Childhood Cancer: Grief and Gratitude
Navigating the Journey of Childhood Cancer
Jenna was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in March 2016; she was 10 years old. The childhood cancer diagnosis caused immeasurable heartache on the family. They’ve moved numerous times to access treatments and transplants. With each hope of remission, the cancer would resurface. This left everyone constantly on edge and unable to plan for the future.
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family is affected by the financial and emotional stress that comes with the diagnosis. The toll on parents and siblings can really add up.
After Jenna’s second relapse, her older brother became her bone marrow donor. It was after this transplant and Jenna’s subsequent cancer recurrence, that they found out her brother also has cancer. The entire family has been through a lot of pain. Yet they manage to find strength and hope from each other, and from the support systems they have built.
Jenna’s mom Linda was connected to Any Baby Can's Candlelighters program through Dell Children’s Hospital. Meeting with her case manager, Linda recalls a sense of stability, at a time where there was no stability at all. Linda describes how the Any Baby Can team helped with everything she didn’t have the time, energy or mental capacity to take on.
“Any Baby Can helped us with everything! Financial help, school, food, respite, just persistence and doing the hard work of accessing these resources. We got therapy for the family. Even when we were just behind with bills, there was always support directly from Any Baby Can to pick up the pieces. They were there at a time when we needed it the most,” says Linda.
Their younger brother has even attended Any Baby Can’s Camp Grey Dove, a summer camp for siblings of children diagnosed with cancer, which helps kids learn coping skills while making friends and having fun. Linda says he was like a new kid after this experience. Fortunately, he was able to connect with other children who may be experiencing similar feelings, and gain valuable skills from licensed therapists and counselors.
Grief and Gratitude
Childhood cancer has many challenges: parental and sibling stress, difficulty accessing school resources, and a lifetime of worry—all while trying to stay strong for their children. Kids have a full life ahead of them, so families can experience added grief, even during treatment: grief for years lost, grief for big life goals, grief for the pain which you cannot alleviate.
Kids are inspirational in their strength and resilience. Linda and her family’s gratitude comes from an understanding that life is both fragile and beautiful.
“This illness is the most undesirable thing anyone can go through. At the same time, I’m not going to diminish the good that has come with it. We have found that there’s a lot of great people, great organizations out there. We have seen a beauty in humanity that we probably wouldn’t be able to experience,” says Linda.
Each year, more than 15,000 parents will hear the words “your child has cancer.” Any Baby Can’s Candlelighters team guides families in figuring out school, insurance, medical coverage, and so much more. Childhood cancer affects everyone around the child, which is why we prioritize counseling and coping skills for all family members – through diagnosis, treatment and post treatment or bereavement – as well as financial assistance.
“We just want to do the best we can with the resources we have, and the help that we’re granted. We feel blessed to have Any Baby Can. We are so grateful. You have made our journey easier to navigate,” adds Linda.
Jenna is currently 16 years old and in remission, as is her older brother. She adds, “I am grateful to be here and be alive.”