing treatment at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.


WISHES

Give Kids The World
- This is a very special resort, for families of children witl serious illnesses to stay in during special Florida vacations.
Make-A-Wish Foundation - A wonderful organization that grants wishes for children with serious illnesses or children who have recovered from serious illnesses. When a child makes a whsh, the agency does everything it can to make that wish come alive for the child, whether she wants to swim with dolphins, have the perfect Christmas with her family, or even own a dinosaur! (You can visit the website to read the stories of ho wsome of these wishes were granted!)

RANDOM
Songs Of Love - For kids facing serious illnesses, songwriters will create a special CD for and about the child!

If you know of any other great resources for children with cancer, please let me know!

(I just realized this post took me three hours to do, so I hope you like it!)

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