Kids with Cancer Can Celebrate Halloween, Here’s How…

The joy on the face of a child as they strut about in their costume collecting candy door-to-door on Halloween is often lost on families with children coping with a cancer diagnosis and treatment. More often, parents of cancer kids are stressed, worried and focused on what they can do to save their child’s life and long for the time when they can bring their child back to “normal life.” Making time for some traditions like Halloween can help both the child and the parent take their mind off the challenge of cancer, at least for a time.

In case you ask yourself how to celebrate Halloween during these unprecedented times, we have some ideas to celebrate Halloween with your child in the hospital or even at home:

  • Dress up in a comfortable easy costume, if appropriate. Make it a fun project to decorate one or more masks.
  • Have a Halloween movie night together.
  • Use orange strips of construction paper to make a gratitude chain for decorating the room.
  • Create a virtual Halloween party with friends
  • Make gratitude pumpkins with strips of orange and green construction paper, a hole punch and fastener. Write what they are grateful for on the strips. firefliesandmudpies.com.
  • String together orange, purple and black beads for Halloween bracelets.

There are many benefits of doing crafts with children in the hospital. Not only does it make for sweet bonding time, it encourages kids to do things that improve hand-eye coordination, and helps them strengthen their cognitive abilities, which are often affected during treatment.

And that is just one side of the story. We cannot forget the siblings coping with their fear and sadness as their brother or sister struggles in a hospital. As if cancer weren’t enough, the added fear and restrictions of Covid-19 takes it over the top. With traditional trick or treating off the table, it is time to come up with creative ways to keep things as “normal” as possible and celebrate Halloween this year.

Here are some ideas for the siblings who may not be able to visit their brother or sister at the hospital during Covid-19:

  • Create a Halloween hunt for treats in the backyard for your little ones to fill up their pumpkin baskets.
  • Dress up in costumes and have a photo shoot.
  • Carve pumpkins, bake goodies and watch Halloween movies
  • Create a virtual Halloween party with friends.
  • Check out the drive through haunted houses in your area.

While you navigate the journey through cancer and Covid-19, Here to Serve hopes you can find quality moments and smiles with your loved ones during Halloween and always. Here to Serve is grateful to be able to help families receive support during their journey to ease stress and lighten burdens. If you or someone you know has a child recently diagnosed with cancer, please tell them about Here to Serve. If you are inspired to donate to help us help those families, please follow this donation link. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Happy Halloween!

By Amanda Enciso


Physical Activity During Childhood Cancer, Does It Have to End?

The crack of a baseball bat hitting a ball on a warm summer day, the smell of fresh-cut grass on a soccer field as your son or daughter runs down the turf trying to score the winning goal, these are the dreams and hopes of many parents for their child. But for parents of children battling cancer, physical activities either are on hold for an extended period, or never happen for their child. The hope and prayer of every parent after a life-or-death cancer diagnosis is that their child will survive and will have the opportunity to run, laugh, and play as they did before their cancer diagnosis.

Here to Serve Founder Katie Quintas shares, “my son had to stop all contact sports when he was diagnosed with Stage IV at age 16. At that time, he was on a regional water polo team, and his high school’s varsity golf team. He could not play water polo because it is a contact sport and requires a lot of stamina, but was able to continue to play golf, just not on his high school’s team because he could not walk the course. Many golf courses allowed him to play for free and gave him a cart because of his diagnosis.”

This is National Health Education Week and The American Cancer Society recommends that children and adolescents take part in 60 minutes of modest to strong physical activity (running, sports play, etc.) at least five days per week to build a healthy lifestyle. But for children who are in cancer treatment, that is not always possible. Once you become a cancer survivor, living healthily carries even more significance. For some young cancer survivors, health issues due to cancer or the after-effects of treatment can add to the importance of being physically active. Katie Quintas shares, “my son is very conscious of his health, working out 6 days a week. He has a gym membership and eats healthier than many trainers. He knows that his life expectancy has been compromised by his treatments, but he does everything he can to improve the quality and quantity of his life. He did not start his workout regimen until almost three years after treatments ended. It took him that long to rebuild his immune system and stamina.”

A study conducted by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and presented at the 2018 Cancer
Survivorship Symposium determined that it is crucial for young cancer survivors to be physically active; research has shown that childhood cancer survivors are at an increased risk of obesity and other health issues.

The positive benefits of regular activity and exercise can include the following:

  •  Stimulates the healing of tissues and organs from damage done during treatment
  • Increases the body’s strength and flexibility
  • Reduces risk for illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
  • Promotes strong and healthy bones
  • Improves mental health
  • Provides children with meaningful social interactions

As with any regular activity and exercise, it is vital to first speak with your child’s doctor before starting any exercise program. Each child recovers from cancer differently, so check with your doctor to determine if modifications are necessary before beginning any physical activities.

And just as baseball, basketball, or volleyball teams start a new season slowly, practicing each day to build teamwork and strength, it’s essential to start any new activities off gradually and build up endurance. Doing so can prevent physical injuries and mental fatigue. Be aware of your child’s physical and emotional well-being, as they may become frustrated that they cannot perform the same way they did before their diagnosis. Often, with time, your child will be back on the field, hearing your cheers from the sidelines again, as you build new memories together.

If you know a child who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, give their parents a much-needed resource to help them through the journey, Here to Serve. They are here to provide tangible help with home activities, resources, guidance and advice for parents on a journey they never imagined they would have to take with their child. Please click here to contact Here to Serve, or click here to find out more.

By Chris Smith

Chris Vega was an athlete and runner before he was diagnosed with cancer.  He always intended to continue running. His last and most important race was won at the gates of heaven.


Nutrition: Where is the time to cook healthy meals?

One of the biggest challenges facing parents and caregivers of children with cancer is good nutrition.
Whether it be for the child or the caregiver, eating healthy is a struggle. Undergoing cancer treatment can have a significant impact on appetite. Dealing with the side effects of nausea and low energy is rough. Not only that, hospital food is typically tasteless and overcooked. Overwhelmed parents, with no time to cook, do all they can to provide food their child will eat. However, they often find it difficult to make time to eat properly themselves. 

How do parents manage?
Yes, you guessed it, quick and easy meals, which are typically over processed, sugary and high in non-complex carbohydrates. Not only does this contribute to energy for cancer cells, it does not provide good sustainable energy or nutrients. Find out more here.

What about the impact of sugar in the body and cancer?
More research is needed to determine the true impact that sugar has on cancer cells. According to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute: The idea that sugar, or glucose, could fuel the growth of cancer cells can lead some people to unnecessarily avoid all carbohydrate-containing foods. This approach assumes that if cancer cells need glucose, then cutting it out of one’s diet will stop cancer from growing. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. All of our healthy cells need glucose to function, and there is no way for our bodies to let healthy cells have the glucose they need, but not give it to the cancer cells. Without adequate carbohydrate intake from foods we eat, our bodies will make glucose from other sources, including protein and fat.” (www.danafarber.org).

Here are a few ways families can have healthy affordable food delivered to their door.
Imperfect Foods, They deliver low cost fruit and veggies, grains and meat. They can offer lower cost foods for a variety of reasons, such as farmers who may have a surplus or veggies that are fresh and unblemished but not perfectly shaped. Their mission is to reduce food waste. Follow this link for more information: (www.imperfectfoods.com). 

Freshly (https://www.freshly.com/) offers meal delivery to your home at a cost of between $8.50 and $11.50 per meal depending on how many meals per week you order. The weekly cost runs between $45 for 4 meals and $100 for 12 meals per week. They offer an entirely gluten and peanut-free menu. On average, their weekly rotation of 30+ dishes includes:
• Under 500 calories: 20+ meals
• Under 35 grams of carbs: 8–10 meals
• Dairy–free: 8–10 meals

Also, check out Sun Basket, (www.sunbasket.com). This is a great company that delivers healthy food, providing customizable options such as carb conscious, Paleo Friendly, Diabetes Friendly, Gluten Free, Quick and Easy, and more. The perfectly portioned meals are quick and easy to prepare. Not only that, the food is delicious!

Here to Serve is passionate about helping pediatric cancer families get quick, healthy, affordable, and nutritious meals they need during their very trying cancer journey. They work with each family regarding their meal requirements and find ways to provide meals in ways that work for each family. Click here for more information about all the ways our family care coordinators help pediatric cancer families in need. If you, or someone you know, has a child with cancer, please let them know that Here to Serve is ready to help. 

By Amanda Enciso

 


October is Emotional Wellness Month: Stress and Cancer

“In the days and weeks following my brain cancer diagnosis, stress was a given. Saying my family and I suffered from it was like a pregnant woman saying she was having difficulty bending over, it almost didn’t need to be said.” Ellen Moroney was ushered into the world of brain cancer in a notably sudden and frightening way on an incongruously warm spring day in 2016, when she collapsed on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol following an undetected brain tumor.

In her first year as a legislative aide at the Capitol, she was experiencing stress typical of new college graduates attempting to make their way in the world, or so she thought… what she soon learned is the stress she experienced did not compare to what was about to confront her. “The stress I experienced after that day was based on short-term unknowns and longer-term realities that would never go away,” Moroney says. “Life would never be the same.” And it wasn’t the same for Ellen, her sister, or her parents.

In his National Book Award winning study, Journalist Andrew Solomon memorably referred to stress as the Noonday Demon (Solomon, Noonday Demon, 2001). Others know it as a corrosive feeling that compels physical stiffness and spasticity, hypertension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and loss of appetite, among other undesirable symptoms. Stress impedes life for someone without cancer, but for someone diagnosed with cancer and their family, stress is intensified at levels few can comprehend, unless you have been unfortunate enough to travel the cancer journey yourself or with a loved one. Stress is inadequately addressed and the symptoms are amplified and never fully eradicated in cancer patients and their families.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 72% of those who care for cancer patients relay they have not visited a doctor as often as they should, and nearly 60% concede their eating habits worsened following the cancer diagnosis of a loved one.

Recognizing that life forever changes for those affected by a child’s cancer diagnosis, Here to Serve works to ensure that the 72% and 60% drops drastically. Here to Serve also recognizes that attending to the health of those diagnosed with cancer need not entail consistent neglect of a parent’s health and wellbeing. Without direct, ongoing, tangible support to make living more bearable and needs less daunting, service is merely a catchphrase or action verb, not a solution. Here to Serve focuses service on pediatric cancer families on private insurance. These families are often compelled to manage copays and deductibles too much to absorb draining bank accounts and precipitating home loss. There is no time for laundry, cooking and daily necessities that preserve health and sanity. These are the areas Here to Serve addresses with its support programs.

If you or someone you know has a child that has been recently diagnosed with cancer, please share the good news about Here to Serve and how they can help reduce the impact of stress on the family. Click this link to get help.

by Frank Kane


Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month

A parent’s love for their child is an all-encompassing, powerful, and unbreakable bond. When a parent hears the heart-stopping words, “your child has cancer,” their world turns upside down. Sadly, cancer still steals the life of a child more often than you would expect. After accidents, it is the second leading cause of death in children. In 2020 alone, over 11,000 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the US (American Cancer Society, www.cancer.org).

Leukemia, the most prevalent childhood cancer, starts most often in white blood cells. The two main types of childhood leukemia are acute, which requires immediate treatment, and chronic, which progresses more slowly, but is more resistant to treatment (www.cancer.org). Since 2008, the rate of childhood leukemia has increased by 0.7% per year. Fortunately, the survival rate has also increased to an estimated 84.6% (seer.cancer.gov). However, the journey to good health is a long battle.

Balancing medical treatments, finances, insurance, day-to-day routines such as cleaning, laundry and meal preparation can be daunting. Coupled with the tremendous expense, entire families are placed under incredible levels of stress.

Where is a parent to turn for help?
We are happy to share; Here to Serve was created to help meet the needs of families whose lives are in upheaval due to their child’s cancer diagnosis.

Here to Serve provides critical support and much needed resources to families who do not qualify for traditional government aid. Most families find themselves near or above the poverty level, which for a family of four, is an annual income of $34,638. These families experience tremendous loss of income and financial turmoil as they care for their child.

Additionally, the current pandemic has increased the stress and treatment challenges for families. Here to Serve has also been affected as we are unable to achieve donation goals due to the cancellation of our major annual fundraising event this month. This, of course, limits our ability to help families in the future if we do not secure more funding.

It takes a village…..
Here to Serve brings the village and you can be a part of it. Many hands make light work, and small donations from many have a big impact on a child and their family. Feel the call to serve in this village? Click on this link to see how you can volunteer or donate. You do not give to Here to Serve, you give through Here to Serve. Help us bring the village.

by Amanda Enciso