Thursday, June 30, 2011

Living With Cancer: Changing Lives & Changing Roles

For millions of American families, cancer is like the uninvited houseguest who just won't leave. Soon after arriving, cancer begins to meddle in the family's personal business.

Physical symptons, hospital admissions and for many the inability to work may force a person to give up one or more roles in the family: wage earner, cook, childcare provider, chauffeur, decision maker, housekeeper and more. Not surprisingly the individual often feels angry and frustrated about losing a role that he or she has had for many years or is new at and was truly enjoying.

Cancer survivors may become angry with their spouses, children, parents and even healthcare providers as they struggle to cope with their changing lives. Roles describe who we are and what we do in our families similar to job titles at work. When we are able to carry out our roles we feel satisfied and proud. Our work is important to keep the family running and gives us a sense of worth. But when illness or dissability  strikes, we sometimes can't carry out our roles.

When we are forced to give up our role within a family for any reason  we often feel embarrassed, ashamed or as if we are of no value anymore. What can families do when cancer enters the family? Ignoring cancer and it's impact does not make it go away. When families can talk about cancer, even the sad and awful parts of the illness it is easier to figure out how to cope.

It helps to admit when has been taken away by the cancer, such as the ability to drive a car, prepare family meals, or even go to work and to grieve those losses. Yet, there is one thing that cancer cannot change: the fact that each persons worth comes not from doing but from being. Honoring self-worth diminishes the power claimed by cancer.

Honoring  your life and the love you have experienced and shared may be a difficult task when you are facing so many changes and psychological losses through the cancer experience but recognizing that you are valuable because you are loved and not because of you what you can or cannot do for the moment will help you feel better sooner.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Share Your Thyroid Cancer Survivor Stories

For years, we have shared our cancer survivor journey on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund's Blog. Many of you have left comments or emailed us  in response to blog posts, essays  and thyroid cancer awareness / education  articles sharing your personal experience, fears, hopes, dreams and  questions  and providing us with great feedback.

Thank You! Your input and insight has been very helpful in shaping our direction, mission, vision and goals for the 10,000 Strong Against Thyroid Cancer Campaign and you are all Cancer Action Angels in our book!

We would like to magnify our  thyroid cancer awareness campaign through your  experiences and give our growing community a larger voice in our efforts by opening the stage for all of thyroid cancer patients and survivors to share their stories on Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund's Blog, our Facebook "Like" Page  and our Annual Thyroid Cancer Survivors Reunion and Celebration of Life Group Page.

It is an important and integral part of  our efforts to dispel myths and preconceived notions about thyroid cancer and give a "face"  to our thyroid cancer community that is often ignored, misunderstood  and overlooked. Thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing newly diagnosed cancer in America today with women of all ages (girls, adolescents, young adults, middle aged and seniors) diagnosed 3 times more than men and childhood cancer survivors at an increased risk for developing the condition it's time we introduce ourselves to the world and each other.

If you are shy about sharing your personal story in detail  or simply don't feel comfortable composing a full blog post or essay you can still participate and raise thyroid cancer awareness through your comments on our blog or Facebook pages, as long as it is relates to your thyroid cancer experience and survivor journey or the blog post, essay, article or note you are commenting on.

These are YOUR pages and YOUR space to connect with others, help others, vent, inspire, and give back. For many of us, thyroid cancer and survivorship can drain our energy, darken our spirit and leave us shaken. Please don't give up. God does not make mistakes. You are still here and we are here for you!

Fight the Fight!! Speak Up and help Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund reach our goal of 10,000 Strong Against Thyroid Cancer Awareness ! You are a living hero and you can help us save lives.

Here are some questions to get your minds going and help you organize your thoughts for a blog post, essay about your exprience or article:
  •  Where are you in your thyroid cancer survivor journey?
  •  What lessons have you learned from having thyroid cancer?
  •  What gets you through the fear of recurrence and difficult times? 
  • Are you putting off any kind of medical follow-up like a doctor visit, scan, blood work?
  • How has your outlook on life changed?
  • Has thyroid cancer had an impact on your relationships with your spouse/partner, children, family, friends, co-workers, self?
  • What would you tell someone who was just diagnosed with thyrid cancer?
  • Did you find an inner-strength and or stronger connection with a higher energy, spirit or source during your thyroid cancer experience?
  • What have you done, if anything to give back and help others fight the fight?
  • Has your thyroid cancer experience and journey inspired you in some way? If so, what did you do with that inspiration?
  • Do you still feel stuck in a “cancer mindframe” even though you’re in remission?
  • Are you living life beyond thyroid cancer?
We look forward to hearing from you. Please feel free to send your completed blog post, essay or article for publishing approval  Email  Subject Line: Thyroid Cancer Stories

--You can also email us with any additional questions or concerns.

Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund is working to develop and launch an access to care grant program for thyroid cancer patients and survivors nationwide. Please consider supporting our unique initiative that includes a set aside fund for healthcare access to assist thyroid cancer survivors with medical costs associated with follow up treatment, annual exams,  diagnostics and medications. 

Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund is a project of United Charitable Programs Inc., a 501(c) 3 Public Charity.   Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law and all funds raised by Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund are received by United Charitable Programs and become the sole property of UCP, which, for internal operating purposes, allocates the funds to the Project (SJCCFThyNet). The Program (SJCCFThyNet) Manager makes recommendations for disbursements which are reviewed by UCP for approval.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Survivor's Wellness Plan

After cancer treatment, many survivors want to find ways to reduce the chances of their cancer coming back. Some worry that the way they eat, the stress in their lives, or their exposure to chemicals may put them at risk. Cancer survivors find that this is a time when they take a good look at how they take care of themselves. This is an important start to living a healthy life.

When you meet with your doctor about follow up care, you could ask about developing a wellness plan that includes ways you can take care of your physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. The following are changes you may want to think about making.

  • QUIT SMOKING:  Research shows that smoking can increase the chances of getting cancer at the same site or another site.

  • CUT DOWN ON ALCOHOL: Research shows that drinking alcohol increases your chances of getting certain types of cancers.

  • EAT WELL: Healthy food choices and physical activity may help reduce the risk of cancer or recurrence. Talk with your doctor or a nutrionist to find out about any special dietary needs that you may have.
The American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research have developed similar diet and fitness guidelines that may help reduce the risk of cancer:
  • Eat a plant based diet and have at least 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables daily. Try to include beans in your diet, eath whole grains such as cereals, breads and pasta several times daily.
  • Choose foods that are low in fat and low in salts.
  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
Exercise and Stay Active: Several recent reports suggest that staying active after cancer treatment can help lower the risk of recurrence and can lead to longer survival. Moderate excercise (walking, biking, swimming) for about 30 minutes every or almost everyday - can reduce anxiety and depression, improve mood and boost self esteem.

Regular exercise also reduces fatigue, nausea, pain and diarrhea. It is important to start and exercise program slowly and increase activity over time, working with your doctor or a physical therapist if needed.  If you need to stay in bed during your recovery, even small activities like stretching or moving your arms and legs can help you stay flexible, relieve muscle tension and help you feel better.

Talk with your doctor before beginning an exercise routine or changing your diet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Life After Cancer: Getting Back On Track!

In many ways it is sometimes harder for people with cancer to get over the treatment than it is to get through the treatment. Patients are so busy going to appointments, researching, learning, doing what it takes to fight the cancer, that it is easy to avoid the dealing with the emotional side of the diagnosis. Once treatments are complete, there are no more daily,  weekly or monthly  trips to the  cancer center where doctors and nurses fuss over you.

Friends and family stop fussing over you too. You might  find that you suddenly have more time on our hands and when you have more time, you have more time to think and, of course, to worry.  Depending on the type and stage of your cancer and the treatment you received you will probably feel some of the side effects of  radio-active iodine, chemotherapy and/or radiation weeks after your treatments were over which might make you a little depressed.

Depression is one of those things that can sneak up on you. But if you know there is a chance that it might happen, it makes it easier to manage. Just know it all gets better with time, and you will feel and look like your old self again. Your energy will come back and if you lost some or all of you hair will grow back too! It helps to keep your support team around so make sure to let them know how you feel – emotionally and physically.

There are also wonderful oncology social workers at cancer centers and local advocacy organizations to share your feelings. Many offer group support and one-on-one counseling. Take advantage of them! If you live outside of a city or just don’t feel like leaving  your home, there are many wonderful and safe online chat-rooms where you can find patients or caregivers with similar concerns and fears. Go to the recommended  advocacy group’s Web site for your cancer or tumor type and you will find the help you need. Knowing you are not alone and that others feel the same way really helps!

Be good to yourself and allow yourself time to heal. Rest, eat well and exercise. Take yourself on a much-needed vacation or a stay-at-home vacation. You deserve it! Give a charity your time or offer them support by sharing your personal cancer experience with others who might find your story inspiring. It feels great to help others!

Since the minute you found out you have cancer, your  every waking moment and entire life has most likely been about fighting your disease. It’s time to move on and get involved with new activities or reunite with friends you may not have felt up to seeing when you were having your treatments. Stay positive and enjoy each day as it comes. Many patients feel that their cancer taught them to appreciate what they have, and gave them the courage to clear the negative elements out of their lives – including bad relationships, bad jobs and clutter in our homes.

Cancer can give people the strength to take on new challenges. Once you have battled cancer, you can takeon anything. So do something positive for yourself, for your loved ones and perhaps for a charity. If you ever thought about getting a pet, maybe now is the time to do it. There is nothing more healing than the love of a pet. If you do decide to do this, think about adopting an older pet from the ASPCA or some other animal  shelter. You’ll be giving a pet a loving home, and an older pet won’t wear you out the way a puppy or kitten might. Make sure you are feeling physically able to.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father's Cancer: His Daughter's Lesson

I wasn't always daddy's little girl, growing up we had our share of cat fights and father daughter relationship hiccups. At one point it was impossible for us to see eye to eye and we didn't speak for about 7 years when I left home to move with  my mother's family to New Jersey as a teenager.

But you know the apple doesn't fall far from the tree and after I became a mom with my own children we made peace and became great friends.  Over the years we developed a fantastic "friendship" and bond: we laughed at jokes no one else was able to "get" and shared a joint admiration for science and the art of "flirting". Often he would gently give me advice about how to handle a  parenting issue or a single parent financial crisis. He taught me so much, but the most important lessons came through cancer.

My father was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in November 1998. I remember that phone call clear as day on a Thanksgiving morning. We both cried for a long time but once I recovered from the initial shock I would not take no for an answer and  immediately sent for him so that "we" could seek a second opinion at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center  in Mahattan NY. I was determined to "save" him and I just "knew" that New York was the place that could help me do that.

Each family facing cancer has their own stories of the fear, the analysis of medical advise, opinions and horror stories family, friends and strangers share  from all sides as you deal with the seemingly nonstop medical appointments. That first cancer nightmare, as I became his advocate, caregiver and fierce "protector" our love and admiration for each other was sealed. We spent hours talking, but we also spent hours quietly reading next to each other or just sitting together looking out his hospital room window and the people walking down the street. 

During that first round with cancer my father received successful treatment that included surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and physical therapy. My children 8 and 9 at the time learned to help "care" for grandpa and loved spending time with him and listening to his stories. After a year and a half of treatment he decided it was time to return to his home in Puerto Rico and on a beautiful summer day June 2000 he did.

I remember my dad restored, strong and healthy, but also somehow frail, saying goodbye at the airport smiling, holding back tears but determined to be independent again. I remember holding back my tears until he was out of sight and then crying for hours, and days, and weeks after he left worried he still needed me and was just being stubborn and so afraid the cancer would return, as it did, 6 years to the day I sent dad home.

June 2006  I received a call from my sister in Puerto Rico telling me dad had only a few days to live and she could not handle his care. Once again I refused to believe or to give in to the thought that cancer could win. I sent for him again and immediately sought a  second opinion of  the terminal cancer diagnosis. After another round of medical appointments, hospital admissions and diagnostic testing I wanted a third medical opinion or a fourth or a fifth.  I wanted to save my dad so desperately that I must have called every doctor in the phone book.

Finally, in early September 2006 after months of medical tests and consultations my father decided that it was time to go "home", he wanted to go and spend the last few months, weeks or days with his family. He wanted to be "home" with me and my children, and I agreed to honor his wishes and make him as comfortable as I could, as long as I could.  Those last days were bittersweet and beautiful and terribly sad but also full of joy. My dad died in his sleep November 30th, 2006 at 7:35 PM at home with us.

It has been 5 years since my father lost his battle with cancer and over time memories of round the clock care, doctors, hospitals, medication schedules, calls to insurance companies and family disputes over his decision to receive, and my decision to provide, hospice care at home, have become less painful and less important than the time we shared together and how it shaped my outlook in life and the relationship I have with my children.

Today, we are celebrating Father's Day again without him and I realize that my father's biggest lessons for me were in the ways he showed grace, joy and wisdom about life and survival.

The Lessons:
  • Flattery will get you everywhere! Flattery is always a good idea - flattering caregivers is an even better idea. Of course, Dad didn't even realize he was flattering the hospital staff, doctors or nurses; it was just part of his nature to build people up and flirt a little along the way.
Most of the time the nurses would leave the room beaming smiles and feeling better than they did when they first walked in all gloomy and stern. You could tell my Dad was one of their favorite patients and that's a very good thing to be when they are taking care of you.
  • Laugh Often! Dad and I shared a quirky sense of humor. But who cares? It just feels good to laugh, especially in the face of adversity and stress. Dad constantly cracked jokes to ease the tension. He was working hard at survival the best way he knew how and using humor helped us all.
  • Compassion Feeds Your Soul.  Because Dad was known for his good attitude and reassuring presence, the nurses would often ask him to talk with individuals who were just starting down the same  road. During a time that was difficult for him, he showed concern for other people and a willingness to reach out to others on the same path. How conforting it is for someone with first hand experience to tell you it will all work itself out.  
  • Show Grace Under Pressure.  I watched my Dad pray everyday, then trust, hope, believe and pray some more! He was at peace with whatever came. He was so calm, so trusting and so content. This was one of the hardest moments of my life and it seemed such a hard thing to do, for I am a doer, always trying to fix problems, find solutions, save the world. But by going through this with him, I learned that many things are out of my control. It is much more peaceful to let the body work on healing  while the spirit works on building relationships and connections with the people you love.
  • It's OK to Say No!  A beautiful thing happened during my Dad's first treatment session in 1998 that he carried with him into his hospice care journey, he learned to say no. Whenever he didn't want to do something or he didn't want me or anyone else to do something for him he would simply say no and mean it. "No, I don't want to." "No, I don't need that." "No, I don't like that."  What a fantastic lesson!
Today, I honor all the things my father taught me good and bad about life, love, relationships and cancer. But most of all I hope that through Dad's lessons of praise, laughter, compassion, grace, self-care and hope Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund can reach many others.  I love you Daddy!


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Wanted: Public Relations Associate (Volunteer)

Let's put our collective creative minds to work!
We are currently seeking a Virtual Public Relations Volunteer Team. This opportunity is perfect for a group of Public Relations Students as a class project, recent grads or interns seeking to develop their resumes in the field of  public relations, marketing and promotions.

 Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund is a thyroid cancer awareness, access to care and free supportive services for thyroid cancer patients and survivors project of United Charitable Programs Inc., a 501(c)3 Public Charity.

Thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing newly diagnosed cancer in America today regardless of age, sex, race or ethnic background. Women are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed and childhood cancer survivors are also at an increased risk of developing the condition later in life.
We are a 100% volunteer run program. Our goal is to raise a minimum of $100, 000 dollars quaterly to fund our access to care grant program and organize an annual thyroid cancer survivors reunion each year during September the national thyroid cancer awareness month.

To that end we have launched the 10,000 Strong Against Thyroid Cancer Campaing and Fundraising initiative. We are seeking a VOLUNTEER public relations and social media marketing team to help us get the word out about our efforts, programs, services and fundraisig campaign but more importantly to help us recruit volunteers accross all age groups nationwide.


Public Relations: Excellent Communication Skills. Graphic and Web Design Experience. Social Media Marketing Knowledge/Experience. Previous work with nonprofits desired but not necessary.

  • the ability to communicate clearly
  • creativity 
  • initiative 
  • good judgement 
  • an outgoing personality 
  • self confidence
Writing, problem solving, decision making and research skills are a must.
The ability to work on a team is also important.

In a perfect world a Public Relations and Marketing Firm would provide pro-bono services for Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund six months to a year. This volunteer opportunity is perfect for a team of public relations  students as a class project!

For more information please email

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Special Announcement: Volunteers Needed

Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund has recently relocated our national headquarters to New Jersey and we are in the process of actively recruiting volunteers for all areas of operations as well as reaching out to the local community for networking, fundraising and community health education/thyroid cancer awareness projects.

We are seeking a team of bright, energetic, responsible and committed individuals to help our excutive director with the day to day operations and national expansion of our programs and services. A minimum of 6 month 15 hours a week commitment is required for the following internship opportunities.
  • Virtual Assistants to Executive Director
  • Community Ambassadors Nationwide
  • Grant Writing and Grant Research Associates
  • Public Relations Manager and/or Associates
  • Special Events and Fundraising Committee
For a detailed description of all available internship opportunities and requirements with Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund you may contact SJCCF's via Email with resume and letter of interest to:  include Subject Line: Volunteer Search.

You may also find Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund's volunteer listings and more information on simply cut and paste the following link to your browser window:

About Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund:

Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund is a thyroid cancer awareness, access to care and free supportive services project of United Charitable Programs Inc., a 501(c)3 Public Charity. All donations are tax deductible as allowed by law.

We are a 100% volunteer led organization. Our goal is to raise a minimum of $100, 000 dollars annually to fund our access to care grant program for thyroid cancer patients and survivors nationwide as well as organize an annual thyroid cancer survivors reunion each year during September the national thyroid cancer awareness month. To that end we have launched the 10,000 Strong Against Thyroid Cancer Campaing and Fundraising initiative.

Disclosure: All funds raised by Stevie JoEllie's Cancer Care Fund and it's  10,000 Strong Against Thyroid Cancer 2012 fundraising initiative are received by United Charitable Programs  and become the sole property of UCP which, for internal operating purposes, allocates the funds to the Project (SJCCFThyNet). The Program Manager makes recommendations for disbursements which are reviewed by UCP for approval.

About Thyroid Cancer:  Thyroid cancer is the fastest increasing newly diagnosed cancer in America today regardless of age, sex, race or ethnic background. Women are 3 times more likely to be diagnosed and childhood cancer survivors are also at an increased risk of developing the condition later in life.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

It's Raining Outside! Now What?

Entertaining our children during long summer days can be tricky on a budget but specially so during a health crisis. 

What can you do when it's raining outside? 

Here I share my all time favorite  rainy  day solutions that I learned from my mother, the queen of  kids entertainment on a budget. 

1. Arts and Crafts of course!  Mom kept a large container full of recyclables (plastic bottles, cans, cardboard boxes), as well as tape, glue, glitter, ribbons, buttons and various size scissors on hand for projects. My brother wou spend hours building  robots or  cityscape for his toy cars and trucks and I would become a French "Artiste" building sculptures and decorative art.

2. Rediscover Toys! We cleaned out the toy box together. It's like getting brand new toys, which of course will entertain small children for quite some time!  My mother would set up a "toy hospital clinic" for us to "save" (repair) any toys in need of tender loving care. It was a great twist to playing doctor.

3. Declare Archeology Day! My mother would give us some old white shirts from dad to use as lab coats and break out the Play-Doh. We took out a book of dinosaurs and set about recreating them with as much detail and precision as we could. Sometimes we event built a dino jungle!

4. Have a Tea Party and Spa Day!  This is a great idea to teach kids table manners and personal hygiene but of course we didn't figure that out. We would help mom make finger sandwiches and set the table for tea, then she would  give us manicures and pedicures sometimes even a haircut or trim and then we would sit and have our tea party in our best "british" accent. We felt very special and had lots of laughs. 

5. Indoor Picnic!  Pack your kids favorite lunch in a wicker basket. Spread a blanket on the living room floor and pretend you are in the great outdoors having a great time. If it's really gloomy and dark outside you can light up candles and read favorite "camp side" story books to the children until they fall asleep for a nap!

Friday, June 3, 2011

WonderFun Summer Activities: My Mothers' Favorites

Summer's a time to relax but too many long, lazy days can provoke that dreadful, "Moooommm, I'm bored!" So here are 10 great ways to terminate that tedium and keep your long "boring" summer days as relaxing as you want them to be and wonder-fun too!

1. Sprinklers!   Little kids and kids of all ages for that matter love getting wet in sprinklers. Try placing yours in the crook of a tree or hanging it from a swing set for creative "outdoor showers". Playing in the water takes on a new perspective when it's not the usual same old tub. Set a timer for 40 minutes to an hour  and stick to the plan. Limited time fun is more "valuable" to kids trust me!

2. Painting!  Fill a bowl or bucket of water, give the kids some large sponges and let the kids paint the garage, sidewalk or each other! Ask them to tell you what "color" they are using and let them get wet splash water painting. Or play catch with  the wet sponge it isn't as messy or scary for little ones to play catch with a wet sponge as it would be with water ballons! 

3. Baby Pool Parties! You see them in K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target and even the Supermarket. Those plastic "baby" pools are a life saver in pinch. Having a baby pool "party" is often as much fun or better than going to the municipal pool. My mother had 2 she would fill one pool with all kinds of fun water toys and the other one with water. You and your friends or neighbors  can  host "weekly baby pool parties" in each others yards once a week! By moving the "party" to different locations you kick the wonderfun   momentum up a notch and dont worry about too many kids in one little baby pool add a sprinkler shower and you have a home made water park!

4. Color Walks!  Try a color walk. Give your toodler or preschooler a scrap of color paper and take a stroll, it could be your neighborhood, a park or the mall. See how many items your children can find that match the color paper. Give older children a triangle or square piece of paper so they can compare it with shapes, such as windows or traffic signs along the way. End the color walk at the ice cream shop!

5. Nature Walks!  Here is another idea for a walk: before you stroll on a grass or dirt surface, lightly wrap a piece of duct tape, sticky side out, around your child's ankle. Take the kids to the park, botanical garden o even local garden center. When you get home cut off the tape and "explore" what bits of leafs, grass, twigs, pebbles and dirt are stuck there. You can also use duct tape to make a "nature wrist bracelet". Have your kids stick "treasures" they find on the walk to their bracelets!

6. Mystery Field Trip. Pick a destination in your community or a few towns away then play a game of clues, you give them hints and see if they can guess where you'll all be going that day. The trick is to "surprise" them with unexpected places as well as sprinkle this idea with their favorite places too on other days. The beauty of this idea is that you can include errands on any given day and make it wonder-fun for the kids to join you.  Never underestimate the power of the  "mystery field trip" my mother was an expert at them and if you are clever it can also be the most fun you ever without blowing the budget.

7. Community Tours. This one takes a little planning ahead but is well worth it. Explore your town, county or state! Many companies, businesses, factories and government agencies offer free tours and we all know that preschoolers and grammar school age children are especially fascinated by how things are made or how things work. I remember my mother took us to the Bacardy Liquor Distillery in Puerto Rico when I was probably in the second grade and we were simply amazed, my dad freaked out a little that we learned how Rum was made but he was really happy when she presented him with sample bottles!

8. Summer Theater!  Many kids enjoy creating plays and dances. Imagine what fun to have them put together their own play or dance, rehearse, make costumes and tickets to give to family and friends so you can invite an audience to enjoy!  Preparations can take one day or one week but remember it is their play or dance, allow their creativity to shine! My mother loved to surprise my dad with his favorite meal and a performance by "The Magnificent 4" (that was one of our many stage names as kids).  You can simply have PBJ's and milk !

9.  Gardening.  Yes, I know! But gardening is an activity both you and kids can be proud of and a great lesson about the natural world and how things grow beautifully with a little patience and tender loving care. Children get to see continuing results for their efforts  and learn responsibility as you teach then how to care for "their" plants. Many kids are more willing to eat vegetables they have grown but flower beds or any plant of their choosing  is a wonder-fun opportunity for them to "play" with dirt, help mommy and finish off the "event" washing under the garden hose!  

10. Do Lunch!  Take the kids to a diner or kid friendly restaurant and simply have lunch. Whenever possible meet dad or another relative for lunch as a surprise the kids will love the unexpected time with a favorite aunt, uncle, grandparent or dear family friend, but specially Dad. I know we did!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sleep Away Camp: Sweeter Dreams for All

For many cancer patients and survivors summer months can become a more stressful  with the added responsibility of children home all day from school. Many parents in the process of scheduling surgery, recovering from recent surgery,  in the middle of treatment or recovering from recent treatment choose to send their children to sleep away camp for the first time. 

Whatever the reason this year 10 million children will tote their sleeping bags to camp. But they may not get much sleep. For many children, healthy parents or not, overnight camp is the first time they've slept away  from their family for more than a night or two. Add an unfamiliar bed, strange noises and the overall excitement of camp and it's no wonder many kids come home from camp totally exhausted, cranky and stressed!

So while you are helping your children pack for summer camp, take a few extra steps to help them sleep well. With proper sleep they will indeed enjoy all the wonderful things summer camp has to offer and return home refreshed, happy, relazed and ready to fill you in on all the fun they had.

  • PACK SOME COMFORT - Don't forget to pack her favorite Teddy or his favorite blanket. According to leading pediatricians comfort items such as stuffed animals, pillows and blankets become important when kids sleep in an unfamiliar place, because they create a soothing sense of familiarity and security. Older kids may appreciate a small framed photo of the family or a note from mom and dad!

  • CHECK NIGHTIME TEMPS - While you're checking the daytime weather forecast for their camp destination, make sure that you check the nightime forecast too. Nightime temperatures may be much lower or higher than what your child is used to or you anticipated, particularly if they are sleeping in a cabin or tent. Pack several pairs of pajamas both light and medium/heavy as well as thick socks for layering in case it's cold at night.

  • PREPARE FOR "ACCIDENTS" --  Around 7% to 10% of kids wet the bed up until age 8. Some older kids may do so  if unsually stressed. If you or your child is anxious about the possibility of a bed wetting "accident"  and "mortified" at the thought of packing disposable training pants talk to her or his pediatrician. Some pediatric urologists recommend a short term prescription for a medication like desmopressin, which slows nightime urine production and can provide a TEMPORARY solution for bedwetting children during summer camp when bedwetting is specially embarrasing.

  • SEND MOONLIGHT MUNCHIES -- After an action packed day at camp, your child may feel her stomach growl just as the counselor announces "Lights Out!" If camp rules allow it pack a few bedtime snacks: whole grain crackers,  individual cold cereal bowls, granola and protein bars travel well. Tryptophan rich foods like nuts, sunflower seeds and soybeans add sleepy points to the scoreboard.

  • SAY NO TO NOISE -- A child who is particularly sensitive to noise may find camp's group sleeping arrangements disconcerting. And strange sounds can trigger night time fears. Consider "training" your child to use earplugs before going to camp and packing a set  of earplugs in her camp luggage. Make sure your child knows where to find the ear plugs so he or she can drift off to sleep in silence.

Home Sleepy Home!  No matte what you say or do, kids probably won't adhere to their regular sleep schedule at camp. When they return home getting back to their normal routine is really important. It may take a few days for them to adjust to their regular schedule, so post pone sleepovers and trips until after the kids have spent some time catching up on their regular sleep routine.

Good Luck!