How a Cancer Diagnosis Impacts Young Families and What They Can Do to Get Help
Did you know that cancer is the second leading cause of death among children?
The Impact of a Childhood Cancer Diagnosis
I think many of us know of someone who is battling cancer or who has survived cancer. Some of us, like myself, have even lost family members to this terrible disease. I remember visiting an uncle who had been battling cancer for a long time and distinctly recall feeling shocked at his transformation. The once energetic, talkative man was no more and in his place was this terribly gaunt figure covered in hospital tubes.
It was a scary experience. That was the first time I saw what cancer can do to a person.
Over the next few years, I lost two young relatives to blood cancer. They too underwent long-term treatment and considering all the progress made in the field of cancer research, I had hoped and prayed that they would be cured.
Unfortunately, that did not happen. I was heartbroken when I received the devastating news.
A cancer diagnosis is catastrophic at any age, even more so in the case of a child. Many families, like those of my cousins, go into fight mode in order to beat the disease that is attacking their kids. Thus begin the many medical appointments, hospitalizations, and grueling rounds of treatment in the journey back to wellness.
Pediatric Cancer Stories
Sadly, not every childhood cancer story has a happy ending.
4-year-old Yan Yan lost his battle with cancer in April of this year. Though this little boy and his parents, Paul and Abby, fought valiantly to save his life, in the end, the terrible disease ravaging his body refused to release its hold.
Initially thought to be a heat rash, little Ayden was later diagnosed with leukemia when a vigilant doctor ordered further blood tests to be performed. At that time, Ayden’s parents, Ethan and Iliana, had just arrived in Costa Rica for a preplanned vacation when Ethan’s mother called them with the awful news. The distraught parents got on the first available flight back to the US just in time for their son’s first procedure which involved a lumbar puncture and having a PICC ( peripherally inserted central catheter) line inserted.
Following the procedure, Ethan and Iliana were able to hold, hug and kiss their son. Ayden then got to sit on his mother’s lap while being wheeled to his hospital room.
Iliana has been faithfully documenting Ayden’s journey on her Facebook page.
Facing Multiple Cancer Diagnoses
A wife, and mother, Kathleen Quintas experienced the biggest crisis in her life when both her son, Bryan, and husband, Silvio, were diagnosed with cancer just 6 months apart; her son with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and her husband with leukemia. What was more, they were both being treated at two different hospitals in California.
“My son was in one hospital, City of Hope, and my husband was being treated at UCLA. Schedules did not always match up. Add to that the dietary restrictions of my son who is a Celiac and during treatment could not eat fresh fruits or vegetables, it is not a pretty picture for anyone attempting to help.”
In his testimonial, her late husband, Silvio C. Quintas called his wife a real hero for being a caregiver to both himself and their son while holding down a full-time job in order to pay the bills.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death among children. According to the latest data, an estimated 10,470 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among children from birth to 14 years, and about 1,050 children are expected to die from the disease. As a result, pediatric cancer is the leading cause of disease-related deaths among children.
What happens after a pediatric cancer diagnosis?
The burden of care shifts from hospitals to families and caregivers once a pediatric cancer survivor comes home. Things can quickly get overwhelming for a family, from grueling hospital visits to providing care and managing finances. Although friends and family often offer their help and provide a support system, that does not always meet the family’s needs for the duration of the treatment.
Cancer journeys can be long and arduous, and the once dedicated helpers often move on, sometimes thinking the family is able to manage their new normal after a while. That is often not true. It is farther along in the journey that things get really tough. You’re drained of energy, and in need of respite, finances get worse, and the list goes on.
How to Get Help
What if there is an organization that is able to provide wraparound services to meet the daily living needs of young families navigating cancer throughout the journey?
Katie Quintas founded Here to Serve, a nonprofit organization based in California, from her experience dealing with the cancer diagnoses of both her husband and son: “I conceived of Here to Serve to organize and bring together, not only the community of volunteers who wish to help but also the many support services that often go untapped because you either are not aware of them or do not have the energy to seek them out.”
How can Here to Serve help your family?
- Mobilize others to meet the daily living requirements of families with children battling cancer for the entirety of their cancer treatment, which for some can mean years.
- Online Care Communities that provide a network of services and financial assistance for families caring for their child or spouse battling cancer.
- Provide hard-to-find pediatric cancer resources at the start and throughout treatment as needs arise.
I invite you to share this post with families who are struggling with cancer so they can get support in their journey from Here to Serve.