September is childhood cancer awareness month — a time to ramp up national and community advocacy for pediatric cancer. It can also be a very emotional time for those who have battled, for family members who have stood by and witnessed the side effects of cancer, and for those remembering children we have lost to this terrible disease.
But in the midst of all that, there are glimmers of joy where stories of triumph, happiness and strength shine through. Many parents of children battling cancer post on social media pages throughout the month. In one recent post, one mother in posted about her daughter’s experience with Kids Rock Cancer at a sibling support camp:
We had bought a new house, kids were going to a new school and so excited. Our son was diagnosed three days before our closing date so we had to make the very tough decision to walk away from our new house. We couldn’t possibly move and put our daughter in a new school while not being there for her. She was so excited and had already met some friends at our new house so that was tough for a then first grader. Throughout treatment everyone would ask how she was taking it- and she actually did quite well. My mom quit her job to come help out with Ellory so we could be present for all of the medical stuff and that was a huge help. We tried to take turns coming home and being with her, taking her out to special places and spend time with just her. Ellory would often make her brother’s bed while he was away at the hospital. When home and he was too sick to play, she would slip him little notes and pictures under his door to feel better. It was heartbreakingly very sweet. Towards the end of treatment though we could tell it was getting really hard for her to deal with having a sibling with cancer as well as the attention he received. We tried to talk to her as best as we could as well as outside help but felt somehow she needed more. When we went to a brain tumor family camp and heard the adult siblings speak about what it was like to be in the shadows of a sibling with cancer, it really hit us. The adult sibling mentioned things like “when we go back to visit school they would always ask about my sister first” or other issues. We then realized Ellory needed to be part of something that we couldn’t give her.
At camp, Ellory was placed in a group of girls who all had brothers who battled cancer, some who sadly didn’t survive. During a therapeutic songwriting session, the group recorded a song of what it was like to be a sibling.
Ellory’s mom recalls: “She came back transformed with a deeper understanding that we couldn’t provide. She was able to talk about some really tough concepts for a kid.”
Ellory’s camp counselor commented: “The song they wrote was very touching and Tracie with Kids Rock Cancer is amazing! Thank you for trusting us that week with your sweet girl. I would love to see her in a performance sometime.”
Kids Rock Cancer has valued partnerships at several community support camps, and will strive to continue offering opportunities for children, teens and young adults affected by cancer. It is testimonials like this that remind us the importance of communication, and how a creative outlet combined with a supportive environment can truly make a difference.