Cancer DOES Affect Mental Health

Cancer DOES Affect Mental Health

Before and After Treatment

A cancer diagnosis is life-changing and can often lead to patients and caregivers experiencing mental health issues. It is estimated that 8-24% of cancer patients suffer from mental illness related to their diagnosis and treatment. However, these statistics are likely artificially low because some mental health issues like depression mimic cancer symptoms. According to a study out of the UK, 1/3 of cancer patients experience a mental health concern during or after treatment. Research does show that youths and young adults are at a greater risk of mental health issues than adults with a cancer diagnosis.

Furthermore, families and caregivers can also experience mental health issues after cancer treatment.

Infographic of mental health and cancer statistics

Research shows that for both caregivers and patients, mental health issues can lead to:

  • Inability to focus on treatment decisions significantly slows down the treatment process
  • Failure to make follow up appointments
  • Inconsistency with medication.
Distress

Distress is described as an unpleasant emotion, thought, and feeling. Distress affects how one might think, feel and act.

It is normal for both patients and caregivers to experience distress after a cancer diagnosis, however, when it becomes debilitating is when there is a reason for concern. The symptoms of severe distress are:

  • Thinking about cancer/death all the time
  • Feeling overwhelmed to a point of panic
  • Being excessively irritable and angry
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Questioning belief and faith that once gave you comfort
  • Having trouble concentrating
Depression

Depression is mild or severe sadness over a period of time. Research shows that 1 in 4 people diagnosed with cancer experience depression after diagnosis. Symptoms of depression can also camouflage with symptoms of cancer.

Here are some of the other signs to look for in both patients and families:

  • Loss of weightDad lying down with sleeping daughter with cancer
  • Never-ending hopelessness and sadness
  • Irregular sleep can either over-sleep or sleepless
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Pervasive thoughts of death or suicide
  • Trouble focusing, concentrating, or making decisions

Photo credit: https://www.change.org/p/increase-federal-funding-for-childhood-cancer-research

Anxiety

Anxiety is described as a feeling of dread, consistent worry, or being on edge. After a cancer diagnosis, anxiety may be triggered by:

Young cancer patient looking anxious

  • The fear of treatment and/or treatment-related side effects
  • The fear of cancer spreading
  • Concern over the change in family/relationship dynamic
  • Fear of death

There are two types of anxiety, acute anxiety, and chronic anxiety.

Acute anxiety– This is when one experiences short bursts of symptoms such as;

  • Rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling suffocated
  • Sweating or chills
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Abdominal pain etc.

Chronic anxiety– This usually lasts longer and can often be accompanied by an acute anxiety episode coupled with the following symptoms;

  • Muscle Tension
  • Difficulty breathing and focusing
  • Excessive worrying
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
How to Cope
Mother with her arm around her son with cancer

Photo Credit: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Psychological treatment– Getting in touch with a board-certified psychologist and/or Psychiatrist will help you learn tools to improve coping skills, re-shape negative thoughts, and develop an efficient support system for all parties included.

Seek out communities of people who have experienced the same. Seek out help from Here to Serve, a nonprofit that assists with the journey at home. Like the popular adage goes, “It takes a village.” Seeking and building communities around the diagnosis (such as Here to Serve) will help alleviate a lot of pressure and allow you to find additional support for yourself and your family.

Medication– Should symptoms persist, contact a certified psychiatrist and get on the proper medication to eradicate symptoms and allow you to function as usual; it is, however, often recommended that this be done in conjunction with therapy/counseling for optimum results.

Should you, your family or a friend need additional support at home after a cancer diagnosis, Here to Serve has many resources dedicated to helping you and your family during a cancer journey. Get Help at Here to Serve.

By Rhoda Naman

Cancer DOES Affect Mental Health


Gray May – Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Gray May - Brain Tumor Awareness Month

Supporting the Brain Tumor Community

Brain Tumor Awareness Month

As we enter the month of May, you might start seeing #GrayMay and #GoGrayInMay. You might ask yourself, “what does that mean? “Those hashtags are all across social media to recognize Brain Tumor Awareness Month, which occurs annually in May. The “gray” in those hashtags represent gray matter, which is the color of the brain cortex, which contains nerve cell bodies. Since a United States Congressional resolution was first passed in 2008, organizations across the country are taking the opportunity to focus attention on a condition that affects nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. alone. All of us at Here to Serve want to bring awareness to children who suffer the devastating effects of brain cancer and brain tumors.

The statistics regarding brain tumors in children under 19 are upsetting. According to the American Cancer Society, brain and spinal cord tumors are the second most common cancer in children. These types of cancers account for nearly 25% of childhood cancers. Over 4,000 children and teens are diagnosed with brain and spinal cord tumors each year. Fortunately, the 5-year survival rate for all combined types of brain tumors is about75%, but this rate can drastically vary from the kind of cancer. For example, Glioblastoma is a very aggressive cancer often occurring in the brain, and the survival rate is only about 20%.

What are the Causes and Symptoms of Brain Tumors in Children?

Brain imaging scan

There are over 100 different types of brain tumors. Certain types of tumors, such as medulloblastoma, are more common in children. In many cases, the exact causes of brain tumors in children are unknown. Still, according to research at the Mayo Clinic, most pediatric brain tumors are generally primary brain tumors that form in brain tissues. Healthy cells have mutations in their DNA; these mutations divide and grow at an increased rate. They spread while destroying healthy cells. The consequence is a mass of abnormal cells which develop into a tumor. The tumors will either be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

The skull protects the brain, a fragile part of the body. There is a limited amount of extra space; as a brain tumor grows, this will cause pressure known as intracranial pressure. As this pressure occurs, symptoms might begin to develop. Johns Hopkins Medical University provides abundantly helpful information about children’s brain tumors. Some of the signs and symptoms they mention to be aware of:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy and drowsiness

The above list is very general symptoms, so it does not automatically mean a brain tumor or cancer if you see one or even all of them. If you are concerned that your child or a loved one might have any brain issues, don’t hesitate to contact a health care professional and seek a thorough diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Pediatric Brain Tumors

If a tumor has developed, there are many treatment options. The three most common are:

  • Surgery-Most common in infants and young children. If the tumor is accessible and slow-growing, surgery might be the only required treatment for complete removal. There might be some neurological issues after surgery, but usually, they are only temporary.
  • Radiation Therapy-Beams of radiation target the tumor and tissue surrounding the area. This treatment may require several sessions to remove all cancer.
  • Chemotherapy-There are different forms of chemo available, pills taken orally or IVs given intravenously. The chemo is usually injected into the cerebrospinal fluid.
Here to Serve and Provide Guidance

Hand holding gray ribbon for Brain Tumor Awareness Month

A cancer diagnosis is news no parent or guardian ever want to hear. It is a life-changing event that will affect all family members. Fear and confusion are just two of the emotions parent go through in the early days of learning this news. Where can you turn for support? Family and friends can provide emotional care during this time. If you need additional assistance for day-to-day tasks, please reach out to Here to Serve and our Care Communities. We have helped many families with children suffering from brain tumors and other pediatric cancers. Our aid and care can ease your anxiety during a stressful time.

By Chris Smith


National Nurses Week 2022: The Backbone of Healthcare

National Nurses Week 2022: The Backbone of Healthcare

May 6-12

Nurse smilingNational Nurses Week is celebrated between May 6, National Nurses Day, and May 12, the birthdate of nurse Florence Nightingale. Nurses help deliver babies, assist with life-threatening ER crises, and, most importantly, are a pillar of support during your child’s cancer journey. Nurses specializing in cancer care are experts in chemotherapy, radiotherapy, side effects management, pain control, and general medical care of patients throughout their cancer treatment. Painting of Florence NightingaleHighly trained nurses take on the burden of some of the most complex and heartbreaking tasks in the medical world. As workers who perform essential healthcare tasks, nurses serve as the first point of contact for most patients. National Nurses Week honors their contributions and sacrifices and reminds us to thank these well-trained medical professionals who provide front-line health care!

The Role of Nurses in Cancer TreatmentRegistered nurse smiling

Never is teamwork more critical than in nursing, especially during cancer care. Nurses work not only with one another but also with physicians, therapists, technicians, and others to facilitate healing and alleviate suffering. They all share a common goal, compassionate care for the well-being of the patient and the family. Did you know that nurses that specialize in caring for cancer patients actively take steps to get additional training and expertise? For example, amid rapid developments in treatments, technologies, and patient-care modalities, hematology/oncology nurses must show they’re up to date with emerging medical advancements in their field. Hematology/Oncology nurse certification is one of the ways nurses demonstrate their commitment to the art and science of patient-centered oncology care.

Specifically, RNs (Registered Nurses) or (APNs Advanced Practice Nurses) take additional education and certification in the specialty of cancer care or hematology/oncology. The process of accreditation involves a qualifying exam and continuing evidence of ongoing education and nursing practice. Pediatric cancer nurses are trained to understand all the factors involved in caring for kids with cancer such as leukemia, brain tumors, bone cancer, and more. They perform assessments, administer chemotherapy and other medications, monitor for side effects, and educate patients and families about diagnosis and treatment.

These nurses can be found in the hospital setting (inpatient unit and outpatient clinic), physician’s office, home health care, radiation center, or hospice/ palliative care service. Aside from administering physical treatment, hematology/oncology nurses possess skills to assess psychosocial needs and teach and support the patient through their treatment. Nurses come up with strategies to alleviate nausea/vomiting and pain, help a child/young adult with hair loss (body image), administer blood/blood products to alleviate anemia or thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) or support a patient through hospice/palliative care. Nurses are the essential backbone to care for children with cancer. They are the bearers of critical information to both patients and physicians.

How Can We Appreciate Our Nurse?Nurse giving a young boy a shot

In most cases, Nurses are selfless. They typically do not expect anything extra for the care and help they provide, especially in the last few years when healthcare workers had to fully commit themselves to their front-line duties during the pandemic. When someone takes the time to thank you, even in the simplest ways, it has a massive impact on a nurse’s life. Now is the perfect opportunity to give a little back to a nurse who has touched your life.

Here are some Nurse “preferred” ways you can show your appreciation:

  • Handwritten Note – Your words are one of the most personal and easiest gifts for nurses. When someone takes the time to pen their thoughts and express their gratitude, it can profoundly affect someone. In addition, it serves as a historical piece to remember the family, and remember their story.
  • Sweets and/or Healthy Snacks! Yum, who doesn’t love a good box of chocolates, candy, a fruit bouquet, or a fruit basket to snack on during a long shift? Of course, everyone loves sweets, but healthcare workers often need to care for their health. An assortment of healthy snacks such as protein bars, nuts, fruits, and veggies can help keep up energy during a busy, extended shift.
  • Stethoscope with decorationsA Little Bling – Fun decorations for a nurse’s stethoscope are a great way to thank a nurse. A stethoscope is an extension of a nurse and is required to do many aspects of the job. Nurses can usually be seen around the unit or office with a stethoscope draped around their neck or plugged in the ears as a patient is being examined. There are tons of simple, inexpensive options to dress up a stethoscope. It also helps make your stethoscope more unique and recognizable, so they don’t lose it.
  • Nurse drinking coffeeCAFFEINE! – Not many nurses can get through 12+ hour shifts, weekends away from family, and night shifts without some caffeine to keep them going. A gift card for their favorite coffee place, a mug with a bag of coffee, or a freshly brewed cup can go a long way. You can even send a gift card through email!
  • Compression socks – Compression socks make a great gift to thank a nurse. They are on their feet all day, tiring their legs and feet. A good pair of compression socks can make a difference in soothing aches and preventing swelling. It’s a gift that truly keeps on giving, and one pair can last a long time, providing many comfortable shifts.

As always remember that alongside your healthcare practitioners, Here to Serve can fill in gaps you may come across in the support you need during your child’s cancer journey. If you or a loved one needs compassionate care at home with meals, children, home, yard, finances, and so much more during medical treatment, do not hesitate to contact Here To Serve. Click on the Get Help button from our homepage to receive support! On behalf of Here To Serve we wish all Nurses a very Happy Nurses Week!

Florence Nightingale Nurses Pledge

“I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care”.

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

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotech industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provides words of support to the cancer community.

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


Celebration Ideas for Moms of Cancer Kids

Celebration Ideas for Moms of Cancer Kids

Mother's Day 2022

Women holding young child in the air at sunsetMother’s Day, Sunday, May 8th, may be a tough holiday for mothers of kids with cancer. It is likely another day of the same constant fears passed without notice or fanfare. Moms and wives of cancer patients conquer daily challenges with superhuman strength, but they need rest and care just like the rest of us. Mother’s Day is an excellent opportunity to recognize mothers and their daily sacrifices for their families. Think about the mothers in your life who are devoting their days to caring for their sick children. Here are some celebration ideas for moms of cancer kids.

If you are wondering what you can do to celebrate or ease a mother’s burden in your life on Mother’s Day, first, listen to and study the mothers you wish to honor. It might not be best to ask them what they want. This puts the burden of planning on them and requires them to ask something of you—something that might be difficult for moms who feel they must conquer every challenge alone. 

Instead, consider what you have heard them talk about. Study their routine and daily challenges. Last year, the Center for Global Development reported that women took on 173 additional hours of unpaid child care, about three times as many hours as men. Consider if they are in physical pain from stress and need an hour to do yoga or a gift card for a massage. Do they need respite? Are they exhausted figuring out how to get dinner on the table each night? If you’re listening and watching, it won’t be difficult to find a way to help. If you have a mom with a child battling cancer in your life, consider these ideas for how to make their Mother’s Day extra special.

Make Time for MomMother holding happy young girl in the air

Make a plan for the mom to spend time with their kids that does not include caregiving or other home chores. When one child is battling cancer, parents tend to devote all their time and energy to supporting that child and their care. The other children are also living through a world-shattering event, but it can be impossible for a parent to make as much space for them as they deserve. No parent wants to prioritize one child over another, but the immediate, all-encompassing needs of cancer treatment cannot be minimized. 

Here are some ideas to honor mom on Mother’s Day

  • Decorate your mom’s door or give flowers!Farther on laptop with sons
  • Watch a movie or show together, side by side.
  • Get creative: Make mom a video, a music playlist, or a piece of art!
  • Do a tea party outside or take a short trip to a tea house!
  • Make a homemade gift; craft a wreath!
  • Travel virtually to a museum or tour the world’s prettiest garden if you can’t get out!
  • Give her a manicure and pedicure either at home or at a salon
  • Make Mother’s Day cards with the kidsExamples of Mother's Day cards
  • Make breakfast in bed
  • Help tackle her “to do” list
  • Give her a hand and foot massage with moisturizer
  • Go to a flower shop or the mart and make an arrangement

Make sure that all mom has to do is show up.

Also, you can give mom time to spend with their spouse, siblings, or friends. Because of cancer treatment’s complex and life-altering nature, spouses can neglect each other or pull away from other vital relationships. Every person, super-mom or not, needs support, and creating time to connect with her loved ones can be the greatest gift. If you can plan a gathering, whether it’s a day away or just a nice meal together, you can reduce their burden and allow mom to enjoy the day.

Help Her Feel Her Best

If you have the means, paying for a mother to get her hair done or buy a new outfit she’s had her eye on can be a great way to show you care. If she likes having her nails done, maybe accompany her to a manicure! Most moms of sick kids neglect seemingly superficial things like clothes and haircuts. But feeling bad about how you look can be a silent weight that adds to the already enormous volume of pain faced by mothers with sick children.

Clothes and hair cuts are just two ways to help mothers feel better about themselves. Even something small like a nice moisturizer or a decoration for their home can be something that she continues to use or look at for weeks, reminding her of your gesture of love and taking a moment to care for herself.

Give Her Space to Accept Gifts

If mom doesn’t have time to accept a little pampering right now, be ready to provide a rain check. For some, even a day of self-care can feel like an unnecessary burden in a time of crisis. Try to arrange something flexible, and make sure to allow space for the mother to make the best choice for herself.

If you want to make a kind gesture but know there is no time for celebration in your loved one’s life this May, donate to a cause that’s meaningful to them. Give them the gift of knowing that someone else’s life will be improved because of them. If your loved one has a sick child, or if you just want to support all mothers with kids fighting cancer, consider giving to Here to Serve, an organization that cares for families who have a child or parent of young children fighting cancer. 

Here to Serve provides wraparound services to support families on their cancer journey, including organizing online Care Communities that can provide meals, take care of household tasks, provide child care, and help with holiday celebrations. In addition, here to Serve maintains a robust database of resources to help families connect with organizations that can help. Consider giving a gift to mothers in the most challenging time of their lives by donating today.

By Kelly Markus

About the Author

Kelly Markus studied Film and Television and has spent time on sets in Los Angeles. Originally from the East Coast, she has moved back home. Since 2020, she has decided to refocus on writing. Having seen loved ones battle cancer, blogging for Here To Serve is close to her heart.

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.


Coping with Stress After a Child’s Cancer Diagnosis – National Stress Awareness Month

Coping with Stress After a Child's Cancer Diagnosis

National Stress Awareness Month

Graphic of women holding headA childhood cancer diagnosis is one of the most intense, disruptive, and enduring stressors parents can have. Stress can be debilitating if it’s not managed correctly, especially when the source of it comes from a deadly illness or the loss of a loved one. Time stands still, and other life responsibilities take the back burner as your child becomes the number one priority. There is no better time to discuss parents’ stress after their child’s cancer diagnosis than during Stress Awareness Month, held every April since 1992. Health care professionals and health promotion experts across the country join forces to increase public awareness about both the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. As we all have experienced in unison, you don’t need to be an expert to know that stress levels have risen exponentially in many households over the last few years. Imagine adding cancer to Covid! It becomes imperative to take time to de-stress so that your family’s cancer journey has the best outcome for you and your child.

What is Stress?Scan of hyperactive brain

Stress is a normal human reaction that happens to everyone. The human body is designed to react to stress. When you experience changes or challenges (stressors), your body produces physical and mental responses. That’s stress. What happens to your body physically when stress kicks in? The body’s autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate, breathing, vision changes, etc. Its built-in stress response, the “fight-or-flight response,” helps the body face stressful situations. When a person has long-term (chronic) stress, continued activation of the stress response causes wear and tear on the body. Physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms develop.

Here are some physical signs that might indicate you are in stress mode:
  • Increased aches and pains
  • Chest pain or a feeling like your heart is racing
  • Exhaustion or trouble sleeping
  • Headaches, dizziness, or shaking
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Muscle tension or jaw clenching
  • Stomach or digestive problems
  • Weakened immune system

    Diagram of symptoms related to stress

Emotional and Mental Signs of Stress Include:
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Depression
  • Panic attacks
  • Sadness
  • Drinking alcohol too much or too often.
  • Gambling
  • Overeating or developing an eating disorder
  • Starting to smoke or increasing smoking
  • Using drugs

If you feel like any of these symptoms have significantly increased, especially since your child’s cancer diagnosis, you should speak with a mental health professional. It can be challenging to acknowledge bad habits that form because of stress, especially when you think it’s making you feel better or helping you cope with the everyday stressors of taking care of your child. However, these declines in physical and emotional health often add up and can cause more destruction to you and your ability as a parent and caregiver. So, it’s okay to get help and fast! We all have a different capacity when it comes to stress, some can take on a heavy load, and others are impacted quicker despite the amount of stress, and that is okay because we are all wired uniquely.

Statistics

According to the American Phycological Association, Americans are one of the most stressed out in the world. The current stress level experienced by Americans is 20 percentage points higher than the global average. The country’s rate is similar to Louisiana’s, the most stressed state. 55% of Americans are stressed during the day. The amount of stress is compounded even further when a loved was ill. These statistics are not meant to scare you but for you to realize that you are not alone in the fight against stress. Stress is often a part of life despite our best efforts, which many people have learned to tolerate. And while it’s incredibly prevalent in the United States, understanding stress and the causes of stress and how to tackle it early can make a world of difference.

Coping Mechanisms on how to deal with stress after a child’s cancer diagnosisYoung girl looking out window

Cancer is a significant stressor for patients and their families. A combination of essential supportive interventions and time helps many families cope with the stress that cancer and treatment may bring to the entire family. After a child’s cancer diagnosis, some patients, siblings, and caregivers develop persistent traumatic stress reactions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a condition that develops after a life-threatening experience that makes a person feel fear, helplessness, or horror. People with PTSD experience persistent and unwanted thoughts about the experience; nightmares; a desire to avoid people, places, or things associated with the experience; emotional numbing; feeling distant or cut off from others; and physical arousal (being anxious and easily startled). Your child is the most crucial reason you consider early stress prevention during and after your cancer journey. Parents may think they are protecting their children by hiding life’s stresses. Being an adult carries a multitude of pressures, and parents may try to keep their anxieties to themselves. However, a recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology indicates that children may pick up on their parents’ suppressed stress, increasing their stress levels. The stress your child may pick up from you may cause issues with how they cope with their cancer diagnosis and responsiveness to treatment. The best way to prevent this is to take care of your stressed self.

It can be hard to find the time to cope with stress, but there are some impactful and convenient ways to help yourself or a loved one:

Stay Positive
Laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol. Try and get a little giggle in every day, tell a joke, watch a comedy flick, or make someone smile with a funny face!

MeditateGirl meditating on grass field
This practice of inward-focused thought and deep breathing has reduced heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. Meditation’s close relatives, yoga, and prayer can relax the mind and body. An excellent guided option is using an app such as Headspace that provides mindfulness meditation right from your phone.

Exercise
Every time you are physically active, whether you take a walk or play tennis, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercising not only melts away stress it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintain a healthy weight. Even just 20-30 minutes a day can make all the difference!

Unplug
It’s impossible to escape stress when it follows you everywhere. Cut the cord, and avoid emails and TV news. Take time each day, even for 10 to 15 minutes, to take the edge off your stress. Simple things like a warm bath, listening to music, or spending time on hobbies, can give you a break from the stressors in your life.

Online Support Groups
If you don’t have health insurance, online support groups can be helpful. Look for local groups that are evidence-based, and focus on the area you’re struggling with, such as coping with cancer.

Employee Resources
Most employers are offering some level of therapy for their employees. Ask your human resources department about employee assistance programs that you can take advantage of for free or at little cost.

State Health Department
Your state’s health department website may have helpful mental health services, including emotional support helplines, tips for mental wellness during an emergency, and a list of behavioral health providers.

Health Insurance Provider
If you decide you need to seek professional support from a therapist or licensed mental health counselor, your health insurance provider is an excellent place to start looking. Health insurance companies must cover services for mental health, behavioral health, and substance-use disorders comparable to physical health coverage. The company should have a database of clinicians who are accepting patients.

Get Help Through the Cancer Journey

If you are a family with a child who received a new cancer diagnosis, or if you know of a family who finds themselves in this challenging situation, please contact Here to Serve. Our team is ready to help families navigate this challenging new world in light of a childhood cancer diagnosis and provide support in many different ways. Please click on the Get Help button from our homepage. Our team at Here to Serve wishes you a beautiful spring season filled with less stress and an abundance of peace, love, and happiness!

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

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 10 years in the biotech industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provide words of support to the cancer community.

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.


Recognizing a Nation of Volunteers – National Volunteer Week April 17-April 23

Recognizing a Nation of Volunteers

National Volunteer Week April 17-April 23

Sign with raised hands to volunteer

In 1974 a Presidential Proclamation established National Volunteer Week in the United States as an opportunity to recognize Americans that dedicate their time and energy to causes and organizations they care about deeply. Although officially recognized for nearly 50 years, this country’s history of volunteerism goes back to its very beginning. The first large-scale volunteer effort was the new country’s recruitment of soldiers for the Revolutionary War. As the country grew, so did volunteering and creating organizations devoted to more philanthropic causes. Nonprofit groups such as the United Way and American Red Cross were founded in the 1800s and still are helping people today. With the arrival of Springtime, we celebrate National Volunteer Week from April 17 – April 23. Please take a moment to think about those around you who give up their free time to help others and consider opportunities where you can assist in the future.

The Emergence of Virtual Volunteering

Helping families with cancer, rescuing lost animals, delivering food to those less fortunate are just some of the volunteer activities everyday Americans were helping with when the entire world went into lockdown two years ago. All of those activities did not stop when COVID-19 spread across the globe. Many nonprofit organizations reconfigured their volunteer programs for virtual support or limited the number of volunteers, or temporarily suspended volunteer operations due to safety concerns. The events of 2020 did force organizations to rethink and find new ways to continue their missions to help others. Here to Serve, the nonprofit that helps families on their cancer journey, reenvisioned their delivery model of volunteer services with more safeguards put in place to avoid contact while still supporting cancer families.

The concept of “virtual volunteering” is not new; the term was first used in the mid-1990s by Steve Glikbarg, the co-founder of the organization Impact Online. With Smartphones, laptops, and internet access available to almost everybody, virtual volunteering is easy. Websites such as VolunteerMatch,  Taproot, and  JustServe, aid in providing a list of volunteer opportunities in your area, helping to eliminate long hours of research. Virtual volunteering offers remote options for providing nonprofit organizations support in accomplishing their missions. Partaking in activities such as fundraising, phone calls, social media, office admin, or copywriting are tasks that a volunteer can perform from the comfort of their home. Virtual volunteering might also mean assembling activity kits for kids in need through such organizations as Project Helping, which will send a Kynd Kit directly to your home. Many of these opportunities also offer flexibility so that you can volunteer around your schedule. 21st technology has helped to reshape volunteering for the better.

Volunteering Helps EverybodyMan volunteering to direct traffic

Why do people volunteer? The reasons are numerous. Some people have a personal connection to a cause, and they want to give back. It might also be a great way to make new friends, share or improve your skills, or be helpful with your spare time. Whether the reasons are altruistic or self-serving, volunteering does help all parties involved. Individuals volunteering can receive several positive benefits from giving their time and energy to a cause. Benefits can include positive effects on mental and physical health. A task that helps others offers a sense of purpose, increasing self-esteem and lowering the risk of depression and anxiety. Performing outdoor activities like cleaning up a beach on a warm summer day can provide low or no-cost physical exercise. A 2013 study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University found that “people over the age of 50, who volunteered regularly were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.”

The positive advantages of volunteering are not just for individuals looking for a way to help; nonprofit organizations benefit tremendously from having volunteer staff to assist their causes, especially skilled professionals who are retired. Many nonprofits work on shoestring budgets, so having non-paid volunteers helps these organizations survive and thrive if those volunteers are professionals in their fields. During the National volunteer week, we celebrate the spirit of volunteering. The federal agency Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) found in 2018 that over 77 million adults volunteered through various organizations. This work equates to nearly 6.9 billion volunteer hours. The Independent Sector, an organization that brings together nonprofits and other foundations, releases an annual calculation of the value of a volunteer’s time based on an hourly rate. In 2021, the rate was over $28 per hour. That equals over $193 billion that nonprofits benefit from by having volunteer support. These staggering figures and statistics show the value and importance of volunteers.

Volunteering at Here To Serve this National Volunteer week

Here To Serve is a nonprofit organization founded by Katie and Silvio Quintas in 2011. They offer practical support through their cancer-journey program. Here to Serve’s mission is to lift the burdens of families with children impacted by cancer. Volunteers are critical to their success and help assist families through complex cancer journeys. If you are visiting our website and would like to help families in need, please take a moment to view our current volunteer opportunities. Any practical help and professional experience you can offer will help cancer-impacted families so that parents can devote their attention to their children.

By Chris Smith

About the Author

Chris Smith is a Here to Serve volunteer from the San Francisco Bay area who himself is a cancer survivor. He uses his professional experience as a technical writer to give back and provide clear and meaningful information for families with a child battling cancer.

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.


April is National Donate Life Month!

April is National Donate Life Month!

The life-saving power of organ donation

Banner saying April is National Donate Life MonthCurrently, 1,900 children under 18 years old are waiting for organ transplants. 25% of those children are under five years old. For kids with cancer, who are often put through incredibly grueling treatments, organ transplants can be necessary to save their lives. April is National Donate Life Month, which seeks to bring awareness about the life-saving power of organ donation.

Established by Donate Life America and its partnering organizations in 2003, National Donate Life Month seeks to get more people to sign up for life-saving donor registries. The last week of the month focuses specifically on the pediatric transplant waiting list. National Pediatric Transplant Week is April 24th-30th. During this week, Donate Life America encourages people to share candidates’ patient stories, honor donor families, and celebrate milestones recipients have reached thanks to organ donation.

Stem Cell and Bone Marrow Transplants

Drawing of hands holding Most people have heard of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Another essential part of the treatment plan might be stem cell and bone marrow transplants. Healthy stem cells from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood are introduced for this type of treatment to replace diseased or damaged cells. These healthy cells can either come from the patient (an autologous transplant) or a donor (an allogeneic transplant). The first people considered for donors are often family members. Still, if no family members are genetic matches, patients can try to find a match from the National Marrow Donor Program. Over 65% of the 18,000 people who hope to receive blood stem cell transplantation need to find donors outside of their families.

Leukemia is the #1 childhood cancer, and it is the one most likely to benefit from bone marrow or stem cell transplants (SCT). SCT is often used for high-risk children whose leukemia is likely to relapse after remission. This type of treatment results in remarkably fewer relapses.

Cancer treatment damages stem cells, which are vital for fighting infection. Before receiving a stem cell transplant, children with cancer are given an extra high dose of chemotherapy to destroy their damaged bone marrow. The process of getting replacement stem cells takes weeks, and during this time, the child is highly vulnerable to infection.

Nearly 60% of Americans waiting for an organ transplant belong to minority groups. While an organ can be transplanted to anyone, there is a greater chance of longer-term survival if the genetic background of the donor and recipient are closely matched. This makes it particularly important for people of every ethnic background to become donors.

Access to this successful form of treatment is essential, but it is only possible if people sign up to donate. Without a wide range of donors, patients are less likely to find matches, and the treatment cannot proceed.

Here are some additional important events during the National Donate Life Month:

Donate Life Living Donor Day – April 6th

Poster saying

On this day, we celebrate and thank living organ and tissue donors. Living donors are particularly important for children being treated for cancer because treatment can cause liver problems. Donors can donate part of their liver, and it will grow in the recipient’s body. Most children ages 1-5 are waiting for a liver, heart, or kidney transplant. Liver and kidney transplants can both be done from living donors.

National Donate Life Blue & Green Spirit Week April 16-22nd

During this week, Donate Life encourages a whole week of celebrating volunteers, doing crafts, thanking healthcare heroes and spreading hope.

National Donate Life Blue & Green Day – April 22nd

Spirit Week culminates with Blue & Green Day. On this day, you can wear green and blue to emphasize the importance of registering as an organ, eye, and tissue donor.

Some events happen outside of April. Other National Observances to add to your calendar are National Minority Donor Awareness Month in August, National DMV Appreciation Month in September, and National Donor Sabbath in November.

Other Ways to Help

Please register as an organ donor! Visit DonateLife.net to register to become an organ, eye, and tissue donor. On bethematch.org, you can join the bone marrow registry or donate umbilical cord blood. Another easy way to become a donor is to register the next time you visit the DMV.

This month, consider how you can immediately and directly support families battling cancer. As I shared in this article, patients receiving stem cell transplants can be in the hospital for weeks. During this time, the family needs extra help to stay healthy themselves. Their priority shifts to their sick child, but that doesn’t mean other pressures or responsibilities disappear. Here to Serve is here to help. Consider donating to Here to Serve this month or check out our volunteer opportunities if you’re interested in donating your time and talent.

For more information:
cancer.org: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemia-in-children/treating/bone-marrow.html
HRSA Blood Stem Cell Registry: https://bloodstemcell.hrsa.gov/donor-information/donate-bone-marrow/joining-registry
Donate Life: https://www.donatelife.net/celebrations/
American Academy of Pediatrics: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/125/4/822/73165/Pediatric-Organ-Donation-and-Transplantation

By Kelly Markus

About the Author

Kelly Markus studied Film and Television and has spent time on sets in Los Angeles. Originally from the East Coast, she has moved back home. Since 2020, she has decided to refocus on writing. Having seen loved ones battle cancer, blogging for Here To Serve is close to her heart.

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.


It’s 2022; Why Do Demographic Disparities in Pediatric Cancer Still Exist in the United States?

It's 2022; Why Do Demographic Disparities in Pediatric Cancer Still Exist in the United States?

National Minority Cancer Awareness

Young boy looking back at reader

April is National Minority Cancer Awareness month, and the truth is we didn’t need the global pandemic to reveal what we already knew regarding the care of minorities with cancer. The overall availability of quality resources and treatments for diseases and illnesses is most definitely disproportioned when considering race and socio-economic status. Why do these disparities still exist in 2022? More importantly, why are children with cancer still not getting sufficient care regardless of household income or where they reside on the national map?

Pediatric cancer survival has undoubtedly improved in the United States for the past five decades to over 80%. However, differing outcomes among children and adolescents with cancer still affect many in the United States. Current studies have pinpointed characteristics associated with families receiving insufficient medical care for their child with cancer. The most vulnerable populations are patients of low socio-economic status living in medically underserved areas with no private insurance and Black or LatinX ethnicity. Medically Underserved Areas/Populations are designated by HRSA (Health Resource & Service Administration) as having too few primary care providers, high infant mortality, high poverty, or a high elderly population. It’s important to note that demographics, such as Native Americans/Alaskan Natives, outside these main observations residing in lower socio-economic areas also significantly struggle to find adequate cancer care. However, the percentages are lower based on population size.

Need for Racially Diverse Medicine in Childhood Cancer Care

Young girl of color smiling at camera

Multiple studies have demonstrated that minority people of color in the U.S. have worse cancer and cancer care outcomes than white people. One such large study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that in a cohort of 67,061 US children and adolescents, children and adolescents with racial/ethnic minority status had worse cancer survival compared with non-Hispanic white children and adolescents. Among non-Hispanic black and Hispanic (all races) children and adolescents, the disparity was generally more significant for cancer types with higher vs. lower relative survival rates. The differences in treatment of minority adults of color with cancer have been blatantly apparent, and unfortunately, this same risk is extended to minority children of color.

A child relies on their guardian to make sure they are fed, kept clean, and, most importantly, healthy. However, usually, children have no knowledge or control over what their parents can provide them, especially with a cancer diagnosis. It almost feels like children are caught in the crossfires of the unconscious racial bias that directly impacts the quality of their cancer care. There’s no biological basis for that. Instead, it is more likely that the health care system and society have varying biases towards persons who share different social conditions than their own. Social conditions are the places where people live, learn, work, and play. The giant pink elephant in the room and one of the many reasons the medical system seems to be failing members of historically underrepresented groups in the U.S. is conscious and unconscious bias and discrimination. If you didn’t realize before, then hopefully, you had an awakening during the Covid-19 pandemic that revealed again how minorities of color were at significantly higher risk of infection and mortality due to the virus.

Conscious and Unconscious BiasYoung boy smiling at camera

A lack of racial diversity within medical professionals has been directly correlated with a negative experience during general care and, notably, the extended cancer care journey. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people are vastly underrepresented as providers of health care. In terms of actual patient care, patients are more likely to trust providers that look like them. The best way to solve this problem is to have more workforce diversity, equity, and inclusion because it’s critical for improving health care equity for minority families. As National Minorities Health Month aims to bring awareness to health gaps in minority communities, many are left wondering how to make a difference in such a deeply rooted issue. The good news is that there seems to be a slow but present shift post-pandemic regarding cancer care equity. An increasing number of organizations are starting to understand the benefits of a diverse group of providers with various racial and ethnic backgrounds. In addition, the implementation of workplace diversity and inclusion training at many institutions will hopefully help providers confront their own biases to provide better and equal care for ALL patients, especially children with cancer.

Staying Diligent For Your ChildMinority cancer patient

As a parent and/or caregiver of a minority child with cancer, how can you stay informed and find equity in your cancer journey? It’s important to know who to contact and where to go as soon as your child is diagnosed with cancer, especially if you feel like you don’t have adequate resources available to you. Understandably, a pediatric cancer diagnosis adds an immediate sense of stress and fear for you and your child. If you live in a commonly underserved area, you may not even realize that the care afforded to you is limited. But, as a parent, if something feels lacking, go with your gut because additional resources are out there to help you. An increasing number of organizations offer help to minorities affected by cancer, and culturally sensitive family intervention programs have been found to help families cope with cancer significantly. Please check out some wonderful organizations with current programs to support minority cancer families.

  • Somos Latinas Contra Cancer-A is a leading service and advocacy organization for Latinos around cancer issues. Provides cancer health education, patient navigation, and psychosocial family support group services focused on underserved, low-income, and Spanish-speaking women and girls.
  • Black Women’s Health Imperative identifies the most pressing health issues that affect the nation’s 21 million Black women and girls and invests in strategies, partners, and organizations that ensure Black women live longer, healthier, and prosperous lives.
  • Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center-Has an entire program that specifically supports Indigenous people. Their goal is to reduce the impact of cancer on Indigenous communities regionally, nationally, and internationally.
  • American Indian Cancer Foundation-Working to eliminate the cancer burdens of Indigenous people through improved access to prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivor support.
  • Cure Childhood CancerDedicated to conquering childhood cancer through funding targeted research while supporting patients and their families.

If you or a friend or loved one has had a child recently diagnosed with cancer, please reach out to Here to Serve for help. Here to Serve provides practical wrap-around support to families who have a child or parent of a child(ren) diagnosed with cancer. Just click on the Get Help button. Here to Serve is here to help!

By Sameera Rangwala


Is Laughter the Best Medicine? Using Humor to Heal

Is Laughter the Best Medicine?

Using Humor to Heal

baby girl doing a handstand and smilingWhat makes you laugh? A funny movie, attending a comedy show, or telling jokes with friends and family members? Most people don’t think about what makes them laugh, but they know when something is funny. Humor and pediatric cancer, not words that go together like, Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy, but maybe there is a connection there? The act of laughing does affect the body and can produce physical and emotional changes. Humor cannot cure cancer, but scientific research has proven that humor during the cancer journey can help heal. 

In 1999, researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center, Mattel Children’s Hospital, and The Semel Neuropsychiatric Institute studied the effects of humor on the immune system of children and adolescents going through agonizing medical procedures. The results concluded that when children watched a funny or uplifting video, they could better tolerate painful medical procedures, and anxiety levels also decreased. This study eventually led to the creation of the nonprofit organization Rx Laughter, whose mission is to create “therapeutic and educational programs that use the power of comedy care to improve coping, communication and quality of life for those struggling with serious emotional and physical challenges.”

Benefits of Laughter Therapyyoung cancer patient mid laugh

Laughter Therapy has been studied and researched by many medical centers and universities across the globe since the 1960s. One area of exploration is humor’s benefits in the field of psychoneuroimmunology or the body’s ability to heal. Laughter changes brain chemistry and can boost the immune system, alter moods, reduce pain, and help alleviate stress.

Cancer in young people is tragic and often comes with pain and life-changing side effects. However, 21st-century medical advances help to increase the survival rate in children. According to the American Cancer Society, 85% of children with cancer survive five years or more. Having a skilled medical care team for a young child will increase the odds of survival. In addition, looking into simple alternative therapies can also aid in the cancer fight.

Positive Benefits of Laughter:
  • Endorphin Release-Laughter triggers the body’s natural chemicals produced by the nervous system and helps relieve pain and stress.
  • Immune System Boost-Laughter increases the immune cells by creatingInfection fighting antibodies.
  • Whole Body Relaxation-Laughter reduces physical tension in the body and aid in muscle relaxation for up to 45 minutes.
  • Increase Blood Flow-Laughter helps the heart improve blood vessel function and increases blood flow.

Laughter therapy is helpful to both the patient and caregivers. Using humor during the cancer journey can help relax the mind and body. The stress and uncertainty of being a primary caregiver increase the risk of sickness. Taking some time to simply laugh and find humor can release the anxiety of helping a young cancer patient. Finding something to laugh about together is an even better way to tackle the cancer journey. A nice benefit to laughter therapy is that it’s inexpensive and a low-risk activity with numerous benefits. Please consult with your child’s doctor; they might be aware of additional programs related to humor and laughter therapy.

Finding Humor During the Cancer Journeyyoung patient and her mom making funny faces

Cancer is no laughing matter, especially when it strikes a young child, but trying to find hope in a time of uncertainty is a positive way to cope with the challenges of the day-to-day fight. There are organizations throughout the United States, helping children fight cancer. Finding something to laugh at during this time is difficult but not impossible. One young boy’s story can offer optimism and let everybody know that it’s okay to laugh, and it’s comforting to find humor in tragedy.young patient laughing

Andrew Mercier was a young boy diagnosed with Leukemia. He loved playing practical jokes and making people laugh. While in the hospital, Andrew received a “farting unicorn” stuffed animal with a remote-controlled fart machine sewn inside. Andrew would use his unicorn to make others laugh. It was a funny way to cope with a horrible situation. Unfortunately, Andrew lost his battle with Leukemia, but his humorous legacy lives on through the nonprofit organization Andrew’s Laughing Gas. The organization provides young children with “tooting” stuffed animals so that they can find a reason to smile, laugh, and just be a kid as they fight through the disease. These photos above are of Hazel Hammersley, a Here to Serve patient family, who also lost her battle with neuroblastoma, but she found ways to laugh and smile during treatment and make others do the same.

Here to Offer Stress Relief

father and young son smilingIt would be amazing if watching SpongeBob Square Pants could cure cancer, but that will never happen. But finding humor and partaking in the simple acting of a deep belly laugh can make a person feel better. Even if this is only for a few fleeting minutes, it can help the body and mind to heal during the cancer fight. Here to Serve is also here to help during this fight. Our Care Coordinators can assist with a needs assessment so that your mental and physical strength can rejuvenate. We support by helping with finances, providing child care, and doing household chores. Our help gives you extra time to spend with your child and just be silly and have some laughs when the time is right.

By Chris Smith

About The Author

Chris Smith is a Here to Serve volunteer from the San Francisco Bay area who himself is a cancer survivor. He uses his professional experience as a technical writer to give back and provide clear and meaningful information for families with a child battling cancer.

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.


Acquiring Medical Supplies After a Cancer Diagnosis

Acquiring Medical Supplies After a Cancer Diagnosis

Preparing Your Home
Medical gloves with sanitizer and thermometer

Getting medical supplies to make your home cancer-patient friendly

Most households have a small stock of general first aid items and over-the-counter medicines for sicknesses like the common cold. But, nothing prepares your home for an unexpected medical crisis, such as a pediatric cancer diagnosis. It’s natural and understandable that the first thing you want to do is get ahold of your emotional state as you gather the mental strength to be the pillar for your child while they begin the cancer journey. Alas, you must prepare your home and collect the supplies needed to make the process smooth and comfortable for your child. Getting medical supplies to make your home cancer-patient friendly is very important. When going through cancer treatment, medical supplies are available that make life a little easier at home, and you may find them helpful as a caregiver for a child with cancer.

Preparing Your Home Ahead of Time!

Teddy bear with thermometer

Pediatric cancer treatment may require surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or even stem cell transplant. Once you get home, you might need to create a recovery area in a specific room, like your living room or bedroom. No matter the treatment type, is your room prepared? Here are some helpful tips to consider when prepping your designated healing space!

  • Is there a window or door nearby for air circulation or to get natural sunlight?
  • Are there shades that can block out the sun if needed during the day?
  • Can you get to water quickly, and if not, a place for a pitcher of water to sit?
  • Do you have bedpans and/or urinals?
  • Do you have extra pillows or a reading pillow?
  • Do you have a lap tray for tablets, laptops, books or other materials needed while in bed?
  • Are there drawers or containers to keep medications organized?
  • Do you need new sheets or a mattress pad?
  • Are there electrical outlets nearby for medical equipment, computer, TV, or phone chargers? Do you need a power strip plug/surge protector?
  • Is there a place to put an erase board to keep important information within sight?
  • Is there a table or a tray table next to the bed?
  • Do you like what you see? Decorate with things that make your child and you feel good, like plants and pictures of your family or maybe their favorite superhero!
Recommended Medical Supplies To Get First

The list of home medical supplies you might need will vary depending on your child’s cancer diagnosis, type,  and severity. Different treatment routes will have marked side effects that will range from mild to severe. The best thing you can do is be prepared and know the resources available. Here’s a list of medical supplies and equipment that you’ll undoubtedly need no matter what type of treatment is prescribed for your child.

  1. Bath & Skin
    • Shower chair exampleShower Chair – It can be incredibly physically demanding to stand in the shower for even 10 minutes or sit up in the bathtub when you are fatigued. Shower chairs make bathing easy and take very little energy from the patient. If you or your loved one is experiencing fatigue from cancer treatment, this is a must-have item.
    • Lotions, Ointments, and Moisturizers – For a cancer patient having the right skincare supplies goes beyond being a “luxury.” The same drugs that kill off the cancer cells also affect the growth of your skin cells. Most people know about the hair loss that comes with chemo, but treatments can also result in dull, graying skin that’s dry, sensitive, and irritated. Use products that are gentle, hydrating, and hypoallergenic. Avoid common allergens like fragrance, alcohol, preservatives, and botanical essential oils, which can be irritating or, even worse, cause an allergic reaction. Think about organic products that will cause no harm.
  2. Bedside commode exampleBedside Commode
    • Diarrhea and nausea are both side effects of chemotherapy, for example. There is often such an urgency that the patient may not make it to the restroom. Having a bedside commode makes it much more manageable. If you or the person you’re caring for is too self-conscious to use it, consider hanging a sheet around the commode (or using another type of divider) for privacy.
  3. Mobility Help
    • Metal Canes – for those who are independent enough to use a one-handed walking aid
    • Forearm CrutchesWalking equipment – used by those who have long-term or permanent mobility problems.
    • Walkers – help you remain mobile by providing stability and support while walking.
    • Rollators – walkers with wheels and brakes to eliminate having to lift the walker to walk. Brakes offer extra security when going down inclines. The walkers fold for transport, and many have seats so users can sit and rest when they get tired.
    • Manual Wheelchairs – For patients that cannot walk at all on their own.
  4. Disposable Wipes
    • Wipes of all kinds are essential to have at your disposal. They can be great for specific uses such as disinfection of surfaces and equipment, cleansing the body, or sanitary purposes. Most importantly, disposable wipes are necessary when a patient experiences the common side effects from most cancer treatments, such as fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. Be sure to stock up on these!
  5. Pill Pulverizer
    • Cancer medications often require swallowing pills.This can be challenging for some children, especially if they have never had to do this before diagnosis.Yellow pills You might think using a spoon or a homemade gadget could do the trick, but these techniques often make it difficult to crush pills and/or risk losing a large portion of the medication. A pill pulverizer allows tablets to be crushed easily and put in a liquid. Smaller pieces are great for a child who has difficulty swallowing or who might need to take many pills simultaneously and who is having difficulty swallowing them together or consecutively. It is also great for radiation patients who have dry mouth, making it difficult to swallow pills. Click here to see an example!
  6. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
    • PPE is the equipment worn by health care professionals to protect them from contact with infectious agents. However, it’s also important that you have basic PPE for your home to keep your child and caregivers safe from infection. PPE for home includes N95 masks, booties for shoes, gloves, disinfectant, gowns, and alcohol prep pads, and don’t forget to include hand sanitizer and sanitizer wipes.
KN95 maskHow to Get Low-cost or Free Medical Supplies

The cost of medical supplies can be an added and unforeseen expense for many cancer families. For help with medical supplies, first, check your insurance policy to learn whether these supplies are covered and under what circumstances. For example, Medicaid, Medicare, and some private insurance will pay for nutritional supplies and support for patients that need feeding tubes and other equipment for more than three months. Other possible sources of support are patient assistance programs offered by the product manufacturers. In some cases, a social worker through your hospital can find out what local agencies might provide discounts or additional cost savings on medical supplies.  

Strategies to Afford Medical Equipment:
  • Lady thinking to herselfRent instead of buying. Consider renting a hospital bed or patient lift (which helps move a patient from a bed to a chair, for example), especially if you temporarily need it during your child’s cancer treatment.
  • Ask about borrowing. Some assistive devices such as canes, crutches, and shower chairs may be available on loan for free or at low cost through a local civic organization, a nonprofit, or even your doctor’s office. Ask your doctor if they have a “loaner closet” where donated items are available.
  • Buy online. If you don’t need an item immediately, look for an affordable option online. For example, you might find a brand new bedside commode on Amazon for $40 with free delivery in two days. The same item at the local medical supply store could cost $100.
  • Shop at thrift stores. Many thrift stores carry medical equipment. For example, some Goodwill stores also have onsite mechanics who can fix equipment, make adjustments, or provide advice by telephone.
Programs that offer medical supplies free of charge or for a low cost include:
  • Blueprints For Pangaea – Reallocate unused medical supplies from areas of excess to areas in need. Contact a chapter in our home state.
  • The Healthwell Foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that helps patients with a chronic, life-altering disease afford their medications when health insurance is not enough.
  • Convalescent Aid Society – Provides communities in Southern California free loan of durable medical equipment for personal use to improve the quality of life during medical care.
  • The Durable Medical Equipment Aid Society – Provides in-home mobility and bath care durable medical equipment to individuals who lack the insurance or financial resources to secure mobility and bath care durable medical needed to assist in their daily living or in their recovery from an illness or injury (must be a resident of Los Angeles County or Ventura County).

Suppose you find that after reaching out to your healthcare provider, hospital administration, insurance, and cancer care program companies, you are still in need of essential medical supplies. In that case, we urge you to contact Here to Serve! We will do everything in our power to locate the supplies you need and connect you to direct resources for immediate help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us! Here to Serve provides countless services to assist families on their cancer journey including setting up ways to help that friends can assist with. If you’re looking for more personal ways to help, consider volunteering or donating to help families as they hurdle through the obstacles and challenges of caring for a child with cancer.  

By Sameera Rangwala

About the Author

Sameera Rangwala spent 10 years in the biotech industry. As a scientist and research professional, she uses her skills to blog and provide words of support to the cancer community.

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