September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month (in case you hadn’t caught on from my incessant posting on social media :P.) I’ve had so many people this year ask us to let them know if there was anything they could do. I have to admit, I didn’t know how to answer that question (still don’t most days) because I didn’t know what I needed and everything was very overwhelming when Nico was first diagnosed and starting treatment. But in the spirit of raising awareness I wanted to share some practical things I’ve noticed that would really be impactful. Later, I plan to do a separate post about the things people have done specifically for us that have been tremendously helpful. Stay tuned for that. For now, here are seven ways you can make a difference for childhood cancer patients and their families this September and all year long!!
Usually kids going through cancer treatment, I imagine adults as well, don’t make it through treatment without the need for a few blood transfusions. During radiation, Nico required two blood transfusions to boost his hemoglobin levels which had fallen below the minimum level. There are lots of reasons we should be donating blood but this is another reminder of why it’s so important. Check out the Red Cross website to find out if you are eligible and to find a donation center nearest you.
2.Consider becoming a bone marrow donor.
For several types of childhood cancers, bone marrow transplants are life saving procedures. Nico’s cancer is not in his bone marrow and will not require a transplant but for the many children with leukemia this is their best treatment option or the only potential they have for a cure. Again, childhood cancers aren’t the only diseases treated by bone marrow transplants. There are several other diseases such as sickle cell anemia that are treatable. Read more about that on the Be The Match website.
3. Donate money to help fund childhood cancer research
Childhood cancer research is severely underfunded. Take the following numbers into consideration. The US currently spends 4% of Federal funding toward childhood cancer research in one year. That’s the equivalent of what Americans spends on Starbucks coffee in just THREE days. We could easily match what the Federal government spends in just three days by donating what you would spend at Starbucks to organizations such as Live Like Bella, Alex’s Lemonade Stand, or (my personal favorite) the Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Center (CC-TDI). The CC-TDI is a non-profit research lab created with the laser-focused mission to make all childhood cancers universally survivable. They are solely focused on childhood cancers and are filling the gap on research and targeted treatments for the childhood cancers that have little to no treatment options currently. They are currently doing a drug discovery project specifically for Nico’s cancer- rhabdomyosarcoma. How cool is it that we can support them directly!
4. Support families during treatment
Families currently navigating the waters of childhood cancer also need financial help. Most likely the child will need treatment at a children’s hospital which is usually located in a larger city which could be pretty far for that family. They may need to commute, temporarily relocate or do a mix of the two depending what their child’s treatment protocol is like. Many times parents take a-lot of time off of work in order to be with their child or may take a leave of absence. They also have increases in their medical and travel expenses. This is why very often you will see someone close to the family or the family themselves set up a crowdfunding campaign to help the family alleviate the financial burden. We were blessed to have a GoFundMe set up for us by our family. It is an amazing blessing to be supported in this particular way because worrying about finances while also dealing with childhood cancer siphons energy and mental bandwidth that really should be focused on the task at hand which is helping your child through their treatment. We are eternally thankful for so many who have blessed us in this way!
5. Donate snacks or toys to your local children’s hospital.
The oncology unit at your local children’s hospital will most likely have a treasure drawer or closet where the kids get to pick something out as a reward after their visit. Having these well stocked with incentive prizes are usually very important especially in the beginning when everything is so scary and new to the newly diagnosed children or to children who receive more intensive treatments such a lumbar punctures. I’ve noticed that the drawer is usually very well stocked around the holidays but then as the year wears on it can get very bare. This happened a few months ago at BC Children’s Hospital where Nico receives treatment and it was the parents who collected items from their communities to bring in to replenish the drawer. You can connect with the child life specialist at your local children’s hospital to see what their needs are.
Similarly, families who come in for outpatient chemo treatments can be there for as little as 30 minutes or all day. That means trying to pack a lunch or have access to food is something they have to worry about. At BCCH, there is a little kitchen in the clinic and most of the time there are snacks there for patients and families. There is also a bigger kitchen on the floor where parents who have children admitted for longer periods of time on the inpatient unit can go to cook food. Something very touching is the “food fairy” that often brings home cooked food or some kind of take out and leaves it in the kitchen for the inpatient families. Food is such a basic necessity and yet becomes a stress at times when dealing with hospital appointments or inpatient stays. Some healthy prepackaged snacks, or some veggie or fruit platters would be warmly welcomed by those families.
6. Volunteer at Ronald McDonald House to cook a meal for the families currently staying there.
Ronald McDonald House provides families a place to stay for free or at a very low cost near the hospital when their child is getting treatment. Not all families who stay at RMH are oncology families. There are lots of other reasons children may be treated at a children’s hospital. But many oncology families do stay at RMH because they need to be near the hospital and they live too far away to commute. RMH provides the family with private accommodations and shared living areas. In other words, the kitchen is usually a shared space for everyone who stays there. Often times groups go in to cook meals for the families because when your family is in crisis you still need to eat but probably don’t want to cook. At BCCH there is a RMH on the hospital grounds and it’s usually always at full capacity. There is also another organization called Easter Seals which is a block away that serves as another option for families when RMH is full. This is where we stayed back when Nico was first diagnosed and getting more testing and then again when they started his chemotherapy. Easter Seals is more of a hotel set up and has a kitchenette in each room.
7. Support businesses that support childhood cancer organizations.
There are several businesses that donate part of their proceeds to childhood cancer organizations. When we support these businesses we are also helping to further fund childhood cancer research! It’s a win-win!
- Looking for a new car? Hyundai has donated $145,000,000 to date through their Hope on Wheels campaign.
- Need a new beanie or scarf this winter? Since 2012, Love Your Melon has given $4,758,816 and 147,386 beanies.
- See this impressive list of businesses that have partnered with Alex’s Lemonde Stand!
- This cancer dad published a book- “Echo’s Sister“- about their cancer journey and, this month, is giving the proceeds of the book to SW Kids Cancer Foundation.