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Sep 19, 2012
06:00 AM

Go Gold: things teachers should know about kids with cancer

Go Gold: things teachers should know about kids with cancer

During September, Go Gold for all the sons and daughters who are diagnosed every day with childhood cancer. Awareness brings funding — funding brings research. And someday, a cure.

Every day 46 children are diagnosed with childhood cancer. That is two classrooms full of students; two classrooms of kids who want to learn and play with their friends.

As the school year dawns, there are so many children who won't go to school--because they are in the midst of battling childhood cancer. There are also children who spent their summer in treatment and will return to school as cancer survivors. There are children who will never return, because they are gone.

I am on my knees with joy and gratitude that Lily started 1st grade this month, on-time, in a regular class with a backpack she picked out. She walk herself to class. It is a milestone and for Lily, who battled a brain tumor at 14 months old, it is a miracle.

But, I can't stop myself from the anxiety and the preemptive concern that somehow a teacher will misunderstand Lily; that somehow she will be singled out as the cancer kid. A diagnosis of a "brain tumor" carries with it so many preconceived notions.

Even after four years in the same school (for PreK, K and now 1st grade), I hear the questions of new teachers and team members rolling in my head: "Is she learning disabled? Will she be safe in the playground? Should I just carry her from class to class? What are those bumps on her head? am I allowed to talk about cancer to her?"

Universal Concerns

Every cancer survivor is different. However, the parental concerns are universal. Here's what I and other cancer parents want teachers to know this school year about childhood cancer.

1. Cancer is not a bad word. It is what it is. If my child is comfortable with speaking about it, please let them. If they are not, then that is okay too.

2. I am not telling you about my child's diagnosis because I want sympathy or special attention. I am telling you because you need to know. It is part of who my child is and it is part of our family.

3. Cancer and treatments take so much out of their bodies — and even through it all, all a child wants is to be like every other child.

4. Sometimes when you look our children, you can't see the turmoil that going on inside bodies. Children are resilient, but they are not indestructible.

5. Cancer treatment can lead to hidden disabilities. Our children may fatigue easily, may have more difficulty handing stress than other children, may feel different than or isolated from their ppers and may not want to be singled out as the child with cancer.

6. Not only are the children with diagnosis struggling, but siblings suffer too. It is easy to forget the healthy siblings and all they are dealing with.

7. Sometimes, doctor's appointments or outpatient therapy appointments might be more important than school. We, as parents, are dealing with life and death; math can wait.

8. Not every child with cancer is the same. Treatments vary, side effects vary and outcomes vary. A diagnosis of a brain tumor means nothing more than: brain tumor. Please do not assume because they are out of treatment that they are back to normal. And also do not assume that because they had treatment that they are damaged.

9. While our family lives and breaths cancer everyday, our child also lives and breaths childhood. We tell you all we know, so you know and you can be part of our child's team. Lauren Schwarz PhotographyBut cancer doesn't mean they are no longer children.

The bottom line: Our children are children in spite of brain tumors and radiation and chemotherapy. They are real kids.

Trish Adkins is a South Jersey mom. This post is adapted from blog, Yoke.

About the Gold Ribbon:

Sep 21, 2012 10:05 am
 Posted by  premiermom

Took the words right out of my mouth! I too am the mom of a cancer survivor who is now 5 years cancer free. What people do not realize is that childhood cancer feels like a life sentence to us as parents. Not a day goes by that I don't worry about my children. The fact remains that childhood cancer can be treated NOT cured. Not to mention the late effects the chemotherapy may have on our kids. My daughter received a high amount of a certain chemo that can cause heart problems. I'm an advocate for childhood cancer every day and my hope is that we find a cure so no other parent has to hear "your child has cancer."

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About This Blog

Outstanding Delaware Valley mom bloggers share insights about their kids or themselves, family experiences or ways they handled parenting situations. Their items — often reposted from their blogs — reflect everyday experiences that anyone can relate to rather than political viewpoints or belief systems.

MomSpeak Contributors

Trish Adkins, Yoke
Jennifer Auer, Jersey Family Fun
Stacy Heenan Biscardi, Wifty & Shifty
Hillary Chybinski, My Scraps
EJ Curran, Four Little Monsters
Darla DeMorrow, The Pregnant Entrepreneur
Rachée Fagg, Say It Rah-Shay
Raya Fagg, And Starring As Herself…MRSRFKJ
Erin Flynn Jay, Mastering the Mommy Track
Marion Kase, Helicopter-Caterpillar
Jean Ladden, Jean's Book Reviews
Brie Latini, ( . . . a breezy life)
Toni Langdon, Tickles and Time Outs
Lisa Lightner, A Day in Our Shoes
Jeanine Ludwikowski, Mommy Entourage
Jeanne McCullough, Mom Hearts Pinot
Trina O'Boyle, O’Boy! Organic
Kelly Raudenbush, My Overthinking
Sandra Telep, West Philly Mama
Marissa Kiepert Truong, Land of Once Upon a Time
Lisa Weinstein, The Mixed Up Brains of Lisa Weinstein
Shivaun Williams, Dar Liomsa (In My Opinion)
Paige Wolf, Spit That Out!

If you are a Philadelphia-area mom blogger and would like to contribute to MomSpeak, please e-mail editor@metrokids.com.


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