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CancerCare’s Support for Children and Adolescents Impacted by Cancer: Q&A with Shannon Coon

As part of International Childhood Cancer Day, Shannon Coon, LMSW, CancerCare's Children's Program Coordinator shares some resources and insights for families coping with cancer.

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Could you tell us about the CancerCare for Kids program and the specific types of support it offers to children and adolescents affected by cancer? How does CancerCare meet the unique needs of younger people dealing with cancer?
CancerCare for Kids provides support to children and adolescents affected by cancer. All services are free of charge and provided by master’s level oncology social workers who specialize in working with children and adolescents. For residents of New York and New Jersey, individual counseling as well as live support groups are available where children, adolescents and parents find ways of coping with cancer. Additional services include resource navigation, educational workshops, publications, financial assistance and seasonal practical programs.

What kind of emotional support does CancerCare provide to young cancer patients and their families?
Our staff of oncology social workers provide guidance, information and direct support to children and adolescents coping with cancer, who have a loved one with cancer or who have lost a loved one to cancer. The emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis can leave one feeling anxious, depressed and isolated. Oncology social workers can help identify ways to cope and manage practical concerns throughout one’s cancer journey. Counseling services are available in English and Spanish and center on the emotional and practical concerns that arise from cancer. Live support groups for children and adolescents that provide a safe space and the opportunity to express their feelings and concerns are also available.

Can you elaborate on the educational resources and materials available through CancerCare that help families understand and cope with cancer?
At CancerCare, educational workshops are available over the phone or online. These workshops are held throughout the year, providing up-to-date information and are led by experts in oncology. Easy-to-read booklets and fact sheets that provide reliable information on cancer-related topics are also available. Below are booklets and factsheets tailored to help families who are impacted by cancer.
Talking to Children When a Loved One Has Cancer
Supporting a Child With Cancer
Mom or Dad Has Cancer...Now What?
Helping Teenagers Who Have Lost a Parent

Young people face unique challenges when it comes to coping with cancer. What strategies and tools does CancerCare recommend for children and teens to help manage their emotions and stress?
Children and adolescents can have many different reactions when learning about a cancer diagnosis. Because coping skills are not one size fits all, it may take some time and/or patience to find some tools that will be helpful. It can be beneficial to have some hands-on tools ready when they experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Here are some strategies that can help reduce feelings of anxiety:
- Staying Connected - Talking with family, friends and professionals who can help navigate the emotions and challenges that arise in families managing cancer.
- Journaling - This can be a great coping strategy to release emotions and clear our minds.
- Mindfulness - This allows us to increase awareness of the present moment without judgment.
- Staying Active - Often going for a run or playing sports can help relieve stress.

What should parents know about oncology social workers and their role in cancer care?
Oncology social workers are licensed professionals who counsel people affected by cancer, providing emotional support and helping people access practical assistance. Children and adolescents value privacy and speaking with someone who is objective can help them process and express their emotions. Oncology social workers can provide individual counseling, resource navigation, support groups and locate services available based on a person's location. They are available to help in person, online or on the phone, free of charge.

Could you discuss how CancerCare helps build a sense of community and connection among children and teens experiencing cancer?
CancerCare support services allow children and teens the opportunity to receive support while discussing the unique challenges that arise due to a cancer diagnosis. Through individual counseling, children and teens are provided with a safe space to express their emotions and any concerns that arise while adjusting to life after a cancer diagnosis. Support groups available provide participants a chance to exchange support while discussing commonalities they face, therefore reminding them that they are not alone.

How can families get in touch with CancerCare for Kids and start receiving support?
Those seeking support can contact CancerCare's Hopeline at 800-813-HOPE (4673) to speak with an oncology social worker and learn more about their available services.

Posted by Guest Blogger on February 15, 2024 in Advocacy, Children
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