September to Remember
Blood Cancer Awareness Month
The most common cancer diagnosed in children 15 and under is leukemia, accounting for almost one out of every three cancers in this age group. Blood cancers account for about 10 percent of all diagnosed cancers in the U.S. each year. There is no better time to share knowledge about blood cancers in children than in September- Blood Cancer Awareness Month. Raising awareness and spreading positive and encouraging words help make the cancer journey less stressful!
Although the survival rate for childhood leukemia has improved over the years, every 3 minutes, someone in the U.S. is diagnosed with a blood cancer. More than 1.3 million Americans are living with or in remission from a blood cancer. That is why the U.S. Congress has designated September as Blood Cancer Awareness Month to promote greater awareness and advance research.
Childhood Blood Cancers-Causes and Symptoms
According to the American Cancer Society, childhood leukemia accounts for about 28 percent of all cancers in children. That is why it is so important to raise awareness to this during the blood cancer awareness month. Leukemia is a cancer of the blood-forming tissues and occurs in the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Leukemia cells are abnormal white blood cells that grow out of control and cannot function like normal immune cells. As a result, these cells cannot do their jobs of preventing infections, carrying oxygen, and causing the blood to clot.
According to Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, blood cancers develop from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Most childhood leukemias are acquired genetic diseases not inherited from parents. This means that the gene mutations in the cells occur sporadically (by chance). However, some risk factors include radiation, chemotherapy agents, and toxins, including benzene. Chromosome abnormalities can cause Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL)
Types of Leukemia
A child with leukemia is infection-prone, looks pale, lethargic, and bruises easily. They may complain of pain in their arms, legs, or joints and experience swollen gums or glands. Other signs include nosebleeds, petechiae (red spots on the skin), fever, weight loss, and feelings of heart palpitations. If your child has one or two of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean they have cancer. Checking with your healthcare provider will allay your fears.
Reactions to Your Child’s Cancer!!
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it’s a crisis to the whole family!!! Normal daily life is changed. Parents have to take frequent breaks from work. Siblings may need to be taken care of by relatives or neighbors. Life is turned upside down and suddenly becomes an emotional roller coaster for every family member. Your initial thoughts may be, “Why is this happening to my child?” or “How will we survive through this?”. Parents play a crucial role in handling these unpredicted and unexpected situations. Handling emotions relies strongly on individual coping styles, life experiences, personality, and cultural differences. Organizations like Here to Serve can provide wraparound support at home for the entire cancer journey reducing stress and giving families more quality time together.
Ways to Cope With a Cancer Diagnosis
* Knowledge is the key
Learn as much as possible about your child’s condition. During this time, being alert and staying updated is helpful to cope. In addition, learn about treatments, and don’t hesitate to ask questions about your child’s disease with your health care team.
* Write down your feelings/ emotions in a journal
Writing always helps! Keep a small diary or notebook and pen your thoughts in the book to remove the stress from your mind and put it in a journal. Time allows you to see things from a different perspective.
* Get help from your cancer team
Seek help from social workers, nurses, doctors, and healthcare professionals on your child’s treatment team. Experts can help you tackle your emotions and learn skills like relaxation and stress management. Take notes every time you visit the doctor. Don’t expect to retain all that is said to you. Ask a family member or a friend to be there to take notes when you speak with professionals learning about the treatment plans and options you have. Ask for second opinions if you feel unsure about treatments.
* Share your feelings
Involve your family members, relatives, and friends in this journey you never asked for. Open up your heart, and speak all the emotions you are going through with your trusted friends and family members.
* Make time for therapy
You can help your child manage the cancer battle by providing all the moral support needed if you are mentally healthy. Therapy can help. Take out some time for yourself. Exercise at home; pull out your mat and do yoga or meditation. Take short walks for 20-30 minutes. Take a two-minute walk if you can’t find 20-30 minutes. Even music therapy can be beneficial this time. Check out our recent blog on music therapy.
* Have Pets
Pets can play an important role in cancer treatment and recovery. But you do have to ensure that the animal is healthy before you start cancer treatment. They can spread infections to a patient undergoing chemotherapy. Your oncologist can help you understand your treatments and whether pets can be an asset or a potential detriment. Pets can sense your anxiety, stress, and sadness and bring joy even if you are at your lowest self. Some dogs are also being trained as therapy dogs or service dogs.
* Create a New Normal
Try to create a new normal for you, your child, and your entire family. Understandably, these difficult times turn your schedule upside-down. Talk with your employer. If your community offers to help you, get in touch with Here to Serve, so you do not have to organize your support. Here to Serve will do that for you. They are the only national nonprofit offering wraparound support to families with children battling cancer.
* Seek professional caregiving support
As a parent and a caregiver, you may sometimes feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and need additional support. Attend some sessions with the social support group or find a counselor who helps families process their emotions and learn coping techniques. There are also many home-based cancer and caregiver support groups available. For example, Here to Serve provides wraparound services to meet the everyday needs of families navigating through cancer and all the resources and help you need. Seek help from such caregiving services sooner rather than later.
Here are also a few other care support services:
- National Cancer Institute Support for Caregivers of Cancer Patients
- CancerCare support groups
- American Childhood Cancer Organization
You Are Not Alone
A cancer diagnosis is one of the most painful, intense, and traumatizing stressors families have to go through. This is why Here to Serve makes a point to reach out to the families and offer wraparound help through these difficult times!! Please remember, you are not alone in this journey! Make sure to reach out to Here to Serve right from the beginning! Our team provides the physical, emotional, and financial support you need to ease your journey! Connect with us and also recommend us to those other families in need!
By Apurva Makashir
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.