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Samuel's Story: Why Pediatric Cancer Patients Need a Visual Calendar

My son Samuel was diagnosed at two and a half with a brain tumor. 

When we learned about his diagnosis, I went on a search for a book to help him understand what cancer was, and how it was going to affect him.  It was a difficult feat, and the books that I did find left him scared and unsure. 

Cancer is a difficult thing that comes with a plethora of emotions.  Being two and a half, Samuel wasn't able to communicate his emotions clearly, and the anxiety became very apparent during treatment.  

In the depths of Samuel's treatment, a psychologist who visited during an in-patient visit suggested creating a weekly chart that would outline the events for Samuel. If he knew what was coming, it could ease his anxiety. 

She emphasized that it should only be a week long, and it should be visual with the same symbols used for each event such as blood draws, clinic appointments, in-patient visits, scans, etc. She also explained that fun things should be included on the schedule such as movie night or art time. 

Even though I tried to create something, I didn't follow through consistently. I was so overwhelmed and scared, I couldn't problem-solve. Creating something was too much - I was exhausted and just going day by day.

When I learned about Sara's calendar for kids with cancer, I was ecstatic. This is exactly what Samuel needed when he was in treatment.

I know that if I had received this book, along with a weekly schedule, it would have eased the stress that I experienced trying to explain something like cancer, needle pricks, doctor visits, to a preschool aged child.

To me, this is something that a social worker should be giving to families at diagnosis. Imagine having to explain something like a cancer diagnosis to a preschooler. 

Sara's project, provides the words that I couldn't muster up in my head because I was experiencing my own flood of emotions. I wish I had this when Samuel was diagnosed.  It would have provided peace at a time of great uncertainty.

— Kristin Boehm