Dealing with cancer isn’t fun for anyone – for kids, it can be especially brutal. And that is tough to see or hear.
As a family that have been dealing with cancer for five years we completely understand it. Each one of us in the family see this from a different perspective - I’m the one with Cancer, Tracey is the caregiver and family glue, and the kids see things through adolescent eyes with their own challenges in dealing with the scenario.
But none of us are kids with cancer. And while we are dealing with this as a family there is a difference when the individual with cancer is your child.
And that’s the difference that we want to help with.
You see, our family has availed itself of a myriad of supports through the Psychosocial Oncology programs. We’ve participated in programs like counselling, both family and individual sessions, we have enjoyed programs such as mindfulness and meditation, Qi Gong and others. And there is much more available that we just haven’t utilized but are comforted knowing that they are available.
But all the research that has been done to support the mental health of individuals dealing with cancer (be they the patient or the family members) comes from the perspective that it’s an adult cancer patient, not a child or adolescent.
Over the last several decades, the survival rate for pediatric cancers has increased more than 30 per cent: today more 30,000 Canadians are survivors of pediatric cancer and that number is growing exponentially. Research in pediatric cancer has historically focused on cure. However, with the growth in the number of survivors a new area of research has emerged as a pressing need – the study of quality of life after cancer treatment.
With more than 75 per cent of pediatric cancer survivors suffer debilitating late and long term effects from treatment, there is an urgent need to better understand these late effects of cancer on this vulnerable population.
We have personally seen significant benefit from these programs, and when we heard that there was limited research for Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology we decided we would jump in with both feet and help the University of Calgary set up a Research Chair to study the challenge and build programs that can help kids and their families. When we make this happen it will be the first of its kind in North America; how Calgarian is that!
It’s heartbreaking to think of any child going through the pain, fear, despair and isolation that cancer can bring. The Chair will study and develop new interventions that address the needs of these kids and their families. Once fully funded, it will bring knowledge and supports to help to manage the burden of cancer. In short, it will help these kids to be kids again.
In order to make this happen we are spearheading a drive to raise $5 million to build an endowed Chair at the Cummings School of Medicine at the University of Calgary. This endowed chair will ensure we find the best researchers to determine what our kids need in the way of effective programming to give them the support they need and deserve.
And to be honest we’ve done hundreds and hundreds of charity events, fundraisers and festivals trying to raise money for something, but this is the first time Tracey and I are putting our name on something. And that is a bit awkward for us as we are front and centre on the mission vs being the support crew. But, we think it is important and we are personally invested in seeing its success.
And to be really honest this challenge gives us energy so in reality it’s just another form of our own wellness program!
Stay tuned for ways you can participate.