Stress. Anxiety. Fear. Grief.
So may emotions and feelings wrapped up in a cancer diagnosis, especially when it is your parent (or loved one) that has cancer.
It doesn’t matter how old you are—when your mom, dad, grandparent, etc. receives a cancer diagnosis, life changes drastically. In this two-part blog series, join us as we explore the experiences of children and teens as well as young adults and adult children and how life changes as they become caregivers to their parents who have cancer.
In collaboration with Angel Foundation, Firefly Sisterhood met and interviewed several school-age children attending one of two Camp Angel summer sessions. This camp is a way for children whose loved one has/has had cancer to participate in fun activities, be empowered by learning age-appropriate cancer and medical information and terminology and find support and understanding from peers who are experiencing a similar situation (more information about Camp Angel can be found at the end of the blog).
Listen as camp participants describe the effect of a cancer diagnosis on family life (please excuse the background noise – campers were gathering at a playground near a basketball court):
Kara* shares the story of how her mom – a single parent – moved them to Minnesota to live with grandparents when cancer caregiving became too much for Kara to do alone:
Life for Nichole* hasn’t been normal for as long as she can remember due to her dad’s continuous cancer treatments. Listen as she shares how draining this is for the entire family:
A tremendous thank you to the brave and courageous young people who gave voice to the difficulties and additional responsibilities, the emotions and fears, and the heartache and pain that accompany a parent’s entire cancer experience. We share their stories with you – Firefly friends – as a reminder that cancer touches us all, right down to the smallest among us.
Angel Foundation started Camp Angel twelve years ago as a way to provide peer support and therapeutic activities for children and teens (ages 6-18) with a parent or caregiver who has (or has had) cancer. The camp is held two times every summer at Camp Eden Wood in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
“All of our campers are nervous and anxious at the start of camp,” begins Emily Rezac, Camp Angel Director and current Facing Cancer Together (FCT) Program Manager. “They feel guilty about leaving the parent (with cancer) at home and having fun here.”
“The purpose and intent of Camp Angel is to empower each child so they feel safe and have the ability to better cope with the situation at home,” shares Sarah Manes, Angel Foundation Vice President of Programs and Community Relations. Camp Angel’s trained staff and volunteers accomplish this “by using correct and age-appropriate cancer and medical terminology, having campers use port bears and medical kits to learn about and feel safe with cancer treatments and surgeries, and making sure each child knows that they are not the reason their loved one has cancer,” Sarah continues.
Angel Foundation’s Facing Cancer Together Program offers free year-round support for children who have loved ones with cancer, including: AngelPacks that offer developmentally-appropriate information and therapeutic items for parents to talk to their children about cancer; tween and teen outreach and mentoring programs; Parent’s Night Out/Kid’s Night In events; phone consults and online resources and more (see their full listing of events HERE).
*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality.
Written by Amy Tix, Firefly Sisterhood’s Communications Manager. Amy has not only worked with children as an elementary school science specialist, but has 2 teenage girls herself – girls who were caregivers to her during her own cancer experience twelve years ago.