Kids with Cancer Need Some Normalcy

Kids with cancer need some normalcy
Photo by Halacious on Unsplash

When a child receives a cancer diagnosis, pieces of their childhood slip away as treatment becomes the top priority. And while friends and classmates are busy with sleepovers, baseball games, and playing with neighborhood kids, the child with cancer is busy with doctor appointments, medical tests and scary procedures. But, kids with cancer need some normalcy in a new world that is anything but normal.

What I Don’t See

Mikey Friedman wrote about helping kids be kids in one of his journal entries.  He said, “When you look at a child with cancer, you don’t see what I don’t see.”  He said, “This might sound confusing but consider it a little.  The things you don’t see about that child are not the same things I see as missing. You might see a lack of hair, a lack of energy, and a lack of the luminescence of the skin that expresses vivaciousness. 

But what do I not see? I don’t see that child playing with his friends, I don’t see that child struggling over schoolwork.  I don’t see that child playing baseball, I don’t see that child wishing to be an astronaut.” 

What Mikey Did See

What Mikey did see is that by giving pediatric cancer patients the opportunity to choose and keep an electronic, they become just kids again.

“Every time I walk down the hall of a cancer ward bearing a cart overflowing with gifts, every time I see the face of a bald, pale child light up at the thought of taking home some great gift, every time that smile crawls inexorably across his or her face, I feel the mission has been accomplished. And the cancer patients are just kids again, even for only one moment.” Mikey wrote.

Kids with Cancer Need Some Normalcy

So many pediatric cancer patients experience hours of what Mikey referred to as “toxic boredom.”  Away from friends, family and all the things that they once did, daily life is anything but the normal life they had before cancer.  According to “A Parent’s Guide to Enhancing Quality of Life in Children with Cancer” a critical element to supporting the child with cancer emotionally includes helping the child achieve some sense of normalcy in a life that has become very different from that of the child’s peers. (1)

Staying connected

Many children with cancer are less able to attend school in person or participate in their normal activities and social life. This makes it extremely important for children to stay connected with their friends and classmates while they are hospitalized, in isolation or during treatment.

Maintaining relationships with family, friends and classmates can help kids feel normal and connected during treatment. Using texts, email and social media such as Facetime, Instagram and Snapchat are great ways for sick kids to feel connected and supported. They can stay in touch and connected with people by starting a blog, sending emails or sharing links and videos.

At Mikey’s Way we know how important electronic devices are in helping sick kids just feel like kids again. Gaming systems, laptops and tablets like the ones Mikey’s Way distributes provide an opportunity to regain some normalcy. By serving as a lifeline to the outside world, these devices help kids connect with others while also providing personal enjoyment and a vehicle to combat boredom.

Keeping Life as Normal as Possible

While it may seem impossible, when you are at home, try to keep life as normal as possible. Stick to normal routines, regular bedtimes, and usual dinner times. And don’t change your expectations for their behavior because they have cancer.  This helps maintain things as they were prior to cancer.

When it is medically and physically possible, encourage your child to engage in their usual activities. This helps them feel more like the other kids.

Friendships are an important part of a child’s life which is no different when they have cancer. With this in mind, staying in contact with friends helps facilitate normalization.   When it’s medically or physically appropriate, arrange playdates or activities with your child’s friends.

Other resources

  1. Evan, E. E. (2014). Helping Sick Kids Be Kids. (pp. 125 – 138). In R. I. Hoffman & S. E. Smith. Parent’s Guide to Enhancing Quality of Life in Children with Cancer. American Childhood Cancer Organization