You may have seen this video of a 7 year-old pediatric brain cancer patient a touchdown run at the Nebraska Spring Game. The young boy, Jack Hoffman, was given this opportunity because of his friendship with a former player and his closeness to the football team. While this event was touching and inspiring to millions, it is also part of a brief respite from Jack’s 60-week chemotherapy treatment. For a boy of just 7 years, 60 weeks is a pretty big chunk of time.
I was at this game and felt the wave of emotion sweep over the crowd for this young boy. We cheered loudly with tears in our eyes. We all understood that for every minute of joy he felt on the football field that afternoon, there have been hours and days of difficulty throughout his ordeal.
His progress is going well, but the battle is far from over. There will certainly be times when little Jack will draw on this amazing experience to get him through difficult and painful moments. This moving experience prompted me to look further into how kids with chronic or serious illnesses cope with their conditions.
This article called Children With Chronic Conditions covers a number of important topics including self awareness, dealing with death, and recognizing depression. I thought the depression segment was perhaps the most enlightening part of the article. It’s interesting how people assume that depression is automatically part of a serious illness. It’s certainly important to be sure a depressed child gets proper mental health treatment, but this shows that healthy resilience can be normal, too.
An innovative idea from a nurse became the foundation of a charity to help kids cope with serious illness. Jean Baruch found that kids at summer camp (for children coping with serious illnesses) loved to work with, wear, and trade strings of beads. The charity program helps kids tell their story of illness and recovery with beads representing moments and milestones. This is a neat idea that turns difficult emotional topics into something tactile and physical. It also helps kids connect their experiences, whether triumphant or upsetting, into a meaningful personal story. The charity is called Beads of Courage.
While these are just two of many resources out there, I hope you find them as thought-provoking as I did. If you know of other good articles or recommendations on how kids cope with serious illness, please add your thoughts to the comment area below.