Have you visited the Oncology floor(children)?
It is not a likely place to visit for most of us who are not working in that line of care. For the very first time, I was at the oncology floor at the children’s hospital, was to visit my friend’s little girl, Victoria. She was diagnosed with Leukemia couple of months back, a day before her 6th birthday.
Height of painful emotions that her family must have gone through that dreadful day is overwhelming to think .Little girl who stopped and smiled when we crossed path sometime at the park or the playground, was confined to the bed. Still sweet and still bravely smiling at me with IV lines by her bed.
Victoria’s family has been through some of the hardest time of their life; yet what stands out the most is not the pain and suffering, which certainly is tearful,but the faith in our savior, Jesus Christ, that Victoria’s parents have, to stand strong through the trying time.
I often think of peace and hope that comes from John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
I see this embodied in Victoria’s parents .Their utmost faith in Victoria’s creator who has intricately woven every cell, every tissue, very fabric of her fragile body is beautiful to see.
I cannot say I comprehend the intensity of their pain, which is so personal to them. Standing at the sidelines I find myself speechless and helpless to do anything to ease the pain of my friends. So I PRAY.
Prayer to see God’s will through this suffering. He is the healer and restorer of all things broken. It is hard for the family who is going through tough circumstances to pray for themselves sometimes. Body of believers can intercede and cry out on their behalf for His provisions and new mercies every morning.
During a conversation, sitting in the hospital room, I asked my friend, if they have interacted with any other family going through similar circumstances? They did. They graciously shared some of their hospital experiences.
This conversation inspired to move on with the idea of putting together a ‘Chemo care package’ .Idea that I had heard before but not personally inspired to do so until then.
What I know
Many children who are receiving cancer treatment are from out of town. It is hard for their family to stay for the extended period of time and visit regularly. So many times one parent/grandma stays in the room with the sick child for the entire duration of the treatment. This duration can easily be months.
It means, sharing the same hospital room space with their sick child. For parent, it involves every day regular routine from brushing their teeth in the morning, to bath, eat and sleep there. It also involves staying awake late in the night or irregular sleep time for child’s checkup. For children, this also means being in the room by themselves at times. Local hospitals here do great job of organizing things like arts and craft hour and other fun things to keep the children occupied in something other than their sickness.
“Smile from Victoria” bags
To me personally ‘Chemo care package’ sounds cold and hard just as the disease is. I chose to call it ‘Smile from Victoria’ bags not because it is warm and fuzzy or cute (there can never be anything warm and fuzzy or cute about the C-word) but because Victoria has been the inspiration to take on to this idea.
Content of the “Smile from Victoria” bags
Victoria likes to color, to be read, and look at the posters her friends made among other things. I took cue from her likings’ ,talked to her parents and also the director for child well-being at the hospital to get an idea about what the children bags might have .I thought having a little bag for room parent is a good idea.
- Cards. Victoria loved the cards her little friends made for her. It was pasted all around her room for her to look at it.
- Coloring books, crayons, color pencil etc. Or just the blank doodle book as well.
- Poster with bright colors(Scripture verse/Inspiration quote for parents to be reminded of and for child to be assured of.
- Shiny Mylar balloons are good. NO latex.
- Play dough(Little kids love it, though i think big kids might like to sculpt too :-))
- *Card games such as UNO
- Pillows are LOVED. Kids can put together no-sew pillow very easily. It helps to prop legs, back etc as needed. Stuffed animal do the same too.
- Blankets,easy to put together as no-sew pillow.
- Gowns : Children receiving cancer treatments often have IV lines and such attached to them on the side of their body for frequent check ups.Left side usually.Gowns with easy opening in a left is convenient for them to be wearing in those frequent check up days.
- Caps (knitted/crocheted/sewed)
- Bubbles; little kids love it
- Stickers are big hit with little kids
- Lip balm (for parents as well.)
- Squishy ball
- Anything else that might cheer up a child and is safe to have in the hand and room
** Some Card game varies by kid’s age. So are the sock sizes. There are no certain way to know the exact age and sizes of the children. It changes. I would suggest to bring assortment of card games and socks sizes separately.I was told that oncology nurse can make the decision to place them in a given bag right before distributing.
What NOT to put
No food/candies of any kind. Taste bud changes for the children receiving the treatments. Leave this for parents to discern.
- Journal: My friend said, so many things come in mind and place to note it down is good to have.
- Scripture verses/Inspiration quotes: My friend is strong believer and scripture verses are very uplifting for her.
- Gift card for coffee. Many hospitals have Starbucks.
- Gift cards for nearby fast food joints.
- Loose change for vending machines at the hospital
- Small shampoo/face wash/lotion
- Wet Wipes
- Small box of things such as lip balm, Advil, allergy medicine, gums, pen, rubber bands, some cash
Before you visit to the hospital
Please make yourself aware of the hospital visitors’ policy before you visit .
- 12 years and under are simply not allowed inside any hospital room.
- Big group to visit the floor is not advised.7-8 is good number to have in a group.Sometime children can come out in the hall from their room,as discerned, with the help of a nurse when such visits occur.
- You must be in good health to visit.Visitor policy is even more strict at the oncology floor to protect these children,who have compromised immune system, from contracting any infection.
- You may be asked to leave the bags at the oncology nurse station.They are very appreciative of the support.
We put together these bags as part of my daughter’s American Heritage group. The girls who visited had heartwarming experience to share with rest of us.
Today Victoria is declared free from cancer. Praise God. She has long road of recovery and restoration ahead of her and beautiful testimony in making. Keep Praying.