My journey to shoot for the moon.

When Chris was diagnosed, I started searching for a support group for the boys.  Not many kids their age have experience with losing a parent to cancer, and I wanted them to have a relationship with a group of kids (and adults) in case they needed it.  Relationships take time to build and I wanted to make sure that we had supports in place for when they were needed.

In December, 2009 the boys and I attended CLIMB (Children Living In Moments of Bravery) at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.  CLIMB is funded by The Children’s Treehouse Foundation One night each week, for four weeks, I drove us to the hospital for dinner and support.  It was a good group, although only a few families came to more than one session.  The food was great (the boys looked forward to dinner) and the kids met with psychologists, social workers and nurses.  They made things that represented how they felt about having a parent with cancer, they talked, and they got to visit the oncology department when no one was there.  Visiting the oncology department meant that they got to see where the nurses administered chemo and they got a demonstration of what getting chemo entailed.  It was all kid friendly and answered a number of questions the boys had about treatment.

My boys weren’t into the “artsy” part of CLIMB.  But that seemed to be ok.  They went happily (I think dinner was a big part of the going happily – they got to have soda) and they were able to start managing their feelings about Chris’ cancer.

While the kids were talking and creating, the adults joined two social workers to discuss issues related to the cancer diagnosis.  Chris didn’t want to attend (and was exhausted from chemo), so I went alone with the boys.  I was the only “caregiver” that was there without their spouse.

We had some very honest conversations during this time.  We talked about our fears for ourselves, our spouses and our kids.  We talked about guilt and burnout.  We discussed medical bills and life insurance.  And we talked about end-of-life issues.  We laughed and, quite often, we cried.  The best part of this group was that I felt supported.  It didn’t matter what I said, these were people who understood and were traveling similar paths.

When the group ended, several of us continued to get together.  And then we stopped.  It was tough because my boys were the oldest and the only boys (besides babies).  They didn’t really want to go.  It was also sometimes strange because I had more in common with the men (the “caregivers”) than the women who were battling cancer.  While the women understood each other, and they could relate to what I was feeling and going through, I couldn’t totally get what they were battling.  However, I have no doubt that it was time well-spent and that it was needed by me and the boys at the time.

One of the things that I worried about (and still do to a certain extent) is self-sufficiency.  I can fix a number of things.  I can read and follow directions.  I can put together kids toys and furniture.  All of these things I can do and feel pretty confident.  However, when it comes to my van, I’m lost.  We found a good mechanic, and I trust them, so that helps.  But I’ve never changed a headlight.  And at the time, I could not, no matter how I tried, change the rear wiper blade on the van.  I read the directions.  I read the directions out loud.  The boys tried to help, and they couldn’t figure it out either.

It was cold and Chris was feeling icky.  Chemo was taking a lot out of him and I knew that he didn’t have the patience to teach me to do it myself.  I’m sure that he would have done it for me, had I asked.  But I didn’t want him to do it for me, I wanted to be able to do it myself.

Thankfully, we were getting together with the families we met from CLIMB.  Before we left, I asked one of the husbands (thanks Z.Z.) if he could help me and teach me how to change the wiper blade.  I told him I didn’t want him to do it for me.  I wanted to know how to do it myself.  It only took him a few minutes.  There was a key part that I was not understanding from the directions and therefore, was not getting it in the right place.  Once he showed me, it made sense.  And it wasn’t difficult.  But to me it was huge.  I was able to do it without help the next time I needed to change the wiper blade.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but at the time it helped me cope.  I think that is what CLIMB did for the boys.  And when CLIMB was over, we went searching for another support group.  

We found Kids Alive at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver.  I’ll talk about Kids Alive in Part 2.


Comments on: "CLIMB and Kids Alive: Support Groups for Kids who have a Parent with Cancer – Part 1" (3)

  1. So happy for you and the boys that Kids Alive is there for them. You are in my thoughts and prayers Robin.


  2. This blog is probably one of the most powerful ones you have written , to me . It helped the unrest-ed feelings I have towards my sister in-law . There are many of them . Just as there are so many UN-answered questions I have for her . Doing what you are doing for Those Boy’s and Yourself , well , I can only wish she would have done something like this , I would have gone with her . I needed it . After Doug died I could not find one support group in my county . Traveling is fine , when you feel good . I am sick , they do not know what causes my WBC counts to be through the roof or platelets as well . I have been diagnosed with Leukocytosis and thrombocytosis as well as chronic anemia . This along with a unsuccessful back surgery that left me with 6 bad disc instead of the three I went in for and nerve damage leaves it hard for me to get in long drives now .Back then I was just about willing in grief to go to the ends of the earth . It makes a huge difference to find support . And to do those things yourself , yes . Divorce did that for me . I have had my own tool box for six years : }’s I fixed the leak in the bathroom last week . I was amazed how easy it was . The maintenance guy wanted to rip the ceiling apart in the bath below it . Knocking on wood I hope it is fixed for good . It feels good . Really good to do the stuff you had no idea you could do . Although , I have to admit there is anxiety leading up to the what the heck and the getting it done .So , sum it up , there is no book to tell people what to do . How to get by . What to expect . Just knowing you have that tenacious drive to do what you do for those Boys and You , Makes me smile , can you be my Mom : }’s


    • Wendy – I understand your pain and your questions. I loved your brother too. There are many things that your sister-in-law did that I didn’t understand until I was walking in the same shoes. However, I don’t know if I would be as willing to share my feelings and thoughts if I didn’t have the boys. I want them to feel safe and secure. I parent by instinct, usually. But when Chris was diagnosed, I knew that I was out of my league. Both of my parents are still with me. How could I possibly provide the all support that the boys will need if I haven’t experienced what they are going through? Beyond that, I know that I have (and will have) my own issues. And you are right, everyone handles things differently. Shortly after Chris was diagnosed, my supposed best-friends dumped me and I had no choice but to deal with things alone. That isn’t to say that I didn’t have support – I did. My mother and I talk almost every day and she is a HUGE support! But she lives across the country. And there were people who I didn’t know very well, who were amazing and generous and willing to help. And some of them have become friends. Others, while not really friends, are still genuine with their offers to help and I believe that I can call on them when I need to.

      Doug and your sister-in-law didn’t have any children. Without the boys, I think that I would have curled into a little ball and let myself waste away. I’d like to believe that I was stronger than that, but if we didn’t have them when Chris was diagnosed, I don’t think I would have had any reason to . . . you get the idea. Because of the boys, I am a better person and I found strength within me I didn’t know was there. For them, I can do almost anything and I will do almost anything for them. They have their whole lives ahead of them and they have so much potential and so many gifts to share, it would be a shame if they didn’t have opportunities to reach for their dreams. Chris’ cancer and everything that goes with it (the fatigue, the feeling icky, the emotional aspects) along with how it impacts me, makes it easy to say “no”. I have to remember to say “yes.” It is the one thing that I hate about being a parent of kids who have a parent with cancer – saying “no” because Chris doesn’t feel well, or I’m tired from trying to do it all. I’m not perfect, I struggle every day to do the best that I can for all of us. Some days I over-do it and pay for it the following day, some days I am so overwhelmed by what I have to do that nothing gets done, and some days I have hope and believe that it is a beautiful world.


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