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Talking to kids about traumatic world events

From Hurricane Sandy, shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Boston Marathon bombing, the Oso mudslide and most recently the shooting at Seattle Pacific University, so often now we are given immediate access and awareness to traumatic and sudden events happening around the world and right in our own communities.  As parents we play an essential role in helping our children cope with stress and the emotions that come with a traumatic event.  Sometimes we think it would be better for them not to know about these things or that talking about will make it worse, but it’s important to respect their reactions and provide a place for them to talk about it. 

Why is it important to talk with my child? 

Talking to your child is an important first step in helping them understand and process any life event and especially a large scale traumatic event.  Your child may have already heard about the event through school, social media, friends or other sources.  Taking the initiative to talk with them allows you the opportunity to clarify the facts, answer questions and provides them a chance to share their own feelings. 

What should I tell my child?

Knowing ...

Helping kids with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Do you know what it is?  Do you know what symptoms people suffer from? Do you know that 1.4 million Americans have IBD, and that it can affect both children and adults alike?  The gastroenterology team at Swedish takes care of both children and adults who suffer with this chronic, disease of the gastrointestinal tract

As the pediatric gastroenterology nurse who works intimately with the pediatric IBD patients at Swedish, I know all too well that many can suffer with the “ups and downs” of this sometimes debilitating disease.  Often, I tend to hear from kids when they are “down”, but my favorite time to hear from them is when they are excited about upcoming special events like the “Take Steps” walk, or Camp Oasis (a camp just for kids with IBD), both events sponsored by the CCFA.  It’s often at these events, that children first say that they start to feel “normal”. 

This year, we want to invite you to ...

Summer 2014 Cancer Community Walks & Runs

Each year, the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) partners with local and national organizations in an effort to help spread awareness of cancer, associated treatments, and resources available in our communities.
 
Summer 2014 is no different. We’ve signed on to take part in more events than ever before—and we want you to join us! As an active patient, survivor, family member, friend or advocate, your voice and participation matter.
 
American Cancer Society Relay for Life
These overnight community fundraising walks help raise money to fund cancer research, education, and support services like Hope Lodge®, Road to Recovery®, Look Good, Feel Better®, and Reach to Recovery®, all American Cancer Society-run programs. The Swedish Cancer Institute patients gain access to these programs throughout the Swedish network. There are several Relay for Life events going on in the Puget Sound. The Swedish Cancer Institute is taking part in:

Talking to kids about cancer

What do I tell my kids?” 

This is often the first question I’m asked by a parent with a new cancer diagnosis.  One of the most important things for parents to remember is that they know their children better than anyone else and they love them more than anyone…they can trust themselves to do this well.
 
Beyond that general reassurance, however, there are some practical tips for talking with children about a cancer diagnosis. 
 
Prepare for the conversation 
 
Think about your goals for the conversation.  What does your child need to know?  How you can help your child understand what’s going on?  How do you want your child to feel after the talk?  Who should tell your child you have cancer and can the person talking to your child stay relatively calm?
 
When and where should I have this conversation?  You don’t have to wait until you have all the answers.  Be prepared to ...

Style '14 Fashion Show Benefit

Northwest Hope & Healing, a non-profit organization supporting women battling breast cancer, is hosting the 12th Annual Fashion Show at the Showbox in SODO on Thursday, May 1, 2014.
 
More than 30 breast cancer survivors will be modeling spring looks from several Seattle boutiques. Proceeds from this event benefit the Northwest Hope & Healing’s Patience Assistance Fund at the Swedish Cancer Institute, which helps provide everyday basics such as groceries, childcare and emergency rent for women battling breast cancer.
 
Northwest Hope & Healing has been supporting Swedish Cancer Institute patients since early 2000 and is deeply rooted in our community. We are proud to support this event and hope to see many of you there!

Is it ok to laugh with cancer?

“Is it okay to laugh?”

The question caught me off guard for a moment, then its meaning sunk in.  She was really saying, “Cancer is serious stuff, my breast has been cut on and radiated, and you’ve given me cancer fighting poisons in my veins. My hair has fallen out, food tastes funny, and I’m on a first name basis with the muzak at my insurance company. I’ve done my crying, but is it appropriate to laugh at it all?”

I remembered back to an intimidating nurse critiquing a tape of my very first patient interview during my second month of medical school. Her eyes were sharp and piercing and her brow furrowed as she watched the tape. Half way through she stopped it, turned it off, and said, “You are flippant…. I don’t much care for it.” My heart sank, and then she continued without a smile, but with a twinkle in her eyes, “but it works for you, so don’t mind me and keep on doing it.”

I believe that humor is therapeutic. Of  course, that is not a new idea. The saying, “laughter is the best medicine” did not originate with Readers Digest. The biblical record states, “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit drieth bones” (Proverbs 17:22). I don’t know that a merry heart will add time to a cancer patient’s life, but I know that it will add life to the time that they have.  

We don’t know a lot about the physiological effects of humor. It does ....

Grieving and the holidays

A cancer doctor is very familiar with the anxious and fearful grief that accompanies a diagnosis of cancer. We are less acquainted with the lonely and empty grief that is experienced by those left behind when our patients die. However, when I wear my hospice medical director hat, I am privy to those struggles, and knowing that the loss of someone close is particularly difficult during the holidays, I have chosen to divert from subjects I am more familiar with and rely on the experts at hospice to help me present a meaningful discourse on grief during the holiday season.

For the bereaved, the joyous holidays trigger emotions of great conflict. Every act of preparing for the holidays, once a time of cheer and anticipation, becomes another stabbing reminder of ones loss. The demands of family and friends, always a bit stressful around Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year, now are overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. Traditions, designed to create love and family unity, now seem empty and may even create divisions among the grieving. Even successful celebration may bring on a deep surge of guilt for enjoying the holiday alone. And those who have no physical or emotional reserves left for thanksgiving or joy making, may feel great pressure to “get on with their life, and join in the fun.”

It has been suggested that the key word in grief is “permission.” The bereaved need permission from themselves, and from family and friends, to grieve as long as necessary and in any way that works, remembering that what works may not always be the same. It means permission to only do what you can. A turkey and all the trimmings may just be too much this year. Eating out may be perfect. Having someone else do dinner may be better yet. 

Permission may also be needed to change some timeworn traditions. It must be recognized that ...

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