Recognizing and Honoring Those Who Care: National Family Caregiver Month

Recognizing and Honoring Those Who Care:

National Family Caregiver Month

Young family smilingNovember is here, and there is no better time to show gratitude, reflect, and spend time with family. It is also a time to pay tribute to the unsung heroes who tirelessly provide support and care to those they love. National Family Caregiver Month (NFCM), celebrates the incredible efforts put forward by those who play invaluable roles in the lives of those they care for. This blog will discuss the significance of this month, the impact caregivers have on families dealing with cancer, and how you can join the efforts to support these selfless individuals.

What is National Family Caregiver Month? 

National Family Caregiver Month, established by the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), recognizes and honors the countless individuals who provide wonderful love, support, and care to their family members, friends, and neighbors facing health challenges. This month aims to raise awareness about caregivers’ daily challenges and their resilience. It can be a source of support by reminding them that caring for others starts with caring for themselves. Furthermore, it encourages communities, organizations, and healthcare providers to recognize these challenges.  

Grandpa holding grandchildWho is affected by NFCM? 

National Family Caregiver Month brings individuals from all walks and paths of life together to honor those who step up to provide love and support. Caregivers may be spouses, children, parents, or friends. Their dedication speaks volumes as they support loved ones through various health conditions. Caregivers often juggle several responsibilities at once, including managing medication, providing emotional support, coordinating appointments, seeking out critical resources in disparate places, caring for other family members, and working to financially support the family. It takes a toll on the physical and mental well-being of the caregiver leading them to sometimes feel alone and stressed.

Smiling in hospital bedImpacts on Families Dealing with Cancer 

Caring for a loved one with cancer is a profound experience that can strain even the strongest of family bonds. A cancer diagnosis not only affects the patient but also places significant emotional, physical, and financial burdens on caregivers. It can be an emotional rollercoaster dealing with these demands, which can create a challenging environment for families. 

Dad and his daughter smilingNational Caregiver Month seeks to shed light on these issues and provide resources to help families navigate the complexities of cancer caregiving.  

Learn more about Financial Support for Families Dealing with Cancer to find resources for financial assistance. 

What Can You Do to Help? 

Supporting caregivers and their families can make a meaningful difference. It is vital to acknowledge their contributions, remind them of the importance of open communication within the family they are supporting, and encourage them to seek external support when needed. Consider volunteering, offer the caregivers in your life a break, or even just be available to listen. You can also advocate for policies that support caregivers, leading to positive changes.  

National Caregiver Month serves as a friendly reminder that caregiving is a communal effort. We should work together to create a supportive and compassionate society for those who give so much of themselves to care for those they love.


Here to Serve

At Here to Serve, our unwavering mission is to support families with children battling cancer throughout every step of their challenging journey. As the only national organization providing comprehensive non-medical support and services to families with children navigating cancer, we intimately understand the value of a strong support system. Our dedicated family care coordinators provide invaluable resources directly to families and caregivers, including access to physical, financial, and emotional options, so that you have the tools and support to face this unexpected challenge. If you or someone you know is dealing with a recent cancer diagnosis, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for comprehensive, tailored care and support. We are committed to building a future where all families with children going through cancer have access to the support and resources they need to focus on what matters most during this journey – caring for their loved ones.

Holding hands

Author: Gianna Potella 

Gianna Potella is a passionate public relations professional with a fervent commitment to making a difference in the world. Her journey has been shaped by a deep understanding of the challenges faced by children whose parents and guardians have battled cancer, as well as her personal experiences supporting loved ones in their fight against the disease. With a heart dedicated to helping others, Gianna is driven to make a meaningful difference. 

Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance. 

Giving Thanks While Giving Back

Giving Thanks While Giving Back

Giving Tuesday November 2023​

Hands passing along a heart

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and many families are making plans to gather, reflect, and give thanks for the year’s blessings. For millions of people around the world, the Giving Tuesday initiative has become part of the annual holiday celebration, opting to give back by supporting the causes and organizations that they care about most. 

What is Giving Tuesday?

Giving Tuesday is an international generosity initiative that encourages people to donate to charitable causes on a Tuesday in November. In America, Giving Tuesday falls after our Thanksgiving holiday, and this year it will fall on November 28th. According to the Giving Tuesday Data Commons, approximately 37 million adults participated on Giving Tuesday 2022 in the U.S., totaling $3.1 billion, which is a 15% increase compared to Giving Tuesday 2021. The giving forecast for 2023 is optimistic, with increasing global awareness of those in need.

Baby girl with large teddy bear

Giving Tuesday and Here to Serve

Giving Tuesday is a critical fundraising moment for Here To Serve, as it allows us to provide more services and support to families navigating pediatric cancer throughout the year.  

At Here to Serve, we understand that each family has a unique cancer experience that comes with a unique set of needs, which is why each family we support has a dedicated care coordinator helping them throughout their journey. This year, our goal is to raise $30,000 between Giving Tuesday and the end of 2023, which will allow us to bring on another care coordinator who can help us support up to 40 additional families.

When you donate to childhood cancer at Here to Serve, your contribution goes directly to supporting our families in ways like home care management, meals, personal fundraising, housecleaning, holidays, and childcare. This comprehensive support helps families handle and persevere through the daily challenges throughout their cancer journey.

This Giving Tuesday and throughout December, we hope you’ll join us in helping more families going through pediatric cancer get the support they need. Please consider donating to help us bring on another care coordinator.

A Growing NeedYou girl hugging her Christmas present

The number of cancer diagnoses in the U.S. persist, with many families more in need now than ever before. It is estimated that in 2023 alone, there will be over 1.9 million new cases of cancer and over 15 thousand of those cases will be pediatric (under the age of 19). And with each individual diagnosis comes an individual story that would benefit from comprehensive support. However, out of the billions of dollars in funding for pediatric cancer, only .001% goes directly toward supporting families.

Your donations, contributions, and support will go a long way this Giving Tuesday and beyond in helping us give more families the ability to focus on what matters most during their pediatric cancer journey – caring for their child. Thank you for spreading the love to our wonderful families at Here to Serve.

Need Holiday Support?

Here To Serve understands the holidays can be difficult for families with a sick loved one. Remember, we are here to support you! If you are a family with a newly diagnosed cancer child or know of a family who finds themselves in this challenging situation, please contact Here to Serve. Please click on the Get Help button from our homepage. Wishing you a healthy and blessed Holiday Season filled with laughter, delicious food, and quality time with loved ones!

About the Author

Emily Rogalin is a copywriter in healthcare advertising in NYC. Having lost multiple members in her family to cancer, she is honored to help bring support to families on this difficult journey.

This blog was updated from a previous Here to Serve blog post by Gabriella Kurczeski.

Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance.

Casino Night 2023 – A Celebration

Casino Night 2023

A Celebration


Casino Night OrganizersIf you weren’t there with us on September 30th, you were deeply missed. For those who were, we loved seeing you and sharing ourselves with you in such a fun environment. From start to finish, it was a whole lot of fun. There were games to be played, food to eaten, drinks to be had, and friends to be seen and made – however, more importantly, we re-casted our vision and shared with so many of you the important work that we do.

As people began to trickle in at 5pm into the Arcadia Community Center, the night was off! People began with drinks – wine, beer, and soft drinks- and conversations with friends both new and old. Smiles and laughter could be seen throughout the entire venue as people genuinely enjoyed the company around them. No matter if you were a guest or a volunteer like myself, this organic start to the event launched the evening in a great direction.

Casino Night Fundraiser Games


The conversations then moved around the silent auction table as people began to bid on prizes ranging from wine and personal care gift baskets to event and vacation getaways. All the while, guests played casino games throughout the evening. Hence, the name of our event is the

showcase activity, and people assuredly moved their conversations to the poker table, roulette, craps, and of course, blackjack tables. Shouts of joy and cries of despair could be heard throughout the ballroom, as I, myself, discovered that many of my friends, whom I’ve known for many years, are more competitive than I thought.

Silent Auction Fundraiser

Once the casino tables began to lighten up, it was time for the live auction. As our auctioneer began, people’s paddles went up for nights out at the Laker game, destination vacations in places like Idlewild, Newport Beach, La Quinta and exclusive wine from Paso Robles’ finest vineyards, and so much more. You could feel the energy in the room as more laughter and joy erupted as, seemingly, a chorus of generosity was in the air.

As the live auction wrapped up, the cornerstone of our event commenced: the testimony of a patient family. Iliana Lozado shared a moving testimony of her son, Ayden’s, journey through childhood cancer. Although she claimed not to be a public speaker, she had the whole room in tears, including myself, as I marveled at her son’s bravery…but as I also recalled my own journey through cancer and near-death.

Iliana Lozado shared a moving testimonyWRAP UP & STATISTICS

As the night came to a close, with Ayden’s inspirational story at the forefront of everyone’s mind, we began our Fund-a-Need campaign. This is where people, now either first knowing or re-familiarizing themselves with Here to Serve’s mission, donate dollar amounts as the auctioneer brings up amounts starting at $5,000 and ending at $50. To say the least, the comparisons from Fund-a-Need last year was inspiring:

  • $14,000 – 2022 – $28,000 -2023

As a whole Casino Night had:

  • 80 attendees – Raised $5,000 more than last year, $75,000.

Audience cheering

As Here To Serve takes a large, positive step into a brighter future with support like yours, we seek to help more families like Iliana and Ayden and create more partnerships with people like you so that we can touch more lives with the work that we do. As a nonprofit, 85 cents of every dollar go to our program to help our children journey through something no child should ever have to endure.

Fundraiser desserts

However, although we are always trying to seek ways to expand our partnership network, none of what Casino Night was would have been possible without the partnerships that we have had since the beginning, many of whom attended. We love and appreciate you all so very much. Our exquisite dessert table donated by master baker Krista Jacobsen and her mom, Dana Moline, was a labor of love from this family whom we served years ago when Krista’s daughter battled leukemia as a 6-month-old baby. Everyone feasted on those incredible treats. To all of the attendees, including the new faces, thank you for being with us on such a special night and allowing us the privilege of introducing ourselves to you. We look forward, with heartfelt anticipation, to what the next year has in store for Here to Serve, and we sincerely hope to see you next year at Casino Night.

By Bryan Quintas

Bryan Quintas is a Stage IVV childhood cancer survivor. After battling cancer at 16, he has endured life-long effects from his treatments. Even so, he graduated from USC’s Annenberg School with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He also holds a master’s degree from Fuller Seminary’s School of Clinical Psychology, specifically in Marriage and Family Therapy. He has dedicated his life and career to helping others through life’s challenges.

Anxiety, an Epidemic of Cancer Survivorship

Anxiety, an Epidemic of Cancer Survivorship

Acknowledging Anxiety and Seeking Help

When discussing childhood cancer survivors, we often talk about cancer patients being free of the disease. However, while surviving cancer is a milestone to be celebrated, it is rarely ever the end of the journey.

Bryan Quintas diagnosed with lymphomaManaging anxiety after cancer is a crucial aspect that cannot be overlooked. Cancer is a disease that keeps on giving, and the journey of survivorship encompasses various challenges. Cancer is a disease that keeps on giving. Unlike many other topics I’ve written on, I speak not just as the author of this article but as a person on that survivorship journey. As with so many others who share the survivorship journey, I am burdened by anxiety triggered by memories of having cancer, even in the most normal life events and occurrences. 

At age 16, I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in my bone marrow, a rare form of lymphoma. The cancer tumors in my bone marrow did not have a treatment protocol then. Therefore, they threw every form of chemo to cure me. The journey was rough, and the side effects were ever-changing, debilitating, and always different. Reflecting back to this time, I would not wish it on my worst enemy. It is no wonder that cancer survivors battle with managing anxiety after cancer.


Let’s first engage with the reality of what anxiety is with some general statistics:

  • In the past year alone, an estimated 19.1% of the adult population had an anxiety disorder.
  • Nearly 31.9% of adolescents suffer from an anxiety disorder.
  • Adding the two totals up, half the population struggles with an anxiety disorder (NIMH, 2023).

Make no mistake; managing anxiety after cancer is a large-scale epidemic in this country that we don’t talk about nearly enough when we discuss illnesses that plague the masses.


Although no specific research with a large cancer survivor population has been done, one would think that childhood cancer survivors make up a significant portion of the anxiety-burdened population.

Being diagnosed and treated for cancer is highly stressful and physically and emotionally devastating. With increased research and development in cancer treatment, survivorship numbers are on the rise. While that is certainly cause for celebration, many cancer patients live with the lingering impact of the physical and emotional trauma treatment has caused them.

The National Institute of Health, in conjunction with the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Cancer Institute, speak of what clinicians have dubbed “scanxiety,” or anxiety related to the anticipation of the scan results and the concern of the disease getting worse or recurring. The last thing a cancer survivor wants to do is return to the worst period of their lives and re-live the horror.

As one cancer survivor put it in a 2011 Time magazine article: “Scans are like revolving doors, emotional roulette wheels that spin us around for a few days and spit us out the other side. Land on red, we’re in for another trip to Cancerland; land on black, we have a few more months of freedom.” (NCI, 2020)


This cycle of anxious thoughts is an all-too-common occurrence that so many of us survivors go through. In my personal medical file, there exists documentation that tells whatever doctor is checking on me not to be alarmed by my high blood pressure or elevated heart rate because of my anxiety associated with medical facilities. This impacted me to the point that during my master’s program in Marriage and Family Therapy, I was one of the few who choose not to pursue an emphasis in “Medical Family Therapy,” which would have provided me certification to practice in hospitals and medical facilities because of my still existing anxiety.

Cancer survivor smiling

In the clinical mental health world, there exists something called countertransference. Countertransference is when a clinician hears or experiences something that their client shares with them, and the clinician allows their own feelings to impact the way they interact with their client. I know all too well what a cancer patient is going through. I do not want them to deal with the fear and anxiety I feel being in their environment with them.

As a clinician, my job is to make them feel at ease, but countertransference would likely make them feel more stressed and anxious. Ultimately, my own therapist supported the decision not to pursue certification to practice in hospitals and medical facilities as I completed my Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.


So, yes, I can confirm, from both a research and experiential standpoint, anxiety in childhood cancer survivors is indeed a prevalent and ongoing facet of the journey. At Here to Serve, we help families and patients through the whole journey. If you are now on the survivorship portion of your cancer journey and suffer from anxiety, consider therapy to help you with techniques and strategies from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. You can also consider journaling and listening to music. These are just examples. There are other techniques that can help with anxiety and have helped me. You can find out what works best for you. The recommendation here is not to go it alone. Get help. Here to Serve has excellent resources and the experience to guide you to the correct resources for your specific needs.

By Bryan Quintas, M.S., M.F.T.

Bryan Quintas is a Stage IV childhood cancer survivor. After battling cancer at 16, he has endured life-long effects from his treatments. Even so, he graduated from USC’s Annenberg School with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. He also holds a Master’s Degree from Fuller Seminary in Clinical Psychology, specifically in Marriage and Family Therapy. He has dedicated his life and career to helping others through life’s challenges.

  1. Managing anxiety and distress in cancer survivors. National Cancer Institute. (n.d.).
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Any anxiety disorder. National Institute of Mental Health.
  3. Yi, J. C., & Syrjala, K. L. (2017, November). Anxiety and depression in cancer survivors. The Medical clinics of North America.

Scanxiety: A Debilitating Fear


A Debilitating Fear
Doctor and patient looking at a scan

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko (Pexels)

“Scanxiety;” is a term that many of us on the cancer journey or in the survivorship stage have felt. Even before the name became more commonly used, cancer patients, by the anxiety felt, coined the phrase. However, it is a term that has now only started to be used regularly within the cancer and mental health communities. Might we even say it could one day be a diagnosable anxiety disorder? Perhaps, but that’s not why I am actually writing this. I’m writing this to bring awareness to what “scanxiety” actually is.  


The National Library of Medicine explains “scanxiety” as “the distress that occurs before, during, and after cancer-related scans.” (Derry-Vick, et al., 2023) This can be an excruciating experience that can cause an almost haunting state of mind for a cancer patient and/or survivor, especially with the severity of the cancer patient’s treatment. For survivors, it certainly has the potential to bring them back to the world of near-death that they experienced during treatment.  


For every person who has survived cancer, that world of near-death is different. For me, it takes me back to my experience with sepsis when I had one white blood cell to fight for my life. My doctors in City of Hope’s ICU told my parents that they had tried everything and that there was nothing more they could do because my body was poisoning itself and my organs were shutting down. When most 16-year-olds were learning how to drive, going on their first date, and enjoying life, I was literally at death’s door. That’s the world I return to, which can be terrifying. It’s why I struggle mightily to go into medical facilities, even to this day. 

Doctor reading an imaging study

Photo by MART PRODUCTION (Pexels)


Since only small sample sizes of cancer patients and survivors have been evaluated, it’s hard to identify an exact percentage of the quantity of those afflicted with scanxiety. However, research has been able to narrow down symptoms.  

Research shows that somatic (meaning, related to the body) symptoms of scanxiety include: 

  • Difficulty sleeping (32%) 
  • Feelings of dread (29%) 
  • Poor concentration (26%) 
  • Irritability (25%) 
  • Restlessness/Agitation (24%) 

Some less quantifiable symptoms include pain, lack of an appetite, and a racing heart, amongst many others. Cancer impacts people of all ages, demographics, and genders, which results in there not being much of a variance from children, women, or men related to those who experience and suffer from scanxiety. 

Diminished scanxiety is quantified in several ways: 

  • Past experience (81%) 
  • Friendliness of the staff (88%) 
  • Knowing what to expect for the procedure (81%) 
  • Familiar location (71%) 
  • Proximity of time of results (90%) 


As with most anxiety-related disorders, and as a person who has counseled those with anxiety, research shows that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most impactful course of treatment for a anxiety-related disorder. (APA, 2016) Through this form of therapy, patients learn how their thoughts are connected to their symptoms. With the guidance of a trained professional, by developing coping strategies, they can learn to change their thought patterns and reduce the episodes of anxiety they experience. It bears mentioning that this is a merely well-thought-out suggestion, as cases of anxiety are very specific to those who suffer from it, which also connects back to the severity of the person’s cancer. 


At Here to Serve, we believe being with people through their entire journey is important. That is why we try to connect with cancer patients at diagnosis. One of the main coping strategies for anxiety is having safe people around you to help talk you through what you might still be going through. We want to be “safe people” and partners for our families.  

However, we know that our capabilities only go so far, as do my clinical suggestions. For those reading this, perhaps some of the suggestions could be helpful, but I don’t know your full story, nor do I know you, and that does inform treatment plans and goals. We may not be a counseling center, but we provide patient resources beyond our scope with psychotherapy options for our patient families. If you or anyone you know has been recently diagnosed with cancer, please contact us so we can provide you with the wraparound care and support needed to manage a journey you neither asked for nor imagined you would have to take.  

Author: Bryan Quintas, M.S. M.F.T. 

Bryan Quintas is a Stage IV childhood cancer survivor. After Battling cancer at 16, he has endured life-long effects from his treatments. Even so, he graduated from USC’s Annenberg School with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. He also holds a Master’s Degree from Fuller Seminary in Clinical Psychology, specifically in Marriage and Family Therapy. He has dedicated his life and career to helping others through life’s challenges. 

Information of the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance. 

  • American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Beyond worry: How psychologists help with anxiety disorders. American Psychological Association.,that%20contribute%20to%20their%20anxiety.  
  • Derry-Vick, H. M., Heathcote, L. C., Glesby, N., Stribling, J., Luebke, M., Epstein, A. S., & Prigerson, H. G. (2023, February 22). Scanxiety among adults with cancer: A scoping review to guide research and interventions. Cancers.  

The silent threat of sepsis

The silent threat of sepsis

What you should know & how to stay prepared

Never heard of Sepsis? You’re not alone.

According to the CDC, fewer than half of Americans have heard of sepsis, despite it affecting over a million Americans each year and being the leading cause of death in US hospitals. It is an even harsher reality that often lurks in the shadows for pediatric cancer. Sepsis and septic shock are one of  the most common causes of critical illness in children with cancer, with a devastating mortality rate of over 40%. September is National Sepsis Awareness Month, so we’re helping to raise awareness of this deadly disease, and arming people with education on the signs, and how to prevent it.

sepsis What is Sepsis?

Sepsis is a serious illness that can develop when the body has an extreme reaction to an infection. A common misconception is that sepsis may also be referred to as “blood poisoning”, although these two terms should not be used interchangeably.

The immune system releases chemicals into the blood to fight infections, but sometimes those chemicals can cause major inflammation, which can lead to blood clots and organ damage. In severe cases, sepsis can weaken the heart, shut down other organs and cause death.

Who is at risk?

Sepsis can happen to anyone, but older people, young children, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to be affected since their bodies have to work harder to fight off infections. Cancer and treatments like chemotherapy can also put someone at higher risk of developing an infection and sepsis.

Take the TIME to know the signs

Sepsis Alliance created a clever tool to help identify symptoms so you can quickly intervene. Time is of the essence when it comes to treating sepsis. Each hour that is delayed, the risk of mortality increases. Even after surviving sepsis, the longer it is in the body can cause long-term organ damage. The good news? Knowing these signs can have a huge impact and help save lives.

sepsis infoIf you or someone you know is showing any of these signs, seek medical care IMMEDIATELY, and tell the healthcare professional that you are concerned about sepsis.  

  • TEMPERATURE – higher or lower than normal
  • INFECTION – may have signs and symptoms of infection
  • MENTAL DECLINE – confused, sleepy, difficult to rouse
  • EXTREMELY ILL – severe pain, discomfort, shortness of breath

Prevention is key

Prevention is always better than cure. Taking actionable steps to help prevent infection can help lower the risk of sepsis.

  • Practice good hygiene, like washing hands often and brushing your teeth
  • Keep cuts clean and covered
  • Talk to your doctor about vaccines

The battle against sepsis in pediatric cancer patients requires continued research, advocacy, and awareness. Together, we can make a difference to ensure that every child fighting cancer is given the best chance at a healthy future.

Here to Serve is here for you

As parents, caregivers, and advocates, it’s our duty to take proactive steps to protect our children. But there is so much to consider when supporting children and families dealing with pediatric cancer, which can feel extremely overwhelming. Here to Serve is here to help. We’re here to ease the burden of those families dealing with this horrible disease. Check out the wide range of our services, and if you know someone on their cancer journey, get help today! 

Author: Emily Rogalin

Emily Rogalin is a copywriter in healthcare advertising in NYC. Having lost multiple members in her family to cancer, she is honored to help bring support to families on this difficult journey.

Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance.


Image References:

Childhood Cancer and School: Navigating Education During Treatment

Childhood Cancer and School

Navigating Education During Treatment

Boy excited to go back to school As summer vacation nears its end, it’s time for students to return to school. However, this transition can be challenging, especially for children battling cancer. During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, online learning provided flexibility for children battling cancer, allowing them to attend class from the comfort of their homes or hospital rooms. However, many schools are resuming in-person learning as Covid cases start to subside. This means rethinking how to continue your child’s education. With trips to the hospital and needing sufficient time to rest, continuing your child’s education in the classroom may not be as easily manageable as before.

For children who are hospitalized, it can be challenging to have a sense of normalcy in terms of school. Since many children battling cancer spend a significant amount of time in hospitals, adjusting to the social environment of returning to school can be difficult. Your child may also have medical needs that are challenging to accommodate in a traditional campus environment. To address these challenges, parents can explore alternatives to in-person school or find solutions to best support their child’s academic journey.

Alternatives to In-Person Learning

There are alternatives to returning to in-person learning for children who still physically can’t return to school.

  • IEP (Individualized Educational Plan)– An IEP or 504 plan is a program designed by parents and teachers to meet the individualized needs of the student best. Schools often offer these programs at no additional cost. The plan sets specific goals for the students while also providing learning accommodations. It can and usually does continue after treatment ends, and your child returns to school full-time. Be sure to schedule a reassessment once your child returns full-time.
  • Homeschooling– Children who are having trouble returning to school, whether for medical or social reasons, can start by homeschooling. Parents can create a more flexible schedule and spend more quality time with their children.
  • Private Tutor– Parents can also hire a private tutor to support their child’s academics. Private tutors hold expertise in certain subject areas and have the advantage of personalized and flexible learning as opposed to traditional schools. However, hiring a private tutor can be expensive and require more financial support.
  • Online Classes– Students can attend online classes anywhere as long as they have a computer and internet access. With online learning, students can enjoy the benefits of being able to revisit learning material and the flexibility to complete assignments in their own time.

Returning to the School Campus

With proper planning, returning to school can be smooth. Here are some precautions to ensure your child’s best possible learning experience:

  • Meet with the principal, counselors, school nurse, and teachers to let them know what to expect and when your child might be returning full-time. There may be forms that need to be filled out. Let them know about any medicine or health equipment your child has and how to handle emergencies or problems.
  • Your child may not have the energy for a long day of school. Help them build up their stamina leading up to the start of the school year. Take walks and see what your child can and can’t do. They may also need to be excused from certain physical activities and allowed more time on assessments.
  • It is also normal for your child to be nervous about returning to school, and there may be feelings of hesitation. Make sure to understand the reasons behind them. Consider contacting your child’s healthcare team, teachers, psychologists, social workers, child life specialists, or school counselors for guidance. Make sure school administrators and teachers know that your child needs to be treated like everyone else, except for special needs. Make sure special needs are not exaggerated or highlighted to embarrass the student.
  • If your child is having trouble with the social aspect of returning to school, you can prepare them by letting them know that the other students may not be familiar with cancer and have a lot of questions. Give them examples of how to respond to questions they feel uncomfortable answering and have teachers and nurses there to support them. You may want to take the time and invite classmates over to your home so they can have more close and friendly interactions with fun activities that don’t require a lot of physical endurance on the part of your child.
  • There is an excellent additional resource for information about returning to school as a cancer patient or survivor from the American Cancer Society:

Have You or Your Child Recently Been Diagnosed with Cancer?

Here to Serve is the only national nonprofit offering wrap-around services to navigate the personal side of the cancer journey. You have doctors and hospitals who can help with the medical treatments, but where do you get help with finances, household needs, and other resources you may not be aware of? Here to serve offers you a Family Care Coordinator and a customized online platform for friends and family to join in signing up to help with a multitude of tasks. They also offer hard-to-find resources for just about anything you may need. You only need to ask your Family Care Coordinator!

If you are a family with children impacted by cancer, please contact Here to Serve. Our team is here to help you navigate these challenging times and provide support. Please click the Get Help button on our homepage. Our team wishes you a joyous end of summer and an exciting new school year!

By Erin Li

Anxiety in Parents of Children with Cancer

Anxiety in Parents of Children with Cancer

Recognizing Anxiety and Seeking Assistance

Childhood cancer diagnoses in 2022 alone totaled nearly 15,000. The American Cancer Society indicates a nearly 1% increase in cancer diagnoses yearly since 1975. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say that every one of those children diagnosed with cancer has two parents in their lives (although, unfortunately, that’s not always the case). Research detailed below shows that because of how anxiety impacts the family and parents of children fighting cancer, that’s nearly 20,000 new cases of anxiety every year in the United States from parents with children battling cancer. That does not even include the child battling cancer, which would increase the number to about 30,000.

These cases of anxiety often go undiagnosed and untreated. Anxiety is a continuing pandemic that goes unrecognized and not discussed, and people generally do not seek help because they don’t know they have it. Cancer is not only a disease that ravages the patient’s health but also the mental health of those who love and care for them.

Woman hiding under the covers


Anxiety is the great equalizer of mental health: even people who seem like they have it all together on the outside likely struggle with anxiety on the inside. National statistics bear this out: The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 19.1% of adults have experienced symptoms of various anxiety-related disorders over the past year alone. That means one in almost every five people you’ve encountered in life, whether you know them or not, are battling anxiety of some form. An estimated 31.1% of adults experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, and of that 31.1%, 22.8% will end up having a serious impairment. These are stark overall numbers. Although Traumatic Stress is no longer categorized as an anxiety disorder in the 5th (and latest edition) Diagnostic Statistical Manuel (DSM-5), the co-morbidity is still prevalent enough to relate the two.


Furthermore, as a parent, few can fathom the trauma-inducing anxiety of watching their child go through cancer treatments and fighting for their lives. The National Institute of Mental Health states that mothers generally range higher on the anxiety scale, very likely due to a woman’s higher biological capacity for heightened intuition and empathy. However, both mothers and fathers of chronically and seriously ill children trend higher on the anxiety scale. Parents of chronically and seriously ill children are nearly 95% more likely to face anxiety than those without an at-risk child. If you’re reading this correctly, it’s almost guaranteed that a parent with a child with cancer will experience anxiety. Additionally, there is nearly an increase of 30% in anxiety related to practical problems of daily life and parenting therein.

Make no mistake: Anxiety is a form of illness; mental illness, yes, but an illness, nonetheless. In a hypothetical situation of a family of 3, that means everyone in the house has some form of an illness. Anxiety can also cause physical disorders related to binge eating that can cause other illnesses, including, but not limited to:

  • Higher cholesterol (higher risk of heart attack)
  • Higher blood pressure (leading to hypertension and increased stroke risk)
  • Body tremors
  • Migraines


You may not be able to do all these things below but try to do at least half of them so you can care for your child the best way possible when you are able to relieve the anxiety you are experiencing.

  • Learn about your disorder. Recognize the level of anxiety you are experiencing and know this is a mental disorder that requires medical attention.
  • Take action and seek help. Talk to your doctor or mental health provider.
    Seek psychotherapy and/or take medication as may be directed.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Join a support group, whether it be related to your child’s cancer or anxiety support group.
  • Socialize when possible.
  • Keep physically active, when possible.
  • Avoid Alcohol.
  • Eat healthily.
  • Learn time management techniques.

Hands and feet in a circleHERE TO SERVE’S ROLE

At Here to Serve, we sincerely believe that caregiving for those impacted by cancer extends far beyond the physical needs of the patient. While we believe that the patient’s physical needs are important and part of our assistance, our mission as an organization is to serve patient families because we are convinced that serving the families through their journey serves the patients themselves. If the parents are taken care of, they can care for their children. Here to Serve helps you manage your time, eat healthy, be a part of a support community and provide resources for parents to receive therapy and counseling. Depending on the form of anxiety or the specific anxiety disorder, therapeutic strategies vary from case to case.

However, speaking as one has counseled those with anxiety, an almost universal coping strategy for most anxiety-related disorders is communal support, or as we say in the therapy world: “safe people.” We seek to surround our patient families with a network of safe people they can trust in their most desperate hour of need, with the expectation of alleviating the anxiety that comes with navigating their child suffering from cancer.

Author: Bryan Quintas, M.S. M.F.T.

Bryan Quintas is a Stage IV childhood cancer survivor. After battling cancer at 16, he has endured life-long effects from his treatments. Even so, he graduated from USC’s Annenberg School with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. He also holds a Master’s Degree from Fuller Seminary in Clinical Psychology, specifically in Marriage and Family Therapy. He has dedicated his life and career to helping others through life’s challenges.

Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance.

What is the No Surprise Act?

What is the No Surprise Act?

No Surprise Act – What you need to know!

The No Surprise Act (NSA) is a new law which became effective on January 1st 2022. This Act is designed to protect insured patients from surprise medical bills, particularly in situations where patients received medical care from out-of-network providers without their knowledge or consent.

A great example of this is when a patient receives care at an in-network hospital or clinic with their insurance, but some providers or services involved in their care are not part of the patient’s insurance network, or in insurance lingo, are “out of network”. Common examples are providers such as anesthesiologists or radiologists, services such as labs and even emergent care such as air ambulance or hospital emergency room services. In these situations, the law limits out-of-network care at in-network rates.

Due to this being a new law, healthcare providers and insurance companies are working hard to implement new processes to adhere to these new standards, however mistakes can occur. As such it is important that families and patients are knowledgeable of this law and carefully examine any bills with patient balances due to out-of-network services. 

Doctor giving child a shot

How to ensure my medical bills are accurate?

There are three easy steps to follow to ensure any medical bills you or your family receive are accurate under the No Surprise Act:

  1. Carefully review all medical bills with patient responsibility: Match the bill from the provider to the explanation of benefits (EOB) from your insurance carrier to confirm if the bill was processed at an in-network or out-network. If the claim was processed at out-of-network rates and the care was due to any of the below reasons, the bill is potentially inaccurate under the No Surprise Act.
    • Emergency Room Visits
    • Non-emergency care related to a visit to an in-network hospital, outpatient clinic or ambulatory surgical center
    • Air ambulance services
  2. Contact your insurance company to reprocess the claim: Contact your insurance company and inform them that you believe this claim qualifies under the No Surprise Act, providing helpful information regarding the emergent or supplemental care that should not be processed at out-of-network rates.
  3. Contact the provider (who sent the bill with patient responsibility): Contact the provider who sent the bill, informing them that the insurance company is re-processing the claim. Also, inform them that this claim qualifies for the No Surprise Act and should not be billed to the patient at these rates. Ask for your account to be updated and for the bill to be placed on hold, to prevent any additional statements or involvement with collection agencies. 

      Typically, the above steps will result in the medical claim and bill being updated accurately, however if this does resolve the bill accurately and you feel the law isn’t being followed accurately, contact the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services No Surprise Help Desk. You can find helpful information on the Act as well as contact information here

      The financial burden on families facing pediatric cancer can be immense, as the average cost for a day in the hospital is reported at over $40,000 per day. Ensuring insurance company is processing your medical claims and any patient/guarantor responsibility accurately can help to reduce the cost and remove some stress. 

      At Here to Serve, we provide resources to assist families in facing the pediatric cancer journey. Check out the wide range of our services and consider donating to cancer nonprofits like Here to Serve to help support families at the most difficult time of their lives.

      About the Author:

      A Board Member for Here to Serve, Jennifer Doner is a healthcare business leader who is passionate to improve health and well-being through advancing business strategy and driving innovation in the healthcare system. 

      Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance.

      Celebrating Survivorship: The Story of the Torres Family

      Celebrating Survivorship

      The Story of the Torres Family

      Here to Serve works with many families as they go through their pediatric cancer journey. It is  a privilege to be allowed into a family’s life during such a challenging time. While many of the journeys have a sad ending, the survivor stories give us hope. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Erika Torres, mother of cancer survivor Danielle Torres. I want to thank Erika for sharing her thoughts and feelings with me, and thank Danielle for allowing her story to be told.

      The Diagnosis

      In 2016 Danielle was diagnosed with B- Cell Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). She was six years old. ALL is a fast-growing cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. These cells are found in the bone marrow and other parts of the body. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common type of cancer in children. It affects certain cells in the immune system, called B cells and T cells. ALL usually affects B cells in children.

      Danielle cheerleadingThe Beginning of Danielle’s Cancer Journey

      At six years old, Danielle was a very active and cheerful little girl. Always up for an adventure, her parents were concerned when she began to be listless. Along with this, she had frequent, intense back pain, ran a fever, bruised easily, and had light colored gums. Multiple visits to the ER and her pediatrician frustrated them, as they believed her symptoms were something other than the “virus” the doctor insisted she had. The doctor’s also insisted that it was normal for a six year old to bruise, due to the nature of their activity while playing, and that she needed to eat more “greens”. By this time Danielle had been inactive for over a month due to her back injury, so her parents knew she wasn’t bruising due to activity. They were increasingly frustrated and worried that no one was listening to them.  After Danielle’s pain became so excruciating that she could not walk, Erika and Dan made a stand: they would not leave the doctor’s office until a full blood panel had been ordered. The blood panels showed what their intuition had known, their little girl was very ill: her HGB was 6.0, which was extremely low. After running the blood panel a second time for accuracy, the doctor said a blood count this low was called “neutropenia,” which could mean three things: a post- viral infection, A-Plastic Anemia, or Leukemia. The next day, after a long day of 13 hours at the hospital, their worst fears were confirmed, with the diagnosis of B- Cell Acute lymphocytic leukemia.

      The night of her diagnosis, they were guided into a private room, along with MDs, nurses, and a social worker. The doctor grabbed a box of tissues on their way in, and she and Dan knew it would be bad news. Erika remembers, “When they told us, the room began to spin. They left the room to give us some privacy. We both cried, Dan held me and told me that “this was the road we were on, we have to do this.” Hearing his words gave me strength. He shifted my thinking.” And to other parents, she says, “It’s ok to cry, to be devastated, sad, depressed. Many times I felt this way, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. But I knew I had to get up and keep pushing through. I needed to go to war for my child and save her from this beast!”

      Danielle sleeping and holding her stuffed animal

      Danielle was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles immediately and treatments, and their battle for her health, began. She started her chemotherapy and was fitted for a back brace. She was given 3 blood transfusions and 2 platelet transfusions, a bone marrow aspiration and 2 spinal taps. They would spend the next 14 days waiting for results and seeing how she would respond to the medication she was getting.

      Although Danielle’s blood work showed no active cancer after 30 days, her journey had just begun: there would be treatments and hospitalizations four long years to insure she was cancer free. A very long journey, which would impact their entire family.

      Support for Pediatric Cancer Families

      There were so many kinds of support needed during this time. When you begin this type of journey, you are focused on the child that is ill. Advocating and caring for your sick child is more than a full-time job; and it’s an emotionally and physically draining. However, you also have other responsibilities: work, household, marriage, and family. Erika believes that the journey is so daunting that:

      “Counseling should be a mandatory part of cancer treatment. When a child is diagnosed, you are laser focused on doing everything you can to save your child. Of course, this is necessary, but while you are focusing on your child time slips by and you don’t realize how much this shift in your lifestyle has affected everything else in your life: your relationship with your spouse, your other children, your overall life. Danielle’s sister, Breanna, is only two and half years older than Danielle, so she was also still a small child during the cancer journey. I will always feel that I missed so much of her childhood, as I was the one primarily responsible for Danielle’s care. This meant long stretches in isolation, either at home or in the hospital, while I cared for Danielle. Counseling helps you pull back a little and balance your life, to the benefit of everyone. Thankfully there is a movement in America to speak more openly about mental health and hopefully it will be made more available to all families in this situation.”

      Danielle smilingIn addition to mental health counseling, Erika talked about the support provided by Here to Serve organizing their family friends during their journey. The Care Community Here to Serve set up helped with all the things you just naturally do during a normal day: shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry. Their community page also gave them a way to communicate Danielle’s progress, as well as provide a way for family, friends and the community to contribute financially through the family’s online giving site. Here to Serve also made every Christmas special not only for the kids but her and her husband by providing almost every gift on the wish list. Erika shared what a blessing it was not to have to deal with holiday shopping and wrapping gifts during those four years. 

      What Sustained Them Through the Journey?

      Erika feels that her faith in God during this difficult time was her rock. She writes beautifully about this in her journal during Danielle’s illness. As difficult as the initial diagnosis was, they felt a certain peace in their journey due to their trust in God and seeing that trust played out with the help her family received. Always very active in her church, she experienced incredible support from them and the wider Christian community through another local church.

      Danielle with her nurseThe entire staff at Children’s Hospital was wonderful, professional and supportive. The kindness showed to Danielle was a blessing. Danielle still loves going to visit Children’s Hospital and seeing her nurses from that time. Erika laughed as she said, “It’s her safe place!”.

      Throughout the journey Erika tried to see the positive, and found journaling helped keep her balanced. Writing about her emotions, anxiety, or Danielle’s medical treatment helped her process. She talked about how even now she has anxiety about Danielle’s health. An important day in every cancer patient’s journey is when they ring the bell to announce they are cancer free. Erika thought this action would bring relief, and of course it was a joyful day. At that moment though, she found herself becoming absurdly anxious with the realization that the hospital and the constant testing had served as a security blanket. Now the burden was squarely on their shoulders; the thought of missing a symptom was terrifying. She acknowledges what a huge, ongoing responsibility it is for parents of pediatric cancer patients. She finds meditation really helps to bring calm and remind her that Danielle is ok, she’s doing well.

      The love they feel for each other as a family was also a strength that kept them going. Mid-way through the journey baby Landon joined the family, bringing joy and hope to all of them. Erika says, “While he may not remember it, he was along for the journey, spending much of his babyhood at Children’s Hospital with the rest of us. He really helped all of us, bringing a smile to our faces even during difficult times.”

      Toddler holding hands with younger sibling

      Challenges Along the Way

      Other than the obvious difficult diagnosis and treatments, I asked Erika what she found to be some of the biggest challenges.

      • “Returning to school was a big emotional challenge, both academically and socially. Although Danielle is a social child, the school missed during her illness and her uncertainty about how she would perform caused an immense amount of anxiety.”
      • “Not being there for Bre Although both Dan and her grandparents really stepped up and made sure she was cared for and loved, I couldn’t give her the same attention I gave before Danielle became ill. She still talks about it, and I still feel sad about what I missed in her life during that time.”
      • “One of the biggest challenges is that you have no control. Your life, and your family’s life is thrown into an ongoing state of unpredictability. Just when you think you have managed to get your family back on a schedule something happens with your child’s condition and its chaos once again. The lesson of letting go is a hard one, which required much prayer and meditation for me.”

      The Journey Brought Positive Changes Too

      Danielle with her familyWhile cancer journeys are incredibly difficult, some parents say they there were also some positive life changes. For example, a deeper faith, being more open to accepting help, being grateful for the small things.

      Danielle and her support systemErika shares, you need a lot of trust to endure this journey, with all the hills and valleys you travel through. Before the diagnosis, she feels she was always in a hurry: rushing to get the children up, dressed, to school, to an activity. Now, she’s grateful for the “little moments”, and the ordinary daily activities like breakfast, taking the children to school, family meals. Before she became ill, Danielle was in a cheerleading squad and loved to cartwheel, jump, and tumble. Now in middle school, Danielle is on the volleyball team. “I can’t tell you how emotional it was to see Danielle in that first volleyball game. When we first took her to Children’s Hospital, she could not walk, and spent so much time in therapy. She still has some residual health issues from the cancer treatments. Seeing her jump up and hit that ball was one of the biggest moments of my life. She’s a fighter, but a fighter with a generous smile and sunny personality.”

      Wrap-Around Non-Medical Support Is Critical

      Again, thank you to the Torres family for sharing their story. At Here to Serve we have over twelve years of experience providing non-medical wrap-around services to families during their cancer journeys. This gap in the healthcare system remains a critical need for families with children battling cancer. If you, or someone you know, has a child with cancer, please contact us through our Here to Serve Website. The services we offer include:

      • Setting up a Care Community to organize:
        • Communicating updates on your child’s condition to your community.
        • Household help
        • Childcare
        • Meal delivery
        • Special occasions
        • Pet care
      • An extensive archive of resources, which can be tailored to your specific needs including funding and travel resources, tax help, insurance advocates, and more.
      • Create a targeted Go-fund Me page.

      About the Author

      Valerie Radford Cox has had a fulfilling career in the field of communications and institutional advancement. She is enjoying sharing her skills to provide information to the pediatric cancer community through the non-profit Here to Serve.

      Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance. All photos in this article are from the Here to Serve archive or supplied by Erika Torres.

      Unleashing the Power of Our Immune System: An Introduction to CAR-T Therapy

      Unleashing the Power of Our Immune System

      An Introduction to CAR-T Therapy

      In this blog, we dive into the exciting new world of CAR-T therapy, an innovative form of cancer treatment that has the potential to transform lives. We’ll explore the basics of using the immune system to fight cancer, delve into what CAR-T therapy is all about, learn about its FDA-approved applications, discuss potential risks and benefits, and provide you with reliable sources for further information.

      Before diving into the overview of CAR-T therapy, we start with an inspirational story about the first pediatric patient to receive CAR-T therapy that is living proof of its game-changing potential 10 years later!

      From Relapse with No Treatment Options to Cancer Free 10 Years Later: A Remarkable Story of the First Pediatric Patient to Receive CAR-T Therapy

      In 2012, Emily Whitehead was a 6-year-old girl with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). She had already undergone two rounds of chemotherapy, but her cancer was still aggressive. Her doctors told her parents that there were no other treatment options available.

      However, Emily’s parents were determined to find a cure for their daughter. They learned about a new experimental treatment called CAR-T cell therapy. CAR-T therapy is a type of immunotherapy that uses a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer.

      Emily was the first pediatric patient to receive CAR-T cell therapy for ALL. The treatment was a success, and Emily went into remission. She has now been cancer free for 10 years, demonstrating a real-world example of the exciting potential of CAR-T therapy.

      To read more about Emily’s amazing story, explore the links below.

      Immuno-Oncology: A Foundation for Understanding CAR-T Therapy

      Our immune system is a remarkable network of cells, tissues, and organs working together to protect us from infections and diseases. Similar to how the immune system recognizes and fights infections, it’s constantly surveilling the body to find and eliminate cancer. The immune system is one of our greatest defenses against cancer – and leveraging its power has driven an explosion of research and development resulting in an entire field: Immuno-Oncology.

      Immuno-oncology, or IO for short, is a branch of medicine that focuses on leveraging our immune system’s natural defense mechanisms to combat cancer. However, cancer cells can sometimes evade detection by the immune system, allowing tumors to grow unchecked.

      CAR-T therapy is a pioneering approach within immuno-oncology that empowers the immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer cells.

      Cancer patient with stuffed bearWhat is CAR-T Therapy?

      CAR-T therapy, short for Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell therapy, is a groundbreaking immunotherapy designed to bolster our immune system’s ability to fight cancer. The therapy involves a complex process that starts with harvesting a patient’s own T cells, a type of white blood cell.

      These T cells are then genetically modified in the laboratory to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. These CARs act as “guided missiles” that specifically target and bind to proteins found on cancer cells, triggering an immune response to destroy the cancerous growths.

      How does CAR-T therapy work?

      CAR-T therapy starts with collecting a sample of the patient’s T cells. These cells are then sent to a laboratory, where they are genetically engineered to produce a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). The CAR is a protein that binds to a specific antigen on the surface of cancer cells.

      Once the T cells have been engineered, they are multiplied in the laboratory and then infused back into the patient. The CAR-T cells then go to work, finding and attacking cancer cells that express the targeted antigen.

      Types of Cancer FDA Approved for CAR-T Therapy

      Baby girl with cancer smiling at the camera

      As of the writing of this blog post, July 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved six CAR T-cell therapies:

      • Abecma® (idecabtagene vicleucel)
      • Breyanzi® (lisocabtagene maraleucel)
      • Kymriah® (tisagenlecleucel)
      • Tecartus® (brexucabtagene autoleucel)
      • YescartaTM (axicabtagene ciloleucel)
      • CarvyktiTM (ciltacabtagene autoleucel)

      By cancer type, they are approved to treat:

      • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL): Kymriah is approved for patients up to age 25 with relapsed or refractory B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia. ALL ranks among the most prevalent and deadliest types of cancer affecting children and young adults.
      • B-cell lymphoma: Yescarta, Kymriah and Breyanzi are approved for adults with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma.
      • Follicular lymphoma (FL): Yescarta is approved for adults with relapsed or refractory follicular lymphoma.
      • Mantle cell lymphoma: Tecartus is approved for adults with treatment-resistant or relapsed mantle cell lymphoma.
      • Multiple myeloma: Abecma and Carvykti are approved for adults with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma.

      Risks and Benefits of CAR-T Therapy

      While CAR-T therapy has shown impressive results, it is essential to understand both the potential risks and benefits before considering this treatment option. First and foremost, since CAR-T is a relatively new approach to treating cancer, patients haven’t been followed for an extensive period to fully understand all effects, especially long-term.

      Potential Benefits

      CAR-T therapy has demonstrated remarkable success, offering durable remissions and, in some cases, potential cures for patients who have exhausted other treatments.

      Potential Risks
      • Cytokine Release Syndrome (CRS):
        • This immune reaction can cause fever, flu-like symptoms, and, in severe cases, organ dysfunction. However, medical teams are skilled in managing CRS, and a therapy has recently been FDA-approved for the treatment of CRS.
        • Tocilizumab (Actemra®) is FDA-approved for the treatment of adults and pediatric patients 2 years of age and older with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell-induced severe or life-threatening cytokine release syndrome (CRS).
      • Neurologic Toxicity:
        • Some patients may experience confusion, seizures, or difficulty speaking. Early detection and treatment are crucial to address these effects.
      • Other Known Side Effects
        • The listed risks and side effects in this blog are not exhaustive, but other known potential risks include Tumor Lysis Syndrome, Macrophage Activated Syndrome, On-Target/Off-Tumor Toxicity (killing of healthy cells expressing the target), Anaphylaxis/Allergic Reactions, and others.

      Sources and Where to Find More Information

      If you wish to learn more about CAR-T therapy, its applications, and future research, reliable sources include:


      As we conclude this introductory journey into the world of CAR-T therapy, we hope you now have a better understanding of this cutting-edge immunotherapy. It represents a beacon of hope for patients facing challenging types of cancer like Emily Whitehead and has the potential to revolutionize cancer treatment in the years to come. Remember to consult with medical professionals to determine the best treatment options for individual cases, and never hesitate to seek reliable information from trusted sources.

      Here to Serve has been assisting families on their cancer journeys for over twelve years. In addition to organizing care communities, go-fund-me pages, and other daily needs, they have an extensive knowledge of resources that may be beneficial to finding new and effective cancer treatments. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please contact Here to Serve.

      About the Author

      Dr. Ned Swanson has a unique background combining scientific, clinical, and industry knowledge. He is passionately dedicated to improving outcomes for patients across the entire patient journey, from therapeutic innovation to comprehensive social support.

      This blog is for informational and educational purposes only. For specific medical needs, please contact the appropriate medical professional.

      All photos in this article are from the Here to Serve photo archive.

      Herbal Supplements During Cancer Treatment: Are Supplements Helpful or Harmful?

      Herbal Supplements During Cancer Treatment

      Are Suppliments Helpful or Harmful?

      Herbal supplementsHerbs = natural = healthy, right?

      Well, it’s not all black and white. While there are many pharmacological benefits to natural substances, there is potential for harmful drug interactions if someone is on a potent cancer treatment like chemotherapy. 

      Additionally, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate safety or labels before they get on the shelves, so it’s hard to be sure what you’re consuming. The potencies of herbal supplements can also vary greatly depending on harvesting.  

      None of this information is apparent, which is why July is Herbal and Prescription Interaction Awareness Month. Here to Serve wants to help bring awareness to this vital topic and empower you to share this information with others in your cancer circle. Of course, it’s essential to talk to your doctor regarding your or your child’s care plan and what supplements may or may not be appropriate.  

      Herbs can change the way drugs metabolize 

      Many herbs change the way a drug processes in the body. For example, if an herb increases the metabolism of a drug, it can reduce its concentration in the blood and its effectiveness. Meanwhile, decreased drug metabolism can increase the drug’s concentration in the blood, potentially leading to increased side effects. Additionally, herbs can raise or lower blood pressure, increase blood thinning and thereby the risk of bleeding, and change how your body reacts to sedation or general anesthesia.  


      What’s safe vs unsafe?  

      There are not sufficient data regarding most drug and herbal supplement Interactions. In fact, so many of their effects and reactions remain unclear and inconsistent. This can make navigating this part of the treatment process overwhelming and confusing. However, here’s some of what we do know:  

      • Avoid all supplements when starting treatment or surgery. It’s typically recommended to stop taking herbal remedies and other dietary supplements one or more weeks before having surgery or starting treatment 
      • Avoid antioxidants. Data varies about the use of antioxidants, like vitamin C. While some data suggests it can kill cancer cells or protect healthy cells, these supplements may also make these treatments less effective. Until more is known, it’s best to avoid them during treatment 
      • Spices used for cooking are generally safe. However, if you cook with a spice often or in large amounts, check with your doctor to ensure that it doesn’t interact with treatment. For example, garlic has been associated with postoperative hemorrhage as well as interaction with anticoagulants 
      • Some herbs are associated with greater drug-to-drug interactions. Particular parts of foods and supplements can alter the PK of specific types of drugs. This includes St. John’s wort, grapefruit juice, and epigallocatechin gallate from green tea 
      • Herbs can help alleviate treatment side effects. Talk to your doctor about supplements that can assist certain symptoms. For example, ginger may help nausea, and Astragalus has been shown to reduce adverse reactions to chemotherapy 

      Want to look up a specific herb? Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has a database where you can search by herb and if there are any known drug-to-drug interactions. Of course, always check with your healthcare provider before incorporating any supplements into your or your child’s diet.  

      Get answers and help from Here to Serve

      There is so much along the cancer journey that can feel overwhelming and confusing. Here to Serve is available to help lessen this burden on families. We provide resources on topics such as nutrition and other hard-to-find resources that may become more relevant to families at any point in the cancer journey. Learn more about the services from Here to Serve, and get help today if you or someone you know needs extra care.

      Author: Emily Rogalin 

      Connect with Emily on LinkedIn. Emily Rogalin is a copywriter in healthcare advertising in NYC. Having lost multiple members in her family to cancer, she is honored to help bring support to families on this difficult journey.

      This blog has been updated from its original post in 2021 

      Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance. 


      Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center 

      Integrative Medicine for Childhood Cancer Patients Definitions and Resources

      Integrative Medicine for Childhood Cancer Patients Definitions and Resources

      This blog has been updated since initial posting in 2021.

      Integrative medicineYou just received the worst news any parent can hear…your child has cancer, and now you have to poison your child to cure it! You want what is best. You feel you have no other treatment choice than chemo because outcomes are quantifiable, tested, and have a history of curing cancer. You are scared, wishing you had healthy, alternative treatments, but don’t want to roll the dice with risky treatment choices.

      Where Do You Turn for Advice?

      Where do parents look for treatment help when their child is diagnosed with cancer? Most parents will turn to their oncology team, who are highly skilled at fighting pediatric cancer. But are there other options available than traditional, Westernized medicine? And are doctors open to including these treatments? Some families turn to integrative medicine for solutions. Integrative medicine (IM) is a form of medical care that merges standard medical care with complementary and alternative (CAM) therapies that provide positive healing to a child’s mind, body, and spirit.

      Forms of Integrative Medicine and Complementary & Alternative Medicine

      Some forms of IM and CAM include the following treatments:

      • Acupuncture-a method of inserting thin needles into the skin to stimulate specific areas of the body. Acupuncture is often used to reduce nausea and pain.
      • Diet/nutrition-a wide range of dietary modifications involving food choices such as low or no sugar, low-fat, high fiber, vegan, gluten-free, and other eating plans. Proper nutrition can minimize unpleasant symptoms and aid in treatment recovery.
      • Meditation/relaxation– a variety of techniques incorporating concentration and reflection to promote stress relief within the body and mind during and after cancer treatment.
      • Vitamins/herbal supplements-an assortment of treatment products that are generally taken by mouth or applied to the skin. They include multivitamins, which aid in the rebuilding of the immune system. Probiotics are supplements containing microorganisms that help improve digestion.
      • Yoga-a form of non-aerobic exercise which incorporates movement and breathing. The benefits of this exercise can improve flexibility and decrease stress and fatigue.

      Each year more hospitals and cancer centers are starting to incorporate IM into cancer treatment programs. From the Stanford Center For Integrative Medicine to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, medical organizations nationwide embrace the positive effects of IM and CAM therapies; this also includes pediatric cancer treatments.

      Approach Your Child’s Doctors with Facts

      It is important to remember that even though “complementary medicine” and “alternative medicine” are often grouped as “complementary and alternative medicine,” they are different. Like IM, complementary medicine is used along with traditional medicine, while alternative medicine is a replacement for conventional medicine. Parents must know the differences before starting research.

      Even with IM and CAM therapies becoming more mainstream, there is still some reluctance from the established medical community about embracing these treatment types. There are some genuine reasons why alternative therapies are not fully embraced. They may cause adverse side effects when used with other cancer-fighting drugs. Oncologists explain that chemo kills cancer cells while adding vitamins and other body-building alternatives bolster good cells and cancer cells. There are also concerns that these alternative medicines are not thoroughly researched and are nothing more than cancer treatment fraud. So before approaching your child’s doctors, come prepared with solid research and factual information.

      Trustworthy Internet Research

      The internet is full of information, but it is not always accurate or trustworthy. An excellent place to start your research is accessing legitimate and trusted organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This government agency is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services and is the nation’s leading medical research bureau. Within the NIH is the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). The goal of the NCCIH is to research “diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not considered part of conventional medicine.” The NCCIH is a wealth of information regarding IM and CAM therapies.

      Many other organizations provide information and questions to ask while talking to your child’s doctors. Some useful websites include:

      NCCIH-finding and evaluating online resources

      Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health

      • Webpage:
      • Their mission is to “advance the principles and practices of integrative healthcare within academic institutions.” Their members include 70 academic medical centers and health systems across the United States.

      The Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine

      • Webpage:
      • As an organization bringing together a global community of health professionals and health info seekers, this website provides integrative health information. The directory includes a list of board-certified physicians across the country.

      US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

      • Webpage:
      • The FDA is the US government agency that oversees many products’ safety, such as foods, medicines, and nutritional supplements. This webpage provides specific information regarding dietary supplements.

      MedlinePlus from the National Institutes of Health

      • Webpage:
      • This US government organization (affiliated with the NIH) maintains the US National Library of Medicine site and includes dietary supplement and medication information.

      Federal Trade Commission

      Fight for Your Child’s Best Treatment Options

      As pediatric cancer research progresses each year, the treatment options available to children fighting cancer also increase. Better treatment options are great news for parents, but finding the safest and best choices for their child can be overwhelming. Traditional medicine increases the cure rate for many children, but the treatment can be devastating and cause other health issues. Having IM and CAM prospects available to aid during and after treatment are vitally important. Talk to your doctor about what options would be beneficial and useful to your child. Do not be afraid to talk about IM and CAM therapies if you believe they can help. You are the best advocate for your child’s health.

      At Here To Serve, we are devoted to you and your child during this uncertain time, providing judgment-free support during this cancer fight. Our Family Care Coordinators will help conduct a needs assessment and connect you with valuable resources tailored to your needs. 

      Author: Christopher Smith

      All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

      PTSD and the Loss of a Child

      PTSD and the Loss of a Child

      Recognizing the Symptoms of PTSD

      Holding baby's handThere is no greater fear for a parent than the thought of losing your child to cancer. Losing a loved one is one of the most heart-wrenching experiences a person can go through; if the lost loved one is your child, it could seem, and sometimes is, unrecoverable physically and emotionally. No one prepares for such a loss, nor should they. Our children shape our lives and own part of our identity. So, losing a child is akin to a parent losing part of yourself. Memories of life with our child shape who we are as people, and when this precious child’s life is gone, so departs part of us. These once-happy memories invade daily thoughts and can incapacitate a parent for months and sometimes years.

      An Estimated 3,180 Parents Will Lose a Child to Cancer This Year

      It is estimated that 1,040 deaths from cancer will occur in the United States this year (2023) in children younger than 15. An estimated 550 deaths from cancer will occur in teens ages 15 to 19. The emotional blow associated with the death of your child can lead to a wide range of psychological and physiological problems, including depression, anxiety, cognitive and physical symptoms linked to stress, marital issues, increased risk of suicide, pain, and guilt. Losing a loved one, weeks, months, and sometimes years that follow seem to make time standstill. Parents are supposed to outlive their child, not bury them before they have lived a full life. 


      As parents search to make sense of their loss, they cry more, eat more or less, cannot sleep, long for their child, and wonder how they will live without them. Then, finally, trauma occurs, which is an emotional response to a shocking, distressing event. There are several trauma symptoms, including nausea, dizziness, sadness, anger, denial, fear, shame, nightmares and/or difficulty sleeping, insomnia or altered sleep patterns, difficulty maintaining and starting new relationships, emotional and/or angry outbursts, gastrointestinal problems. 


      The loss of a child is not something that seems possible, and it is no surprise a child’s death triggers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). According to the American Psychiatric Association, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can develop after having witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. PTSD affects about 3.5% of adults in the United States. It is estimated 7 to 8% of the population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women being twice as likely as men. Grief from the loss of a child is so intense many suffer from PTSD for years after their child’s death.  

      Overview of PTSD

      There are many different symptoms someone with PTSD may experience. PTSD does not require a person to experience all these symptoms. They include:

      • Lack of interest in activities the person once enjoyed
      • Negative thinking or mood about oneself, other people, or the world
      • Easily startled or frightened
      • Lasting feelings of anxiety
      • Avoiding places, activities, or people that remind the person of their child
      • Flashbacks or nightmares
      • Recurrent, distressing memories of the suffering and ultimate death of the child
      • Aggressive and/or reckless behavior
      • Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of your child
      • Feelings of hopelessness, detachment, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, or irritability
      • Difficulty concentrating and memory problems
      • Difficulty maintaining or creating close relationships

      Getting Help for PTSDDad holding baby daughter

      Most people recover from the trauma of a child’s death after a period of adjustment. However, if symptoms persist for more than three months, getting help from a therapist will help you adjust to what happened and get back to living life. Mental health professionals who can help include:

      • Psychologists
      • Psychiatrists
      • Licensed clinical social workers
      • Licensed professional counselors
      • Licensed trauma professional
      • bereavement specialists

      Cognitive-behavioral therapy has proven effective for people with PTSD. This type of therapy teaches ways to replace negative, unhelpful thoughts and feelings with more positive thinking. Behavioral strategies can be used at the patient’s own pace to help desensitize the traumatic parts of what happened.

      Complicated Grief Disorder (CGD)

      For most, grief passes with time for some people. But, unfortunately for others, the feelings and emotions after suffering the loss of their child do not improve after significant time has passed. ART International (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) calls this persistent bereavement Complicated Grief Disorder (CGD). A sub-sect of PTSD, also known as Complex Bereavement Disorder, is a common manifestation in the process of intense grief. The emotions attached to such gut-wrenching loss can be tough to navigate and recover from, to the point that the one suffering can find it hard to move on with their lives or even how to live. 

      The symptoms of CGD include:

      * Inability to focus on anything, 

      * Extreme avoidance of reminders, 

      * Numbness or detachment, 

      * Feelings of bitterness or that life has no purpose, 

      * Lack of trust in others,   

      * Feelings of guilt or self-blame, 

      * Either extreme focus or avoidance of reminders of a loved one, 

      * Unable to focus on anything other than the loss, 

      * Inability to accept the death, 

      * Feelings of bitterness or that life holds no purpose. 

      Women curled up in bed

      Here to Serve 

      At Here To Serve, we believe that caregiving continues, even if the absolute worst happens when a child passes away. Supporting the families by checking in and encouraging their community to do the same makes this unique devastation less isolating. People may feel like they are on an island, but they don’t have to, nor do they want to be a majority of the time. Yes, therapy can help should be encouraged and recommended. Still, the method that even therapists would agree with is interacting with your community and friends and having people walk the journey of losing a child and navigating PTSD together. Here to Serve is here to assist you during this difficult time.

      About the Author

      Bryan Quintas, M.S. M.F.T.

      Bryan Quintas is a Stage IV childhood cancer survivor. After battling cancer at 16, he has endured life-long effects from his treatments. Even so, he graduated from USC’s Annenberg School with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications. He also holds a Master’s Degree from Fuller Seminary in Clinical Psychology, specifically in Marriage and Family Therapy. He has dedicated his life and career to helping others through life’s challenges.


      All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle. 

      2023 Medicaid Renewals – What You Need to Know!

      2023 Medicaid Renewals – What You Need to Know!

      Here to Serve

      In 2023, millions of patients risk losing their Medicaid coverage if they do not renew their eligibility. However, there is good news – there are a few simple steps to ensure you have access to medical coverage to enable the continuation of care and elevate stress. Medicaid

      Why Medicaid Redeterminations Are Occurring in 2023

      The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was a federal law enacted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Among its provisions, the FFCRA introduced a continuous enrollment requirement for Medicaid, which was created to address concerns that patients could lose their Medicaid coverage due to changes in their circumstances or inability to complete the normal renewal process during the pandemic. Under this provision, states were required to maintain Medicaid coverage for existing beneficiaries without requiring them to go through the usual renewal process.

      Preparing for the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, States began the process for Medicaid eligibility determination. As it has been over three years since the continuous enrollment requirement was implemented, it may complicate communication for re-determination, as many patients may have moved during the past few years.

      What Should I Do to Maintain Medicaid Coverage?

      1. Verify or Update your contact information
        • Contact your state Medicaid Office to update your address, phone number, and email address. When it is time for you to renew your Medicaid eligibility, the state will contact you.
          • For California, you can update your information at this site.
      2. Understand your State’s deadlines. For California, you can find information here.
      3. Complete all forms & information.
        • Sign & return forms as soon as possible and before your state’s deadlines
          • You may be asked about the number of family members, income, expenses and other information.

      What if I Am No Longer Eligible for Medicaid?

      There are resources available to help you obtain medical coverage.  Options can include:

      1. Coverage through your Employment
        • Many employers offer health plans as part of their employee benefits packages, and typically an employer will pay a part of the premium toward your health plan each month.
        • Contact your employer and ask for information on their medical coverage. Ensure to inform them that you recently lost your Medicaid coverage, as it should qualify for a “Life Event” to allow you to enroll in coverage outside your employer’s typical enrollment processes.
      2. Coverage through Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace
        • ACA Marketplace plans are sold on the health care Marketplace (also called the Exchange}. These are plans you can buy on your own for you – and/or your family.
        • You can find more information at gov.

      Being proactive to ensure you maintain medical coverage will enable access to care, reduce financial hardship, give peace of mind and will support families battling pediatric cancer. At Here to Serve, our care coordination resource can assist families in finding support.  Check out the wide range of our services, and Donating  to cancer nonprofits like Here to Serve allows your money to help support families at the most difficult time of their lives.

      By Jennifer Doner

      About the Author

      A Board Member for Here to Serve, Jennifer Doner is a healthcare business leader who has been driven for over two decades to improve health and well-being through advancing business strategy and driving innovation in the healthcare system. 

      All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

      Photos in this article are AdobePhotoStock.

      Surviving Cancer

      Surviving Cancer

      Growing Awareness of Survivor Late Effects and Advances in Treatments

      Mom kissing daughter on the cheekIn the United States in 2023, an estimated 9,910 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among children from birth to 14 years, and about 1,040 children are expected to die from the disease. Although cancer death rates for this age group have declined by 70 percent from 1970 through 2020, cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease among children. The most common types of cancer diagnosed in children ages 0 to 14 years are leukemias, brain and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors, and lymphomas.

      According to the American Cancer Society, currently at least 483,000 cancer survivors were first diagnosed when they were under the age of 20. Advances in cancer treatment mean that today 85% of children diagnosed with cancer are alive at least five years after diagnosis. Many ultimately will be considered cured. Partially due to this increased rate of survival, there is growing awareness of health problems that develop years later because of a cancer treatment are known as late effects.

      Surviving Late Effects

      Greg Armstrong, M.D., M.S.C.E., at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., is the principal investigator for a research study to better understand these late effects, increase survival, and minimize harmful health effects.

      Originally, childhood cancer survivors diagnosed between 1970 and 1986 were identified for this long-term, retrospective cohort study from participating centers in the United States and Canada. More than 14,000 survivors were surveyed and followed for long-term health outcomes. In addition, about 4,000 of their siblings were recruited as comparison subjects. Due to the significant changes in therapy for children with cancer over the past 30 years, a second group of about 10,000 survivors diagnosed between 1987 and 1999 and about 1,000 of their siblings were also recruited for the study. Therefore, the CCSS cohort includes three decades of survivors of cancers in children and adolescents.

      Researchers gathered information from the survivors’ medical records on primary treatment exposure that included surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatments.

      Researchers who have studied CCSS data so far have identified a number of potential late effects, including premature menopause, stroke, and subsequent cancers. Experts say childhood cancer survivors should get close, long-term follow-up from doctors who know about these kinds of complications.

      Advancement in Treatment – Personalized Treatment

      Along with the increased understanding of pediatric survivorship is the increased understanding of cancer treatment for pediatric cancer patients. Advances made over the last few decades have led to more children surviving cancer than ever before. And a better understanding of the disease means that more children with cancer are getting personalized treatments. Until recently, it was common for all kids with the same type of cancer to receive the same treatments, explains Dr. Will Parsons, a child cancer specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital. But the discovery of certain gene changes, called mutations, in cancer cells has started to change this. These mutations cause cancer cells to grow out of control.

      A new type of treatment called targeted drugs can block the effects of these harmful mutations. They cause cancer cells to stop growing, or to die, without causing as much damage to normal cells. Targeted drugs often have fewer side effects than chemotherapy.

      “Targeted drugs have gone from a theory to a reality over the past decade,” says Parsons. This breakthrough has been aided by faster and cheaper tests to pinpoint cancer mutations, he explains.

      Researchers are testing ways to expand gene mutation screening for kids with cancer. One ongoing study is called Pediatric MATCH. The study is trying to match the mutation found in a child’s tumor with a drug targeted for the specific gene mutation, instead of for a specific type of cancer. CAR T cells are the newest, most personalized cancer treatment, and Here to Serve Board member Dr. Ned Swanson will cover this treatment in more detail in the Here to Serve July 2 blog.

      Ultimately greater understanding of cancer and advancements in treatments mean more surviving pediatric cancer patients and more hope for families during their cancer journeys. Understanding treatments, resources for trials, financial assistance available, and navigating the myriad of resources can be overwhelming. Here to Serve has partnered with hundreds of pediatric cancer families over the past twelve years, and has a deep knowledge and understanding of the resources available.

      Cancer ribbonsHere to Serve Young Cancer Patients Through to Survival

      At Here to Serve, we focus on children and young parents with school-aged children in the home diagnosed with cancer who are bravely going through treatment. Many of our children and young parents will survive their cancer diagnosis. We are on their journey with them to ease the burden of daily life as they concentrate their energy on the fight. We understand that not every cancer battle will end in survival, but our hope is for survivorship so that young people can live and grow and celebrate. If you know a family with a child or young parent of school-aged children battling cancer, please have them Get Help from our  Family Care Coordinators to provide information and assistance during their cancer fight.

      About the Author

      Valerie Radford Cox has had a fulfilling career in the field of communications and institutional advancement. She is enjoying sharing her skills to provide information to the pediatric cancer community through the non-profit Here to Serve


      All information on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

      Checkpoint Inhibitors for Pediatric Cancer: What’s New in Immunotherapy?

      What’s New in Immunotherapy?

      Checkpoint Inhibitors for Pediatric Cancer
      Scientist looking through microscope

      Photo by Artem Podrez

      Instead of relying solely on outside interventions such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, immunotherapy empowers the body’s natural immune system to recognize, target, and destroy cancer cells. It’s a safe bet that if you have a child with a cancer diagnosis, you’ve been searching every corner of the earth for the best and most advanced treatment for your child.

      In past blogs, we’ve discussed new therapies like Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Therapy, which has shown great promise as a treatment option for pediatric cancer, especially for relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). When they work, immunotherapies are a type of cancer treatment that harnesses the power of a person’s immune system to fight cancer cells.

      Immunotherapy is highly specific, explicitly targeting cancer cells while sparing healthy cells. Unlike some traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, immunotherapies could be advantageous because they do not cause damage to healthy cells in the body, making them a potentially less toxic option for pediatric patients.

      The “new kid on the block” in pediatric immunotherapies are called Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors (ICIs). As a quick refresher, remember that we all have T-cells, a.k.a T lymphocytes. They are a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in the immune system. T-cells are responsible for recognizing and attacking foreign substances, such as viruses or bacteria, as well as cancer cells and other abnormal cells in the body. T-cells can recognize these foreign substances by their unique surface markers, called antigens, and can then mount a targeted immune response to eliminate the threat.

      Why would we need them?

      Our bodies all have checkpoint proteins within them. These proteins normally act as brakes on T- cells, preventing them from attacking healthy cells in the body. However, some cancer cells can produce proteins that interact with checkpoint proteins on T-cells, essentially telling the immune system to leave them alone. So cancer cells can sometimes confuse our T-cells into letting their guard down while trying to protect the body from cancer itself.

      How do they work?

      Cancer cells can use immune checkpoints to evade the immune system and avoid destruction. Checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy that works by blocking certain proteins on the surface of immune cells that inhibit immune response against cancer cells. The PD-1 pathway, also known as the programmed cell death 1 pathway, is a mechanism that helps regulate the immune system and prevent the body’s immune cells from attacking healthy tissues. The pathway involves interactions between proteins on the surface of immune cells, such as T-cells, and proteins on the surface of other cells in the body, such as cancer cells or normal cells. 

      When activated, the PD-1 pathway sends signals to the immune cells to reduce their activity and prevent them from attacking healthy tissues. This can be beneficial in preventing autoimmune diseases, but it can also be harmful in preventing the immune system from attacking cancer cells or other abnormal cells in the body. As mentioned, certain cancers and viruses can take advantage of the PD-1 pathway to evade the immune system. They do this by producing proteins, such as PD-L1, that interact with the PD-1 protein on immune cells, effectively “turning off” the immune response and allowing cancer or virus to grow and spread.

      How immune checkpoint inhibitors work

      Source Reference:

      Status for Pediatric Cancer

      Boy using a blood pressure cuff

      Photo by cottonbro studio

      • The use of immune checkpoint inhibitors to treat pediatric cancers is still developing, as these therapies enhance T-cell responses to fight tumors that have been suppressed by inhibitory pathways.
      • Although ICIs have shown success in treating adult cancers, initial clinical trials using single-agent ICIs to treat a variety of pediatric cancers have been underwhelming, with few responses observed, except in pediatric classic Hodgkin lymphoma cases. This may be due to differences in the immunogenicity of childhood cancers compared to adult cancers, as pediatric cancers generally have fewer neoantigens (a new protein that forms on cancer cells when certain mutations occur in tumor DNA). Fortunately, there is renewed optimism that certain groups of children with cancer could experience positive outcomes through the use of ICI therapies.
      • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved some checkpoint inhibitors for treating specific types of pediatric cancers. However, ongoing clinical trials are necessary to gather additional safety and efficacy data before these medications can be more widely used in children with other types of cancer not mentioned below.
      • Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) -approved for adults and children aged 12 or older who have undergone surgery to remove stage IIB, stage IIC, or stage III melanoma and cancerous lymph nodes, and aims to reduce the risk of melanoma recurrence.
      • Nivolumab (Opdivo)– approved for the treatment of colorectal cancer in both adults and children aged 12 years and older. It is specifically used to treat microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) or mismatch repair deficient (dMMR) cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and has worsened despite previous treatment with fluoropyrimidine, oxaliplatin, and irinotecan hydrochloride (chemotherapy medications).
      • Atezolizumab (Tecentriq) -approved treatment option for alveolar soft part sarcoma that has either spread to other parts of the body or cannot be removed through surgery. In both adults and children aged 2 years and older, atezolizumab can be used alone or in combination with other drugs as part of the treatment plan.

      It’s important to remember that checkpoint inhibitors are only approved for certain types of pediatric cancer and specific patient populations. However, there is ongoing research in this area, and new treatments and indications may be approved in the future. To learn more about FDA-approved medications for childhood cancer, please visit the National Cancer Institute’s website at

      • The National Cancer Institute (NCI) offers a great website that you might find helpful! It provides a searchable database of clinical trials for pediatric cancer, along with information on how to enroll in a trial and what the process looks like. Additionally, the site includes resources for families and healthcare providers who want to learn more about pediatric cancer clinical trials. The website is called “Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board (PTEB) – Clinical Trials” and it can be accessed at

      Need Cancer Care Support?

      At Here to Serve, we understand how overwhelming it can be for families when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Please remember that we are here to support you! If you are a family who has a child with a new cancer diagnosis or if you know of a family in this challenging situation, please don’t hesitate to contact Here to Serve. You can click on the ‘Get Help‘ button on our homepage to get started. 

      By Sameera Rangwala, M.S., M.P.H

      About the Author

      Sameera Rangwala spent over 15 years in the biotechnology industry and is currently a life science educator for children in grades 5-8.  As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community.

      All content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only. Always consult a medical provider in your particular area of need before making significant changes in your medical decisions or lifestyle.

      Effect of Cancer on Puberty in Adolescent Females

      Effect of Cancer on Puberty in Adolescent Females

      How Cancer Treatments Alter the Path to Adulthood

      Cancer patient in her bedThe side effects of cancer are already enough to deal with, but they’re even more complex for females in their adolescent years. If you’re reading this as a woman, you’ve already experienced the ups and downs of going through puberty. The changes, the hormones, the emotions–it all feels overwhelming for any adolescent as they figure out their identity and how they fit into the world. However, cancer treatments can alter the course of this crucial transformation for adolescent girls. Knowing more about these side effects can help you better support them through their journey.

      Cancer Treatment Effects on Puberty

      Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy are essential therapies for fighting the disease. However, these treatments can affect organs that create a delicate balance of hormones and potentially disrupt the normal progression of puberty. It’s important to know that young children are unlikely to have these side effects, as the slowing of growth occurs within 5 years of receiving treatment. Some of the effects on puberty include:

      • "Hormones" spelled out in tilesBone growth: Bones and muscle are very sensitive to treatments, so females who may typically experience a growth spurt during puberty are at risk for stunted growth if cancer treatment is within 5 years of puberty.
      • Hormones & the endocrine system: Radiation or surgery near the head and neck can cause damage to the pituitary gland, the main part of the endocrine system that regulates hormones and stress responses. Treatments may slow the release of growth hormones for females, which can slow sexual maturity. Growth hormones can be used to reverse these side effects, but should be discussed with a doctor to understand the full picture.
      • Ovaries and menstruation: Certain kinds of chemo can damage the ovaries. This is less likely to affect girls who haven’t been through puberty, but there is a risk for early or delayed puberty and menstruation. Girls may also experience irregular periods after treatment, although many women will experience irregularities regardless of treatments.
      • Fertility: Many are worried that cancer treatments will affect their fertility, but many survivors live to have healthy children. If it’s a concern for you or your child, it’s important to mention this to your healthcare providers so they can let you know how cancer treatments will affect future fertility. There are also several options to preserve fertility in females with cancer, depending on the age of the person.

      Friends smiling together

      Emotional and Mental Health

      Adolescence is already a time of emotional vulnerability, and a cancer diagnosis during puberty can exacerbate the emotional and psychological challenges faced by young girls. It may be helpful to still try and engage young girls with the activities a typical preteen/teen goes through. Whether it’s buying her first bra or having a sleepover with her friends, anything that feels like a normal teenage experience can help better her mental health and overall development.

      Hope & Here to Serve 

      Despite these vast effects on puberty and development, there are several paths for females that can help alleviate these effects after completing life-saving cancer treatments. Although these treatments are strong on the body, they help save lives. Research is always ongoing, meaning that there will be more ways to address these side effects in the years to come.

      Here to Serve can help support adolescent girls and their families as they navigate through the cancer journey. Check out the wide range of our services, and if you know a family with children who has received a recent cancer diagnosis, get help today!

      Author: Emily Rogalin

      Emily Rogalin is a copywriter in healthcare advertising in NYC. Having lost multiple members in her family to cancer, she is honored to help bring support to families on this difficult journey.

      Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance.

      Photo references

      Father’s Day Wishes and Thoughts

      Father’s Day Wishes and Thoughts

      On the Needs of Pediatric Cancer Patient Fathers

      Dad holding his sonOn Father’s Day, Here to Serve would like to extend warm wishes for all fathers in the Here to Serve Community, especially those fathers parenting a child with cancer. These yearly milestones for families are very important; they indicate growth, challenges, and deepen family bonds.

      Positive Life Changes for Fathers

      When a family is on a cancer journey, these milestones can be monumental. And while the stresses and PTSD symptoms are important to acknowledge, there is also growing interest in understanding how families experience positive changes in the face of a life-threatening diagnosis in one of their children. Findings from recent studies indicate that fathers were able to find benefit in the cancer experience of their child leading to lasting positive changes in their lives in the areas of self-growth, spirituality, and relationships with others.

      In a study conducted by University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at Children’s Hospital and partially funded by the National Cancer Association, father’s of cancer patients were asked to rank their answers to  a series of questions such as:

      Dad holding his daughter at the hospital

      • Having a child with cancer has… taught me how to adjust to things I cannot change.
      • Having a child with cancer has… helped me become a stronger person, more able to cope effectively with future life challenges.
      • Having a child with cancer has… helped me become more focused on priorities, with a deeper sense of purpose in life.
      • Having a child with cancer has…taught me to be patient
      • Having a child with cancer has…Led me to deal better with stress and problems
      • Having a child with cancer has…helped me become more aware of the love and support available from other people

      The results showed, on a scale of 1-5 (5 being the most positive), the fathers endorsed high levels of benefit finding (M=4.1 out of 5).

      There are increasingly studies examining the benefit outcome of a life-threatening illness. Studies of  PTSD symptoms and treatments are certainly more common, and the results of many benefit studies have limited participant scope.

      Fathers During the Cancer JourneyDad and his daughter smiling

      For both areas of study, the acknowledgement of the unique position of fathers in the family cancer journey will hopefully help to provide support to fathers during this challenging time. Fathers’ experiences are relatively underreported in literature; their societal responsibility for family stability can sometimes create self-doubt for their own intense emotional reactions to medical treatments, difficulty in finding adequate treatments, feelings of vulnerability, and general worry.

      Support is Crucial

      One common result between both areas of study is that support from extended family, a place of worship, and health care professionals is crucial for parents of pediatric cancer patients. Further results indicate the immense benefits for fathers who participate in father-on-father group therapy sessions. Locating a father support group can sometimes present its own challenge: time and resources are limited, the focus is on supporting your child in every way possible.

      Here to Serve has been supporting families through their cancer journeys for over 12 years. We are here to provide excellent, appropriate, and trusted resources and wraparound services that will meet your individual needs. Please don’t hesitate to contact us, just click on the website link to connect with us!

      Father and son with cancer smiling at the coast

      Author: Valerie Radford Cox

      Valerie worked in the field of Institutional Advancement and Communications both internationally and domestically for many years. She now creates Story Coats in her studio in Oregon, and enjoys working with the Here to Serve Social Media team to expand the reach of their services to a greater audience.


      5 Financial Challenges for Childhood Cancer Survivors

      5 Financial Challenges for Childhood Cancer Survivors

      Here To Serve

      Pediatric cancer patient smilingChildhood cancer is a devastating experience for families, with significant emotional, social, and financial costs. Childhood cancer is relatively rare, but it is the leading cause of disease-related death among children under the age of 15. 

      The financial burden of childhood cancer can be overwhelming, and many families struggle to pay for treatment and care for several reasons.

      1. Insurance Coverage: Many families do not have adequate health insurance coverage to cover the costs associated with pediatric cancer. Even families with good insurance may still have to pay a considerable amount out of pocket for deductibles, co-pays, and other expenses. Families without health insurance are even more susceptible to the financial challenges, as pediatric cancer treatment costs will be astronomical.
      2. Lost Wages: Cancer treatment often requires extended hospital stays and frequent outpatient visits, which can lead to lost income for parents who need to take time off work to care for their child. This can be especially difficult for families who have only one income or who have limited paid time off from work.
      3. Home Modifications: Families may also need to pay for home modifications, such as wheelchair ramps or other adaptations, to accommodate their child’s needs. This brings a whole new level of financial stress for young families battling pediatric cancer with the seemingly insurmountable cost of treatment.
      4. Travel and Lodging: Families with a child diagnosed with cancer may need to pay for additional expenses, such as travel and lodging, if the child needs to receive treatment at a hospital far from home.
      5. Ongoing Expenses: The trauma of pediatric cancer has the potential to create more expenses down the line. This can include financial, physical, mental, and emotional challenges that will incur additional expenses in the future. 

      Pediatric cancer patient waiting on a bench

      Cost of cancer treatment has a huge impact on families’ lives. Many families report having to make difficult decisions about paying for treatment or food and other necessities to afford the cost of cancer. Some families may even be forced to rely on public assistance programs or declare bankruptcy to make ends meet.

      The financial burden of childhood cancer is not just a short-term problem. Families may continue to experience financial difficulties even after their child has completed treatment. Children who have had cancer may require ongoing medical care and monitoring, which can be expensive. This has the potential to be an issue for the rest of their lives.

      It is essential for policymakers and healthcare providers to work together to support families with a child diagnosed with cancer and to ensure that they have access to the resources they need to cope. Family and friends need to be there to support families battling pediatric cancer. Donating  to cancer nonprofits like Here to Serve allows your money to help support families at the most difficult time of their lives.

      Author: Ned Swanson

      A Board Member for Here to Serve, Dr. Ned Swanson has a unique background combining scientific, clinical, and industry knowledge. He is passionately dedicated to improving outcomes for patients across the entire patient journey, from therapeutic innovation to comprehensive social support. 

      Information on the Here to Serve website is for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical guidance. All photos in this article are from the Here to Serve archive.

      1. American Cancer Society. Childhood Cancer: Facts & Figures 2020.
      2. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Financial Burden of Childhood Cancer.
      3. Children’s Oncology Group. Childhood Cancer and the Cost of Care.
      4. National Cancer Institute. Coping With Cancer: Financial, Legal, and Work Issues.
      5. Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. Statistical Brief #290: Costs of Pediatric Cancer Hospitalizations, 2016.
      6. Landier, W., Bhatia, S., Eshelman-Kent, D., Forte, K., Sweeney, T., Hester, A., … & Blatt, J. (2011). Development of risk-based guidelines for pediatric cancer survivors: the Children’s Oncology Group long-term follow-up guidelines from the Children’s Oncology Group Late Effects Committee and Nursing Discipline. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 29(28), 4200-4210.
      7. Hinds, P. S., Oakes, L. L., Hicks, J., Powell, B., Srivastava, D. K., Spunt, S. L., … & Furman, W. L. (2009). “Trying to be a good parent” as defined by interviews with parents who made phase I, terminal care, and resuscitation decisions for their children. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 27(35), 5979-5985.