KidsCan! Supports Families Impacted by Cancer Despite Pandemic Challenges
“My daughter had a place where she could learn that all her feelings about my cancer were ok” — cancer patient and mom Stacey Phipps, pictured here with her daughter Kerry
Nehemias Acevedo works through feelings about his mother's cancer during a virtual KidsCan! session.
Nehemias Acevedo and his mom Flavia, a patient at Duke Raleigh Hospital, participate in a KidsCan virtual event.
Creativity and connection are ways to feel stronger during difficult times. Creating a rock garden is a fun way to recognize your family’s strengths.
Volunteers work with Logan and Liam Balme during a session of KidsCan! (held before the pandemic at Duke Cancer Center Raleigh). The boys' mother Jennifer is is a lung cancer survivor.
Duke Raleigh KidsCan! families paint colorful rocks for the KidsCan! rock garden at Duke Cancer Center Raleigh (pre-pandemic)
When an adult is facing a cancer diagnosis there are specialists to help them deal with what they are going through. But what about their children? Duke Cancer Institute's KidsCan! program is ready to help kids 4 to 18 process their feelings and fears surrounding a loved one’s diagnosis and treatment.
KidsCan! is currently enrolling kids and their families for their 2021-2022 program. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, participants will meet virtually the second Monday of each month to work on activities and discuss a related theme. Activity packets are available for pick up or will be mailed directly to participants' homes before the meeting. The pre-pandemic in-person program used to include dinner. Now, participating families can enjoy a healthy ready-to-cook pre-packaged family meal that's available for pick-up the day of the virtual event.
Children and teens are grouped by age with activities and topics that are developmentally appropriate for each age group. Parents also have their own virtual meeting the first Monday of each month to connect with others who are battling cancer while navigating their children's feelings about their disease. All sessions are led by trained facilitators with the Duke Cancer Patient Support Program.
“Sending materials with a guided focus serve an important role in establishing conversations and quality engagement for families," said Hannah Sasser, MEd, certified child life specialist and KidsCan! Raleigh lead. “The themes of coping, problem solving, mindfulness, bravery and love are evident in each of the packages. These themes encourage connectedness, resiliency and care among families, which are helpful tools in coping with the daily changes a family faces when there is a cancer diagnosis."
A Deeper Understanding of Emotions
Cancer patient and mom Stacey Phipps was happy to have found KidsCan! to help her daughter and their family.
“I was relieved that Kerry had a place where she could both hear and normalize her thoughts and express them if she chose to," said Phipps. “My daughter had a place where she could learn that all her feelings about my cancer were ok."
To Jean Hartford-Todd, child life specialist and Durham KidsCan! lead, continuing to offer KidsCan! during COVID is crucial.
“Patients have shared that their children have been forced to have a constant front row seat to their parents' cancer illness without the support and distraction of school, play dates and extra-curricular activities. KidsCan! allows them to talk about cancer in fun and non-threatening ways while also interacting with other children and teens who understand what it is like to have a parent with cancer."
History of KidsCan!
In April 2020, the program shifted to a virtual format. Activity packets are available for pick up or will be mailed directly to participants' homes before the meeting. The pre-pandemic in-person program used to include dinner. Now, participating families can enjoy a healthy ready-to-cook pre-packaged family meal that's available for pick-up the day of the virtual event.