Create Valentine Memories with Your Child

Create Valentine Memories with Your Child

Celebrate with Activities and Crafts

Baby girl with cancer smiling at the cameraWhen someone says, “Valentine’s Day,” it likely brings thoughts of romantic gestures and encounters. However, if we are honest, the most enduring memory is probably that of a shoebox carefully decorated and filled with notes from our schoolmates. Here are some tips on how to create memories and crafts with cancer patients. Thankfully, creating Valentine crafts with your child battling cancer, and their siblings, can be easy and fun.

Before we get to the crafts, just some brief thoughts on why we celebrate February 14th at all. While some attribute the holiday to a modernization of the ancient Christian St. Valentine feast day, no evidence exists that St. Valentine had anything to do with romantic love. Indeed, he met a rather grizzly end as a Christian martyr during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus. The more likely origin is the 14th– century poet Geoffrey Chaucer, who penned a poem including stanzas that refer to birds mating:

“For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”

A sweet smile from Angelina.

Evidently this poem became very popular amidst the nobility, and there began the trend of penning notes of affection on St. Valentine’s Day.

Whatever the origins, February is a month when most of us appreciate a little love. While holidays may look a little different for families of children with cancer, Valentine’s Day offers many fun activities and crafts that are themed for the occasion and can be done almost anywhere. Warning: choosing from the following crafty ideas may not be easy!

Creating crafts with cancer patients

  • Young girl with cancer smilingPipe cleaner heart rings from One Little Project. These rings are sure to impress and super easy to make! The materials are inexpensive and relatively easy to get.
  • Rocking paper plate birds from I Heart Crafty Things. This cute little craft is simple and kids can make it unique with their own color scheme and creative touches.
  • Candy heart frames from Happiness is Homemade. Everyone loves the classic conversation heart candies that appear in stores around Valentine’s Day. This is a great project that utilizes the extra candies if you can’t finish the whole bag!
  • Secret message valentine from Crafts by Amanda. Kids love the concept of magic and this craft is sure to delight. With a few easily obtained supplies, participants will create their own magic trick and send a carefully crafted message to their family member or friend.
  • Salt dough hearts from The Best Ideas for Kids. For a longer lasting product, these ornaments made with household items such as: flour, salt and paint will be a hit!
  • Fingerprint heart tree from Arty Crafty Kids. We all know that kids love getting their hands dirty and making a mess! This is a great way to get those creative juices flowing and allow them to be messy in a monitored environment that also leads to a positive outcome.
  • Rainbow heart suncatchers from Fireflies and Mudpies. These beautiful creations will look great in the window with the sun shining through and are a creation that can be displayed throughout the year.
  • Valentine’s Day bird feeders from Simple Joy. This craft is awesome because once completed, you have a snack for the birds that also allows kids to spend some time outside figuring out where they want to hang it. It’s an opportunity to discuss nature as well, so cool!
  • Love bug book marks from Kid Friendly Things To Do. These little book marks are so cute and another chance for kids to explore their own creativity by making it their own.
  • Stuffed hearts from School Time Snippets. The final craft we are featuring allows kids to practice their motor skills while also practicing caring for the environment! By using recycled paper bags and old plastic bags, you’re reducing waste and reusing items as well.

These awesome craft projects are kid friendly and don’t require a big investment of time or money for the parent. Creating crafts with cancer patients is a great way of making memories and spending quality time with loved ones. We hope you enjoy the projects and can spend Valentine’s Day with loved ones creating happy memories and maybe even a craft or two!

Here to Serve loves Valentine’s Day, a day to think of our loved ones and send a special thank you to our community. We also know these “special” holidays can bring up strong emotions. We are here to provide support and resources. If you or someone you know has a child with cancer and are in need of tangible support and resources, please contact Here to Serve. Click on the Get Help button from our homepage and a member of our team will reach out.

By Haley Charles

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.


How a Cancer Diagnosis Impacts Young Families and What They Can Do to Get Help

How a Cancer Diagnosis Impacts Young Families and What They Can Do to Get Help

Did you know that cancer is the second leading cause of death among children?

Mom and daughter sleeping in hospital bed

The Impact of a Childhood Cancer Diagnosis

I think many of us know of someone who is battling cancer or who has survived cancer. Some of us, like myself, have even lost family members to this terrible disease. Cancer impacts families. I remember visiting an uncle who had been battling cancer for a long time and distinctly recall feeling shocked at his transformation. The once energetic, talkative man was no more and in his place was this terribly gaunt figure covered in hospital tubes.

It was a scary experience. That was the first time I saw what cancer can do to a person.

Over the next few years, I lost two young relatives to blood cancer. They too underwent long-term treatment and considering all the progress made in the field of cancer research, I had hoped and prayed that they would be cured.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. I was heartbroken when I received the devastating news.

A cancer diagnosis is catastrophic at any age, even more so in the case of a child. Many families, like those of my cousins, go into fight mode in order to beat the disease that is attacking their kids. Thus begin the many medical appointments, hospitalizations, and grueling rounds of treatment in the journey back to wellness.

Pediatric Cancer Stories

Sadly, not every childhood cancer story has a happy ending.

4-year-old Yan Yan lost his battle with cancer in April of this year. Though this little boy and his parents, Paul and Abby, fought valiantly to save his life, in the end, the terrible disease ravaging his body refused to release its hold.

Young boy that unfortunately passed away from cancer

Initially thought to be a heat rash, little Ayden was later diagnosed with leukemia when a vigilant doctor ordered further blood tests to be performed. At that time, Ayden’s parents, Ethan and Iliana, had just arrived in Costa Rica for a preplanned vacation when Ethan’s mother called them with the awful news. The distraught parents got on the first available flight back to the US just in time for their son’s first procedure which involved a lumbar puncture and having a PICC (peripherally inserted central catheter) line inserted.

Young boy with leukemia preparing for a lumbar puncture

Following the procedure, Ethan and Iliana were able to hold, hug and kiss their son. Ayden then got to sit on his mother’s lap while being wheeled to his hospital room.

Iliana has been faithfully documenting Ayden’s journey on her Facebook page.

Facing Multiple Cancer Diagnoses

A wife, and mother, Kathleen Quintas experienced the biggest crisis in her life when both her son, Bryan, and husband, Silvio, were diagnosed with cancer just 6 months apart; her son with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and her husband with leukemia. What was more, they were both being treated at two different hospitals in California.

My son was in one hospital, City of Hope, and my husband was being treated at UCLA. Schedules did not always match up. Add to that the dietary restrictions of my son who is a Celiac and during treatment could not eat fresh fruits or vegetables, it is not a pretty picture for anyone attempting to help.”

Photo of Katie Quintas, whose late husband and son were diagnosed with cancer

In his testimonial, her late husband, Silvio C. Quintas called his wife a real hero for being a caregiver to both himself and their son while holding down a full-time job in order to pay the bills.

Young cancer patient with a chest tube

Cancer is the second leading cause of death among children. According to the latest data, an estimated 10,470 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among children from birth to 14 years, and about 1,050 children are expected to die from the disease. As a result, pediatric cancer is the leading cause of disease-related deaths among children.

What happens after a pediatric cancer diagnosis?

The burden of care shifts from hospitals to families and caregivers once a pediatric cancer survivor comes home. Cancer impacts families in many ways. Things can quickly get overwhelming for a family, from grueling hospital visits to providing care and managing finances. Although friends and family often offer their help and provide a support system, that does not always meet the family’s needs for the duration of the treatment.

Cancer journeys can be long and arduous, and the once dedicated helpers often move on, sometimes thinking the family is able to manage their new normal after a while. That is often not true. It is farther along in the journey that things get really tough. You’re drained of energy, and in need of respite, finances get worse, and the list goes on.

How to Get Help

What if there is an organization that is able to provide wraparound services to meet the daily living needs of young families navigating cancer throughout the journey? Cancer affects families in many ways, we are here to help.

Katie Quintas founded Here to Serve, a nonprofit organization based in California, from her experience dealing with the cancer diagnoses of both her husband and son: “I conceived of Here to Serve to organize and bring together, not only the community of volunteers who wish to help but also the many support services that often go untapped because you either are not aware of them or do not have the energy to seek them out.”

How can Here to Serve help your family?

  • Mobilize others to meet the daily living requirements of families with children battling cancer for the entirety of their cancer treatment, which for some can mean years.
  • Online Care Communities that provide a network of services and financial assistance for families caring for their child or spouse battling cancer.
  • Provide hard-to-find pediatric cancer resources at the start and throughout treatment as needs arise.

I invite you to share this post with families who are struggling with cancer so they can get support in their journey from Here to Serve.

This post was originally published on Medium.com

By: Yana Bostongirl

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.


Need a New Year’s Resolution? Donate Blood!

Need a New Year's Resolution? Donate Blood!

Help Overcome the Blood Crisis

What if you could save a life in 10 minutes?Donate Blood

That’s right. 10 minutes.

Every 2 seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood. Donating blood is one of the easiest things you can do to make the biggest impact on someone’s life, and the actual donation is usually less than 10 minutes. January is National Blood Donor Month, making it a great time to raise awareness about the importance of blood donation and the impact it can have on those in need–especially children with pediatric cancer.

Pediatric cancer patients often require multiple blood transfusions during the course of their treatment. These transfusions can help to replace red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets that are lost or damaged due to chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. However, it has been difficult to keep a consistent supply of blood on hand for patients, even the ones who need it most.

It’s not just a shortage, it’s a crisisBlood Crisis in the USA

Last year, the American Red Cross declared the first ever national blood crisis due to a severe blood shortage.  COVID-19 caused a 10% decline in the number of the people donating blood. This has led to serious consequences, as the country relies heavily on donated blood to meet the demand for blood transfusions and other medical procedures. Some hospitals may not receive as much as one-quarter of the blood products they need. This leads to delays or even the cancellations of necessary medical procedures, and can compromise the health and well-being of those in need of blood transfusions.

That’s where blood donors come in. Blood donations can make a huge difference in the lives of pediatric cancer patients. They can help to improve energy levels, reduce the risk of infection, and improve overall quality of life. In some cases, blood transfusions can even be life-saving.

Person donating bloodBe part of the 3%

One of the big reasons for the blood shortage is only 3% of age-eligible people donate blood yearly. These donors are integral to supplying life-saving blood to people around the country. But we can do better than 3%! There are several ways that individuals and organizations can get involved and help support pediatric cancer patients during National Blood Donor Month.

  • Donate blood yourself. Use this tool from the American Red Cross to find a drive near you. Type O, especially O-negative, is the most requested blood type from hospitals.
  • Host a blood drive, or lead one through your company. This might not be as complicated as you think and with the right team, you’ll have a ton of support to make a huge differenceAmerican Red Cross blood drive
  • Volunteer with the Red Cross to support blood drives. This can be anything from greeting to transportation
  • Raise awareness via social media. If you’re unable to donate blood yourself, you can still make a difference by spreading the word about the importance of blood donation. Share information about National Blood Donor Month on social media and encourage others to donate or host their own blood drives. Even sharing this blog with others can help educate people on the importance of donating blood this year.

To kick off 2023, National Blood Donor Month is a great opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of blood donation and the impact it can have on those in need. By getting involved, we can make a real difference, especially in the lives of children and families affected by pediatric cancer. Whether you donate blood yourself, host a blood drive, or simply spread the word about the importance of blood donation, you can play a crucial role in supporting pediatric cancer patients and helping to save lives.

Here to Serve can make a difference

As we approach the new year with new intentions, Here to Serve remains true to its mission of helping families dealing with the burdens of pediatric cancer. Learn more about the wide range of services we offer, and if you or someone you know needs support, get help today!

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.

References

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.


Happy 2023! Real Resolutions for Kids with Cancer

Happy 2023!

Real Resolutions for Kids with Cancer

As another year ends, the common thread of the world is to create goals, resolutions and promises for betterment in the New Year. However, cancer patients, survivors, and caretakers struggle with many challenging questions. Will my child’s treatment work?  Will I get sick from the stress? Will life ever be “normal” again?  These questions tend to have a more substantial presence at the start of a new year. It’s absolutely understandable and expected that the fear of uncertainty is overwhelming as you make plans for your family’s future.  Instead of setting unrealistic goals, focus on what you can control and stay positive at any level. We’ve found some simple strategies and expert advice to help your family remain optimistic and motivated in 2023!

Grandmother reading to her grand kids

Photo by Mikhail Nilov

Jennifer Katzenstein, Ph.D., from the Center for Behavioral Health at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, provides some practical tips to help parents make resolutions with their children. Whether you make resolutions with a child with a pediatric cancer diagnosis or other children in the household, it’s essential to include everyone in individual goal-setting. Even if it’s just one or two realistically achievable goals, all children benefit from something to be accountable for. 

Dr. Katzenstein emphasizes that the key is making sure these are achievable resolutions and that everyone feels that they want to achieve the resolution, is excited about it, and has some level of independence in choosing the resolution or resolutions. Keep resolutions positive. We want these to be things we should be doing, not something to avoid.

Top Real Resolutions for Families with a Cancer Diagnosis:
Kindess
  • One act of random or planned kindness a day has been shown to have psychological benefits to how someone copes with difficulty and also physically releases “happy” endorphins to improve moods for a positive outlook.
    • Give a family member a daily compliment.
    • Parents practice daily praise for their children, and children practice everyday thankfulness to their parents.
    • Put a treat out for delivery and postal services that come to your home.
Volunteer More
  • Several service opportunities can be done from the comfort of your home. Taking time out monthly to volunteer instills the value of service in your children, which is an invaluable quality.
    • Send a cheer email to lonely seniors or write notes to nursing home residents.
    • Make car window poetry
    • Write a letter to a Veteran
    • Make dog toys using old t-shirts!
    • Make a Zoom Connection
Learning a new word daily
  • This is an easy resolution to keep and helps expand your family’s vocabulary. So many free sites and phone apps will give you the perfect word of the day your whole family can learn.
    • New York Times
    • Merriam-Webster
Reframing a Negative Thought
  • Choose a negative thought or forgiving a person or situation individually or as a family daily that you can change your outlook on. Dr. David Burns, a renowned psychiatrist and award-winning researcher, gives core advice on “Reframing.” Reframing is an actual technique used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to identify automatic thoughts and replace them with more balanced ones. Identifying and stopping negative thoughts is crucial in breaking the cycles of stress, anxiety, and depression that so many families with a cancer diagnosis find themselves stuck in. To learn more, check out Dr. Burns’s excellent book, The Feeling Good Handbook.
    Don’t forget to display resolutions!New Year Resolutions poster

    Having everyone write their resolution and posting it in a place seen every day is a great idea. A simple dry-erase board quickly reminds the whole family of the resolutions you’ve committed to. Or give your kids the important job of putting a bead or stone in a jar to track how many resolutions you’ve accomplished. Put together a family competition of how many days in a row you can stay true to your resolution. When you miss a day, you have to start again, and whoever has the longest streak each month wins!

    The most important thing is to sit down and discuss your New Year 2023 plan as a family and ensure kids are allowed to make their own resolution too. A new year is a fresh start full of much fun and opportunity, even as you find your balance with cancer.

    Need Cancer Care Support?

    If you are a family with a newly diagnosed child with cancer 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 2023, filled with an abundance of health, joy, and many fulfilled resolutions! Happy New Year!

    About the Author

    Sameera Rangwala spent over 15 years in the biotechnology industry. 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.


    Here to Serve Looks Forward in 2023

    Here to Serve Looks Forward in 2023

    A Word from our Founder

    Katie_QuintasAwareness. Awareness is our Here to Serve goal for 2023. And through greater awareness of Here to Serve’s mission, we will ultimately be able to bring more support to families of pediatric and young spouse cancer patients.

    To achieve our goals, we have been working hard over the past year to build our internal support. I am pleased to announce that Here to Serve now has an expanded Board of Directors and Advisory Board. All members are highly respected professionals in their fields, and most have a personal understanding of the challenges a family must overcome when faced with a cancer diagnosis. The first task of the Board of Directors and Advisory Board is to form a long-range strategic plan that will allow us to turn our dreams into action. With the new board in place as of December 2022, we will begin solidifying the strategic plan and share progress over the coming months.

    We also have a strong base of volunteers working in many ways to keep our daily operations moving forward. They, too, have been working to create operational structures and strengthen the various aspects of our organization. I am grateful for their belief in Here to Serve.

    Here to Serve would not function without our Community Caregivers. They are the heart of the organization, the people in direct contact with our families. Their ability, resources, and dedication to providing non-medical support in the daily lives of families are remarkable.

    Most of you know that I created Here to Serve as a direct result of my personal cancer journey with my son and beloved husband. I had, and continue to have, a burning passion for giving others the type of support needed during those challenging days. The greatest blessing I have received through the past eleven years as President and Founder of Here to Serve has been the many amazing children and young parents I have been privileged to know. Their strong spirits and the love of their families are a daily reminder that Here to Serve is a much-needed element of support; my passion is now directed at providing that support to more children and their families.

    I begin this year with confidence and gratitude, knowing Here to Serve has such a strong cohort of professionals, volunteers, and staff dedicated to bringing Here to Serve to the next level of service for our families on their cancer journeys.

    Thank you for your continued support and belief in our mission. Our organization looks forward to 2023. And Happy New Year 2023!

    Kathleen Quintas is the CEO at Here to Serve, providing practical, non-medical, wrap-around, living support to families of pediatric cancer children.


    Navigating the Holidays When a Loved One Has Cancer

    Navigating the Holidays When a Loved One Has Cancer

    Creating a Safe Environment for Your Loved Ones

    Happy HolidaysThe holidays and end of year celebrations are important to all of us. They help us continue our cultural and family traditions. Gathering, lighting candles, baking traditional sweets, creating the remembered meal from your childhood, all help us maintain connections. When a loved one has cancer, we need extra support and help. When balancing the health needs of a loved one fighting cancer, some of these traditions need to be modified, especially with the current environment of continued Covid cases, flu, and RSV. Here are a few tips on how to celebrate and provide a safe environment for your loved ones:

    QUALITY TIME

    Gathering with family and friends is always a joy. A silver lining moment from the recent pandemic is the realization that gathering virtually can create lasting memories. Schedule some video chats with family and friends to share some memories, tell some stories, or just watch the children open their presents. A quiet word to participants ahead of the call to ask them to focus on the joy of the season, not the cancer diagnoses, will help everyone come away uplifted.

    Gingerbread manADAPT TRADITIONS

    Outdoor activities may not be possible for a cancer patient. Perhaps some indoor activities such as a game night or carols could turn into a new holiday tradition. If some family members do participate in events, make sure they video tape the activity to share (especially if the patient must remain in the hospital).

    ACCEPT THE GIFT OF KINDNESS

    Accepting help from friends and neighbors sometimes feels overwhelming when you need to focus your time on your child and their needs. However, people are especially generous during the holidays, so think about how they can help you and ask for specific meals, let someone wrap your presents, do some errands, walk your dog. Ayden in the photo was able to enjoy his Christmas through the generosity of others who came alongside the family and bought gifts for the entire family through Here to Serve. Their gifts were wrapped and ready to put directly under the tree!

    Young boy on Christmas morningSIMPLIFY AND ADAPT

    For this holiday season, maybe ordering the main holiday meal, letting a neighbor provide the meal, or cooking something simple is a good substitute to your traditional feast. Rather than elaborate deserts, a package of cookie dough and some sprinkles may be just the memory everyone needs. Most places of worship perfected sharing spiritual messages over the past two years. Ask a friend to find the computer link to a service at your local church, synagogue, or mosque and enjoy the service and support together as a family.

    BEWARE OF GERMS

    ‘Tis the season for the flu! With more cold and flu cases and increasing cases of COVID-19, this time of year can be especially hard for someone with a weakened immune system due to cancer treatment. Follow safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and encourage others to do the same.

    GIVE THE GIFT OF GRACE TO YOUR FAMILY

    A child diagnosed with cancer, and the intensity of medical treatments, is one of the most difficult experiences a family will endure. All days will not go smoothly, and the emotional ups and downs are frequently overwhelming. So, try to be gentle with yourself and those around you.

    HERE TO SERVE

    For eleven years, Here to Serve has been supporting families as they navigate their cancer journeys. Here To Serve specializes in the additional needs your family will encounter during your cancer journey: everyday needs such as communicating your child’s progress to family and friends, managing your household, and coordinating daily tasks. If you or someone you know is a caregiver of a child with cancer and needs support with everyday tasks, errands, or locating resources to make life with cancer easier, don’t hesitate to contact Here to Serve. We are here to help.

    By Valerie Cox

    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.


    Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

    Nutrition During Cancer Treatment

    Celebrating the Month of Eat better, Eat Together!

    Siblings smiling at dinnerWe all know how important good nutrition is to our physical and emotional health. Navigating cancer treatments and schedules can make it difficult to find the time or energy to cook a nutritious meal. So, in honor of Eat Better, Eat Together Month, which is celebrated in October, we’ve put together a list of five family-friendly recipes and some mealtime tips to make to help mealtimes a little more enjoyable. We hope that you find our list of ‘meals that heal’ useful. It is true that any time of year is a good time to learn to eat better and together!

    Mealtime Tips:
    • Make sure everyone is seated around a table or switch the atmosphere and have a picnic. The important thing is to create a more communal atmosphere and encourage conversation.
    • Get the kids involved in preparing the meal. This can help teach them about cooking and nutrition, and it can be a fun bonding experience.
    • Find some colorful paper plates and let the kids set the table. This also has the benefit of no washing up for Mom and Dad!
    • Remove the technology distractions.
    • Ask everyone about their day. If you have some shy ones at the table, try the Rose, Thorn, Bud game. A Rose is something nice that happened that day, a Thorn something you didn’t like, and a Bud something you’re looking forward to. This is a subtle way of gauging the emotions of your kids and family without having to ask or pry.
    5 Family-Friendly recipes for Meals that Heal
    Tacos

    Taco night is a fun and easy way to get everyone involved in the kitchen, especially when you get to customize your own tacos with their favorite toppings. For an extra nutrient boost, try using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef. Serve with a side of refried beans and a fruit salad for a complete meal.

    Ingredients:

    -1 pound ground turkey, chicken, or beef

    -1 tablespoon chili powder

    -1 teaspoon cumin

    -1 teaspoon garlic powder

    -1/2 teaspoon salt

    -1/2 cup water

    -10-12 taco shells or tortillas

    Toppings:

    -1/2 cup shredded cheese

    -1/2 cup diced tomatoes

    -1/4 cup chopped green onions

    -Sour cream

    Instructions:

    1. In a large skillet, cook the ground turkey or chicken over medium heat until browned. Drain any excess fat and stir in the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes or until the water has evaporated.
    2. Assemble the tacos by spooning the meat mixture into the taco shells. (Fun tip: Put a tortilla on the outside of the hard-shell taco for a crunchy taco that doesn’t fall apart.)
    3. Let everyone add their own toppings!
    Tortellini Minestrone SoupBaby happily drinking juice box

    This recipe is a crowd-pleaser, especially in the winter. Plus, who doesn’t love pasta in soup?

    Ingredients:

    -1 tablespoon olive oil

    -1 white onion, diced

    -3 cloves garlic, minced

    -3 carrots, peeled and diced

    -2 zucchini, diced

    -1 red pepper, diced

    -28-ounce can diced tomatoes

    -6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

    -1 teaspoon dried basil leaves

    -1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

    -1/2 teaspoon salt

    -Freshly ground black pepper to taste

    -10-ounce package frozen cheese tortellini

    -1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

    Instructions:

    1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrots, zucchini, and red pepper. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, basil, thyme, salt and black pepper to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the tortellini and cook according to the package directions. Divide the soup among 4 bowls. Sprinkle each bowl with Parmesan cheese and serve hot. This tastes even better as leftovers!
    One-Pot Italian Chicken and Rice

    This One-Pot Italian Chicken and Rice is a quick and easy meal that the whole family will love. It’s made with just seven simple ingredients and takes less than 30 minutes to cook.

    Ingredients:

    -1 tablespoon olive oil

    -1/2 onion, diced

    -1 red bell pepper, diced

    -1 chicken breast, cut into small strips

    -1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

    -1/2 teaspoon salt

    -1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    -1 cup white rice, uncooked

    -2 cups chicken broth or stock

    -1/4 cup chopped parsley

    Instructions:

    1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
    2. Add the chicken strips, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
    3. Stir in the rice and chicken broth or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is cooked through. Stir in the chopped parsley before serving.
        Girl happily eating her breakfastBreakfast Burrito Meal Prep

        Meal-prepping nutritious breakfast meals like this one can save you a ton of time and provide nutrients and protein to start the day off right.

        Ingredients:

        -10 eggs, beaten

        -1/2 cup diced onion

        -1 red bell pepper, diced

        -1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

        -1/2 cup diced tomato

        -1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

        -1/4 teaspoon salt

        -1/4 teaspoon black pepper

        -10 flour tortillas (burrito size)

        -1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

        -1 1/2 cups salsa

        -1 cup guacamole

        Instructions:

        1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
        2. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, onion, bell peppers, tomato, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper. Mix well.
        3. Place the tortillas on the prepared baking sheet. Divide the egg mixture evenly among the tortillas. Top with shredded cheese and salsa. Bake for 15 minutes or until the tortillas are cooked through and the cheese is melted. Serve with guacamole on the side.
        Banana Soft Serve

        How could we forget dessert?! When you or your kids are craving something sweet, this easy

        Banana soft serve has whole ingredients, and protein, and can be whipped up in just 5 minutes!

        Ingredients:

        -2 frozen bananas

        -1/4 cup milk or cream

        -1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup (optional)

        -1 tablespoon peanut butter (optional)

        Instructions:

        1. Place the bananas in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
        2. Add the milk or cream and blend until smooth. If using a blender, add the milk or cream slowly so you can keep the soft serve consistency.
        3. (Optional) Add peanut butter, honey, or maple syrup.
        4. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for later. Enjoy!
          Here to Serve

          Here to Serve can help lift the burden of grocery shopping and even home meal coordination. We can also provide additional recipes and meal suggestions tailored to your dietary restrictions and help you make a customized meal plan. We know that meals and nutrition are just one of the many things families need to consider along the cancer journey. At Here to Serve, our resource referrals can also assist families in finding additional mental health resources, financial services, transportation, lodging, organizational assistance, spiritual support, and more. If you or someone you know could benefit from our services, sign up here.

          By Emily Rogalin

          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.


          Holiday Rituals While Caring for a Cancer Patient

          Holiday Rituals While Caring for a Cancer Patient

          National Cookie Day December 2022

          Holiday rituals give us structure and provide links to our families and our cultures. When caring for a cancer patient, some holiday festivities might be difficult to attend or engage in. National Cookie Day on December 4th is a reminder that not all rituals are complicated, some are easy and sweet. Bakers across the country warm up the ovens for holiday baking, and we enjoy giving tins of cookies to friends and family all season long. Baking cookies in the comfort of your own home is a relatively easy and stress-free activity to do with your kiddo that results in some tasty treats for all to enjoy!

          Sugar cookies in the shape of hearts

          Cookies are a beloved treat enjoyed by many and used around the world to celebrate special occasions. The English word “cookie” comes from the Dutch word “koek,” or cake. There’s no better way to enjoy an afternoon with a friend or family member than baking cookies. Cookies are also a great gift to include in care packages for other families that may be having a hard time during the holiday season.

          There are thousands of cookie recipes to choose from, so we picked a few that are personal favorites and not too time intensive. Some of the following cookie flavors are holiday options while others are classic favorites. These recipes are all low sugar or sugar free. Give the kids a jar of sprinkles and you’re all set. Happy baking!

          Recipes

          You’ll definitely need a warm beverage to enjoy with the cookies you baked. Hot chocolate, apple cider and chai are a few of the delicious drink recipes we’ve chosen to share with you. These recipes are all low sugar or sugar free as well.

          Other Fun Activities for the Holidays

          Some other fun ideas for indoor holiday activities on National Cookie Day include: board games, charades, card games, a tea party, completing puzzles, reading books and holiday movies. A few of my personal favorite holiday movies include:

          • Home Alone: “When little Kevin McCallister is accidentally left behind when his family dashes off on a Christmas trip, he is left to defend his family’s home from two bumbling burglars until the relatives return.”
          • A Christmas Story: “In this holiday classic, Ralphie, a young boy growing up in the ‘40’s, dreams of owning a Red Rider BB gun. He sets out to convince the world this is the perfect gift.”
          • Elf: “One Christmas Eve long ago, a baby crawled into Santa’s bag of toys raised as an elf. Buddy goes looking for his true place in the world-in New York City.”
          • How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Grinch tells the story of a cynical grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have this heart changed by a young girl’s generous holiday spirit.”
          • Polar Express: “A doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.”
          Need Holiday Support?

          Here To Serve understands the holidays can be difficult for families with a sick loved one. Caring for a cancer patient is exhausting. 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 plenty of sprinkles!

          By Hayley Charles

          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.


          Essential Steps to Take After a Cancer Diagnosis

          Essential Steps to Take After a Cancer Diagnosis

          Reclaim Your Power

          Patient with wife and doctorAs a young family, finding out that your child or spouse has been diagnosed with cancer can be the most devastating moment in your life. Nothing quite compares to knowing there isn’t much you can do to protect your child or spouse from this awful disease. However, there are some ways to reclaim your power over the sickness to best support your family. Follow along for some essential steps to take when your child is diagnosed with cancer.

          Take a Moment to Understand

          The first thing you need to do when your child or spouse receives a cancer diagnosis take a moment to process the information. Ask the doctors to repeat the diagnosis several times if you need it, and take notes to reference later. Since your emotions will be heightened, you will want the exact diagnosis to look at when leaving the doctor’s office and when you eventually tell family and friends. You can also ask for copies of test results to reference later. If it helps you process the diagnosis and prognosis, you can consider getting a second opinion with another oncologist.

          Most importantly, ask your child or spouse’s team to explain to you the essentials of care at home. Regrading pediatric cancer, in a previous blog (pain of pediatric cancer) we shared that going through treatment, your child will be uncomfortable while experiencing treatment’s side effects. Sometimes hospitals even offer classes or groups for parents of children with cancer. Here you can discuss the topics with families in similar situations as yours.

          Set Up Your Finances
          Financial checklist

          Image by Vector4Stock on Freepic

          Once you’ve taken some time to process your child’s diagnosis, you’ll need to get some logistics in order. This includes organizing your finances. Over the months, or possibly years, that your child is in treatment, you’ll need to work closely with your insurance provider and the hospital billing department to devise a payment plan for treatment. Additionally, there may be other personal costs, like time off of work, in-home assistance, extra gas and hospital parking, co-pays, and any of your usual recurring expenses. Some organizations can help alleviate these costs, and your hospital social worker will also be able to see what you qualify for in your area. If Here to Serve charity is helping you, they can also assist in these things.

          Take a minute to sit down and organize your finances throughout the time that your child will be receiving care. An organized budget will be crucial to get you through this challenging time without adding any additional stress. First, list any recurring expenses and see what can be reduced during this time, such as eating out or unused subscription services. Then look at your fixed payments to see if there’s any way for you to reduce them. Some companies have financial hardship policies that you may be eligible for. Meaning if you’ve been in good financial standing with the company over a long period and you explain your hardship, they may be able to reduce your payments or come up with a more suitable payment plan. You should pursue this with phone, internet, and utility companies, as well as any other fixed expenses you have.

          Additionally, if you’re a homeowner, you can look into how home equity loans work to give you a financial cushion. A home equity loan uses the difference between what your home is worth and what you owe on your mortgage to provide you with a lump of cash to use at your discretion. This is a suitable option should you need to consolidate debt or cover unexpected expenses throughout this time.

          Calendar with medical reminders

          Image by vectorjuice on Freepik

          Create a New Routine

          The next essential step for you and your family will be creating a new sense of normalcy. Although this may not be your typical normal, getting into a routine as much as possible will help everyone in the family transition during treatment. Talk to your family and friends, as they’ll likely want to help out in any way they can such as rides or preparing your meals. Creating a schedule for these types of things will help everyone in the family keep track of when you’ll need additional assistance.

          Talk to your employer about family leave options. Taking time to process the treatment and care for your child will leave you feeling more supported. Family leave policies vary drastically by state, and some states don’t even have mandated policies so it’s up to employers. Options can range from a leave of absence to paid family leave. The amount of time allowed out of office will also depend on your employer. Explain to your employer the circumstances you’re in and hopefully, they’ll sympathize and try to support you as much as they can.

          Additionally, you’ll want to keep some sense of your family life, before cancer, alive during your child’s treatment if possible. Talk to your child’s doctors and see what their limitations are. For example, some children can go on vacations out of state, while others may need family movie nights at home or in the hospital. Either way, by talking with the care team, you’ll better understand how to integrate some normalcy into your child’s time throughout treatment.

          Finding out about your child or spouse’s cancer diagnosis can be extremely overwhelming. But following some of these tips and reading up on more expert advice can help you navigate the process. For more information on essential steps to take when your child is diagnosed with cancer, please check out the Here to Serve website and our blogs.

          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.


          Learning from the World’s Centenarians

          Learning from the World’s Centenarians

          National Gratitude Month 2022

          Thank you cardParents that have gone through the cancer journey know that maintaining their own physical and emotional health is crucial, and one way to maintain some balance is to have gratitude. However, feeling gratitude is a difficult ask when a family is faced with a cancer diagnosis. This National Gratitude Month we hope to discuss how giving gratitude can improve the quality of your life.

          Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, identified “Blue Zones” throughout the world. These are areas with high concentrations of inhabitants living past the age of 100. The zones were found in a wide range of geographical and cultural areas, including Japan, Italy, Costa Rica, Greece, and the United States of America. He and his team also found that, although the locations had many differences, the Centenarians also shared nine specific lifestyle habits that he calls the Power 9.

          Smiling grandma at family dinner

          Photo by RODNAE Productions

          Let’s look at these habits of our planets’ centenarians and see if they can be helpful in your journey through these difficult days:

          Find your Ikigai.

          Ikigai is the Japanese concept of finding purpose in your life. Ikigai isn’t just your career or household chores. It’s the thing that gets you up every morning and keeps you going. For parents and close caretakers, this could be how you dedicate yourself to your child through their cancer journey. Finding gratitude in putting a smile on your child’s face daily and keeping that as your daily ikigai has the potential to keep you focused through the rough patches of everyday life amid cancer.

          StatueCultivate a Moai.

          Moai is an Okinawan tradition of forming and keeping a close network of people around you to provide support. People need people, and this concept has long been studied as one of the most important things for a long, happy life. Knowing you have a safety net to lend financial and emotional support when you need it the most can add to your peace of mind. Make a mental list of everything you are grateful for, this National Gratitude Month. Who are you grateful for?

          Loved Ones First.

          Sardinians uphold strong family values, and this way of living ensures that every family member receives supportive care, no matter what happens to them. The centenarians of Sardinia, and other Blue Zones, believe that people who live in strong, healthy families suffer lower rates of depression, suicide, and stress.

          Baby drinking juiceLaugh!

          Be grateful for your friends that make you giggle! They might be helping you heal and stay healthy. The centenarian men of Sardinia are infamous for their sense of humor, and they make time each afternoon to gather in the street and just laugh. Did you know that some medically backed evidence shows that laughter reduces stress and risks associated with cardiovascular disease? So, get your jokes ready for Turkey Day!

          Your Neighbors.

          You might find that when your family is going through cancer, your neighbors are the first to lend a helping hand. If this is you, you are one of the lucky ones! When an extended family lives far, a close connection with your neighborhood and community can make all the difference. Nicoya centenarians advise you to allow visits from your neighbors as much as you can. They provide you with a listening ear just steps away. Thank you, neighbor!

          Women with open arms facing the sun

          Some Sun.

          Nicoyans believe that getting regular doses of sunshine is essential for a long life. It helps your body produce vitamin D for healthy body functions and strong bones, and vitamin D deficiency is associated with issues such as osteoporosis and heart disease. These centenarians strongly believe that getting about 15 minutes of golden light on the legs and arms is enough. Now, get outside and be grateful for the sunshine!

          Buildings along coast

          Photo by Jimmy Teoh

          Think like a Mountain Dweller.

          If your home allows you the space, even a tiny bit, to grow or maintain plants, you are luckier than you think. Ikarians that survived the longest, well over 98 years, were poor and lived in highland mountain areas. This means they spent a lot of time gardening and walking, which turned out to be exercise they didn’t even realize they were getting. So, the best advice from these Greeks is to partake in a little “mindless” movement daily. You might not initially understand the direct impact, but your body will undoubtedly feel the benefits.

          Mediterranean Thanksgiving?

          It’s no secret that diet plays a prominent role in the longevity of life. It also plays a significant role when a child has a cancer diagnosis. Interestingly, the Ikarian diet aligns with foods that are also safe and sometimes recommended for pediatric cancer patients. Ikarian’s secret to a healing diet is to eat a variation of the Mediterranean diet, with lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, potatoes, and olive oil!

          Man prayingTime for God.

          It might be difficult to show gratitude spiritually, especially when your child suddenly becomes sick. However, the folks in Loma Linda have found that being able to forgive and continue to rely on God for strength can significantly lift the mental burden and guilt you feel as a parent or caretaker. It can also give your child the mental strength to courageously pull through the pain and discomfort, knowing that they are not alone. These centenarians advise taking a 24-hour Sabbath that provides a time to focus on family, God, camaraderie, and nature. Adventists say this relieves stress, strengthens social networks, and offers regular exercise.

          I hope these wise words from centenarians are helpful to all of you on a cancer journey. In the spirit of National Gratitude Month, you might take some time to connect with an older loved one. Find out what they are most thankful for, what keeps them content, and most of all, the secrets to a long and healthy life, even if cancer is an obstacle.

          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 not just during the National Gratitude Month, but all year round!  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 Thanksgiving filled with laughter, delicious food, and quality time with loved ones!

          To learn more about the Blue Zone concept click here.

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

          About the Author

          Sameera Rangwala spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry. 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.