Category

Family & Patient Support

Coping Ahead for the Holiday Season

When you have a child diagnosed with cancer the upcoming holiday season will not be typical of the holidays you have experienced in the past. It is important and extremely helpful to acknowledge that simple fact ahead of time, so you can cope ahead. Coping ahead helps prevent us from being blindsided by our grief.

You can cope ahead by anticipating which situations may be difficult and preparing what you will say or how you will act in these moments.  This may reduce your vulnerability to intense emotions and help you manage your emotions most effectively. The following tips will help you cope ahead this holiday season.

Anticipate Heightened Emotions

For many of us, this time of year presents as a dialectic. A dialectic teaches us that two things that seem like opposites can both be true and exist at the same time. While the holiday season may be a time of joy, celebration, and getting together with loved ones, it can also bring about intense emotions such as anger, sadness, and irritation. Allow yourself the full range of these emotions without avoiding your feelings. Tell yourself that it is understandable that you will feel many emotions and give yourself the permission to respond to those emotions as you see fit. Appropriate responses may include declining an invitation to an annual function or pushing through when there may be positive outcomes to being with people you love. Plan how you want to spend your time and with whom. Coping ahead may be reviewing your holiday schedule and determining which traditions and gatherings are important to you and your family and which ones you plan to decline or eliminate this year. Coping ahead would also include preparing and practicing your response to invitations. For example, you may simply decline an invitation. No further explanation is required.

Set Realistic Expectations

Give yourself a break this year. Cope ahead by asking for help. If you usually host during the holidays, ask someone else to take over this year. Let friends and family know that you and your family may not attend everything this year and/or may leave early if things feel too stressful. Discuss with your family ways that the holidays may be different for everyone this year.

Take Care of Yourself

Cope ahead by making sure to plan time for self-care. Taking care of our physical, emotional, and spiritual self will help us be more resilient during the holiday season. Good self-care also protects us from increasing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Practice healthy eating, regular exercise, good sleep, hygiene, prayer and/or mindfulness practices, and appropriate medical check-ups.

Self-Soothe and Distract

Plan times when you can take a break from the stress of the holidays. Cope ahead by making a list of activities that will distract you, even momentarily, from the realities of treatments and the expectations of the holidays. This list may include distractions such as a movie, coffee with a good friend, or listening to your favorite music. A self-soothing list may include a run, massage, or a hot bath. Cope ahead by pre-planning and scheduling these activities; otherwise they will not happen regularly.

Seek Help

Cope ahead by researching and understanding the signs of depression. Promise yourself that you will reach out for help if you see these signs during the holidays. An excellent way to cope ahead is to research and know where you will go or who you will call if you recognize depression symptoms. Discuss this with your spouse or a close family member or friend and hold each other accountable. https://curechildhoodcancer.org/partners-in-caring-counseling-guidelines/

Recognize the Good

Coping ahead to help increase your resilience may include naming three things that went well at the end of each day. Another option may be to list three things that you are grateful for each morning. Including the whole family in this practice may help with surviving the holiday season and who knows, it may become a new family tradition.

 

Workshop Held in Atlanta, Geared Towards Teen Patients and Survivors of Childhood Cancer

CURE Childhood Cancer and ccThrive (a group of four childhood cancer survivors who have achieved great things) invite you to a presentation, panel and gathering of childhood cancer patients and survivors. The dream of ccThrive is that every childhood cancer survivor realizes their full potential, whatever it is and whatever their challenges. All survivors of childhood cancer should have the opportunity to thrive!

Sunday, September 25, 2016
at Hilton Atlanta NE, Peachtree Corners, GA

Session 1: 1:00pm – 2:30pm
– Patients and Survivors Ages 11-15

Session 2: 3:00pm – 4:30pm
– Patients and Survivors Ages 16-21

A separate parent’s session will be held during each timeslot for any parent who would like to attend the event.

If you would like to attend the workshop, please RSVP by Friday, September 23rd to rhetta@curechildhoodcancer.org and please include the following information: 

1. Patient/Survivor Name and Age

2. Will patient/survivor attend alone?

3. Name(s) of parent(s) attending

4. Are you attending Session 1 or Session 2
(based on patient/survivor age)

Brian Fletcher
Leukemia – 1990
First Ski Jump – 1991
Off-Treatment – 1995
Sochi Olympian – 2014
USA Nordic Combined Champion – 2014, 2015
 
 
Gavin Shamis
Leukemia –  2011
Competitive Swimmer – 2011-2013
Chemo Ended Early – 2013
USA Luge Junior National Team – 2014
USA Luge Youth Champion – 2016
 
 
Lacey Henderson
Synovial Sarcoma – 1997
Leg Amputated – 1998
NCAA Division 1 Competitive Cheerleader
Paralympic Long Jump American Record
Melinda Marchiano
Lymphoma – 2007
Off-treatment – 2008
Severe Digestive Late Effects
Award Winning Author – 2011
Accomplished Dancer-Director-Choreographer

CURE’s Partners in Caring Counseling Program

20029-092-1024x1024At the heart of CURE Childhood Cancer is the desire to address the critical and urgent needs of families affected by childhood cancer. CURE recognizes that childhood cancer is an extremely difficult, traumatic diagnosis, in which treatment and outcomes put strain and stress on the entire family. To offer additional support, help and encouragement for families of children diagnosed with cancer, we connected with licensed counseling centers across the state of Georgia and launched CURE’s Partners in Caring (PIC) program in 2013.

The PIC program was designed to provide families’ access to professional counselors who understand how childhood cancer, and its experiences, can affect the psychological and emotional well-being of the entire family. Since the launch of the PIC program we have continually strived to break down barriers associated with accessing counseling services.  Our PIC network includes 24 centers and over 50 therapists across the state of Georgia!

Accessing the PIC benefit therapists is an easy process. To qualify, families must have a child who meets one of these qualifications:

  • Diagnosed with a childhood cancer, LCH, HLH, or aplastic anemia
  • Relapsed with a childhood cancer, LCH, HLH, or aplastic anemia
  • Passed away due to childhood cancer, a cancer-related circumstance, LCH, HLH or aplastic anemia

The PIC program provides up to ten (10) counseling sessions at a minimal cost to families. Additional details:

  • If you choose to utilize these counseling services, CURE will pay 100% of the first session.
  • After the first session, families are responsible for $25.00 copay for each additional session (sessions 2-10).
  • Counseling sessions may range from individual counseling for the patient, siblings and/or parent to marriage counseling, grief counseling, or any combination of these services.
  • You also have the option to divide the 10 sessions between multiple family members based on your family’s needs.

To sign up or learn more, contact Karen McCarthy at karen@curechildhoodcancer.org.

Parenting Through Illness

20057-868On October 17, 2015 CURE Childhood Cancer hosted a workshop for parents of children with cancer entitled “Parenting Through Illness.” Workshops like the one recently offered are extensions of CURE’s Partners in Caring program, which aims to address the psychosocial needs of families navigating the world of childhood cancer. This particular workshop focused on approaches to parenting a child with cancer during cancer treatment.

Led by Dr. Tiffany McNary of Georgia State University and Ginny Thompson from the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, parents learned the TEEL Method of interacting with their children. Using the TEEL Method technique Dr. McNary and Ginny coached parents to Track, Empathize, Encourage, and Limit-Set with their child. “The workshop provided skill sets to help with the day to day challenges that are associated with parenting a child with cancer,” said one parent. “I am so grateful to be a part of the class.”

Along with learning practical tools for parenting through illness, parents also had the opportunity to connect with other parents of children with cancer.  Through shared experiences and shared feelings, parents found a community of support. “It was a blessing to be able to share with other parents going through the same journey,” shared one mom. Another found comfort in “just being around other parents going through the same struggle.”

To close the workshop, parents were asked to write themselves an encouraging note on a postcard which will be mailed at a later date. Parents wrote words of encouragement to keep going, encouragement of a job well done, encouragement to see themselves and their efforts as enough.

For information about future workshops or about CURE’s Partners in Caring counseling program, please contact Karen McCarthy at karen@curechildhoodcancer.org.

Twas’ the Season – The Holidays with CURE

The weeks leading up to the holidays were quite busy around the CURE office! The magic of the holidays fueled the CURE Board of Directors, staff, donors and volunteers to make sure CURE families were blessed with food, gifts and fun!

Through our Holiday Angel Program, 88 donors provided a special holiday filled with gifts galore for 186 children affected by pediatric cancer. These same generous friends of CURE made sure the parents of the children knew they were loved as well with gas, grocery, and restaurant gift cards. A parent shared, “My daughter just finished chemo today and I gave her an early Christmas present—-courtesy of CURE. My daughter’s face literally lit up for the first time today. Thank you CURE and thank you to those who make these smiles possible. Love you guys for doing this for us!!”

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CURE’s Annual Holiday Celebration did not disappoint! More than 100 families celebrated with us thanks to Amy Hulett and her army of volunteers and donors, who along with the staff at the Atlanta Events Center at Opera transformed the location into a Winter Wonderland! Families created a gingerbread house, took silly photos in a photo booth, ate delicious treats, chatted with Santa and met some of their favorite princesses and heroes! One parent shared, “We just wanted to say thank you to you and all the CURE staff and volunteers that were at the party today. Our kids have said repeatedly that it was ‘the best party ever!’ Everything was perfect- the activities, music, food and, especially everyone who had a hand in making it happen. Thank you for the smiles and laughter today and for giving our family a great memory!”

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In Savannah, thanks to the Andaz Hotel and the unbelievable kindness of Chef Lauren Teague and other Andaz staff, 40 pediatric cancer families were treated to an afternoon of holiday cheer at the CURE Holiday Celebration for families who live in South Georgia. Chef Lauren shared that this event was as much fun for the staff as the guests! Families were treated to a festive array of foods that included macaroni and cheese, roast beef sliders, and every kind of sweet treat imaginable! Laughter echoed throughout the celebration as face painters, Morgan Webb and Allyson Webb created small works of art on the sweet smiling faces of the children. Santa and Mrs. Claus assured each child that he would be paying them a visit on Christmas Eve.

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The St. Regis Ice Skating Rink became one of the happiest places in Atlanta on a special Sunday in December. Thanks to the generosity of the Tylka Family, 38 children joined CURE at a private ice skating party. Laughter and smiles filled the rink as young ones who had never been on ice before skated for the first time with the help of their parents or teen volunteers. Older, more experienced skaters needed no help and left the ice only to drink the most delicious hot chocolate, make S’mores by the outdoor fireplace, or chat with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

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Families who were inpatient on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve at either the Egleston or Scottish Rite campuses of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta were served traditional holiday meals thanks to our friends at Copeland’s of New Orleans (Barrett Parkway), Whole Foods on Briarcliff Road and Church’s Chicken Global Headquarters in Atlanta.

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The excitement continued throughout the month as we hosted Tea at Two at the Aflac inpatient and outpatient units at Scottish Rite and Egleston thanks to the kindness of our friends, Delta Clipped Wings, who donated and served the holiday treats! It would be impossible to mention each person, group, or business which  gave of their time, talent or treasure to make this a holiday filled with extra love and sweet memories for the families we serve! We are forever grateful to each of you and wish you a New Year filled with happiness and blessings beyond measure!

What Can a Girl Do? Brownie Troop 13550 has an Answer.

Mary Tipton Carter has been a member of troop 13550 since Kindergarten. She is an energetic, smart and compassionate young lady — a great all-around Girl Scout. On February 4, 2015, she went to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite with abdominal pain and fever. Soon after, she had surgery to remove an ovarian tumor identified as Ovarian Dysgerminoma. Mary Tipton’s friends and family were all thankful that this appeared to be a treatable form of cancer; however, this diagnosis meant that Mary Tipton would have to undergo chemotherapy and weeks in the hospital. She would miss school, Girl Scout meetings, softball, play dates with friends, and much more. Mary Tipton’s brownie troop quickly went into action and asked the question, “What can our troop do?”

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.09.34 AMThe troop’s ambitions started out rather small. The girls wore turquoise bandannas, Mary Tipton’s favorite color, to show their support. They made cards to send to the hospital and agreed to participate in CURE’s Lauren’s Run. Then the troop leaders asked the girls if they would like to vote on an activity that they, as a troop, could do to raise money for CURE in honor of Mary Tipton. The girls were instantly excited to come up with their own ideas on what they could do to support their friend. The ideas kept coming, and they settled on a roller Skate-a-Thon. They found a church that was willing to host the event and went to work promoting the Skate-a-Thon to other troops, their school and community. But it didn’t stop there.

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Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.09.53 AMWhile planning the event, the troop found out that CURE needed toiletry kits to provide to patients who are admitted without notice or have to spend the night at the emergency room. With just a few phone calls the troop raised $650. And, within a few short weeks, they secured donations for toothpaste, tooth brushes, shampoo, body wash, lotion, and a gift card from Publix. The girls made more than 280 kits.

During the Skate-a-Thon, the troop worked hard to manage the assembly of the toiletry kits, run concessions, and accept monetary donations. By the end of the evening, they had put together a nine-month supply of toiletry kits and raised $900 for CURE! What’s even more amazing is that the day the Skate-a-Thon took place happened to be the same day Mary Tipton went back to the hospital for her CT scans. Everyone was thrilled to hear that her scans came back all clear. This event turned out to be a great way to show not only the scouts but all of the young people who attended just how easy it is to get involved with a very important cause.

Mary Tipton’s troop now has a better perspective on the question, “What can a girl do?” For starters, a girl can beat cancer! And together these girls are capable of doing truly amazing things that continue to inspire us every day.

CURE’s Weekend of Hope and Healing

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.23.58 PMHow can one begin to describe a weekend spent with people from different areas of Georgia and beyond, many of whom had never met before, and some were seeing each other for the first time in a year, but each sharing one heartbreaking bond? Each parent understood the reality of losing a piece of him or herself – a child.

On January 17th and 18th CURE hosted our Annual Weekend of Hope and Healing. Forty-seven families gathered to find comfort and hope from speakers and counselors – and each other. Throughout the weekend, parents were guided with tools to move forward in the grief process.

Parents remembered their children during a beautiful candle lighting ceremony and laughed and cried with other each other during the “Memories” session. One young couple discovered they each had some different memories of their child, and they expressed, “It brought joy in hearing something new about our sweet child.” A memory jar was created for each family to retain those special thoughts/words, and they were encouraged to ask family members and friends to record their precious memories to include in the memory jar.

On Saturday morning, Janet Street who lost her son, Cam, to cancer in 2009 concluded her presentation, “Thoughts on Grieving, Striving for a Healthy and Positive Perspective” with this thought, “Your joy will return – joy and pain can coexist.” A mom thanked Janet by saying, “Thank you for coming to share your story and let us know that we are not alone in this journey. Thank you for helping us with our pain.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 5.25.54 PMDr. Rona Roberts’s, whose precious daughter passed away in 2013, spoke to the group on Sunday and eloquently shared her journey into the world of childhood cancer. Tears freely flowed as other parents, who did not know her daughter, totally “got” her story. Her message inspired, comforted, and left all full of hope. One parent shared, “The loss of a child can be paralyzing to the mind and life of the parent – and to witness [Dr. Roberts] stand and speak so strongly today was a true testament. I will never forget [her] words and message!”

A parent in attendance expressed, “I saw many couples lovingly supporting and protecting each other. It’s so encouraging to see couples and families loving each other through loss.” The weekend was very much a time of shared pain and loss, but more importantly a weekend of hope and healing.

How To Be A Shelter For Friends and Family Caught in Life’s Storms

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By: Shawn Murphy

Whether a friend or family member has recently received a difficult diagnosis or is reeling from a personal loss, each of us can provide shelter and comfort to those caught in life’s storms. We all have the ingredients necessary to do so. We need only a compassionate heart, empathetic ears, helping hands and watchful eyes.

1). Compassionate Heart

Giving shelter starts with a compassionate heart. Compassion is the natural emotion that one feels in the response to the suffering of others. It is unnatural to ignore pain and suffering in ourselves or others. In its purest essence, it simply comes back to the golden rule: “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” Without this essential first step of feeling love and caring, the act of mercy – reaching out to help others in their time of need – would never happen.

2). Empathetic Ears

Being a shelter to others involves empathetic ears and good listening skills. It is important to let the hurting or grieving person know that it is okay to share what they are feeling and to allow them to determine the timing of when or if they decide to share.

Equally important is how we listen. Our role is to be empathetic listeners who seek to understand, accept, and acknowledge feelings in a safe environment and validate the emotions while withholding judgment.

3). Helping Hands

Providing shelter to others involves acts of mercy; showing kindness and lending helping hands to those who are in a difficult or even desperate situation. For a person or family who is in the midst of illness or loss, helping in practical ways is greatly appreciated, with continued support over the long haul and providing extra help on special days.

There are many practical ways to help a grieving person. You can offer to pick up groceries, run errands, provide meals, receive phone calls, help with paperwork, do housework, watch children, look after pets, take them to lunch, or share an enjoyable activity with them.

The goal is to let them know they are loved and to demonstrate your care by personally helping and providing ongoing support.

4). Watchful Eyes

Finally, offering shelter also involves offering watchful eyes. It is normal for anyone who has just learned of a cancer diagnosis or is caregiving for someone through a protracted illness or who may have experienced the loss of a loved one to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression or similar types of issues.

However, professional help may be in order if over time the symptoms do not fade. Watchful eyes should look for signs such as inability to function in daily life, extreme focus on death, excessive bitterness, anger, or guilt, neglecting personal hygiene, alcohol or drug abuse, inability to enjoy life, hallucinations, withdrawal from others, constant feelings of hopelessness, talking about dying or suicide. If these signs are present, please encourage your friend or family member to seek professional help.

 

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Shawn Murphy serves as Director of Community Relations and liaison to CURE Childhood Cancer on behalf of Summit Counseling Center in Johns Creek, GA. For information about CURE’s Partners in Caring Counseling Program, please contact Karen McCarthy at karen@curechildhoodcancer.org or (770)986-0035 ext. 26.

 

CURE Executive Director Kristin Connor is Awarded the 2015 Summit Spirit Award

IMG_3206.JPGOn Saturday, January 24, 2015, The Summit Counseling Center held its inaugural fundraising gala and celebration to recognize the work being done to help families and individuals find hope and healing in times of crisis. The event also helped raised much-needed awareness of mental health issues in the community.

Three wonderful organizations and their leaders were acknowledged for their life-transforming support of families throughout the North Fulton, Georgia area. The 2015 Summit Spirit Award recipients include: Kristin Connor, executive director of CURE Childhood Cancer; John and Susie Trautwein, founders and executive directors of the Will to Live Foundation; and Dr. Christopher Matthews, assistant superintendent of Fulton County Schools.

summitThe gala’s presenting sponsor, the Chick-Fil-A Foundation, and a remarkable guest speaker, Herschel Walker, made the festivities of the evening all the more meaningful. NFL All-star, CURE supporter and 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker shared his inspirational story of the ups and down of living with dissociative identity disorder. His testimony helped give a voice and hope to those suffering from DID and is proof that together, we are capable of overcoming any challenge that life throws at us.

Through the generosity of event sponsors and guests, the Summit raised over $100,000 at its very first gala! The funds will be used to support the Summit’s mission of providing professional counseling, consultation and education services, with an integrated approach to care for the whole person- body, mind, spirit and community.

The wonderful work of the Summit Counseling Center has allowed CURE to provide parents with the necessary skills to cope with the challenges that come with caring for a child with cancer. It is such an honor to be recognized, but more importantly, CURE is glad to have the Summit as part of our family support team. When joined together, the many families battling childhood cancer will never have to fight alone.