I am a big fan of your website. I also have a 5-year-old son who has spent most of the last 5 months at Children’s Hospital undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma, a kind of cancer.
I read your post about the Child’s Play project, and I wanted to say thank you. Before my son got cancer, I never would have thought that anything good could come out of such a horrible thing, but I was wrong. A sick child brings out the best in people. We have been blessed with support and generosity that I never dreamed existed. There have been many times when I have felt like Jimmy Stewart at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life. People have come out of the woodwork to help us in our darkest time, from old friends to complete strangers, to the Penny Arcade guys. It has been truly amazing to me.
Let me tell you a little about life at Children’s Hospital, so you can have a good idea how your gifts help. There are obviously lots of kids with lots of different problems at Childrens’, and ours is but one story, but you might like to know how things like Child’s Play help out one real person.
Having a child with cancer, or being a child with cancer, sucks in a lot of ways. The big one is the very real possibility that the final outcome of the disease will be death. A close second is that chemotherapy or bone marrow transplants are really long, really painful procedures. But there are a million smaller things that suck, too. Like these:
You know how when you go to the doctor and even though you see him for a total of 5 minutes, with all the time you spend waiting around, it ends up being an hour? Well, between chemo rounds, my son has to go to the doctor every other day to have his blood counts checked. That is a lot of time sitting in waiting rooms being bored out of your mind.
One chemotherapy session can last a week. That’s a week of being attached by tubes to an IV pump. It’s like being tied to a tetherball pole. You’ve got maybe a five-foot radius in which you can move around. Now, the IV pumps have a battery pack, so you can unplug it and go for a walk around the hospital. But a walk involves pushing the IV pole around with you and making sure that you don’t step too far away and have your lines yanked.
Chemotherapy depresses your immune system, so even a common cold can be life-threatening. When you are in the cancer ward for a cold, you are in quarantine, as all the other kids have suppressed immune systems, too. You can’t leave the room, your mom or dad can’t leave the room. Even though you can unplug your IV tree, you can’t go anywhere for days. Being in quarantine is a little like Mystery Science Theater 3000. You feel like a test subject in an experiment to determine exactly how much continuous viewing of the Cartoon Network will drive a person mad.
If you are a brother or sister of a kid with cancer, you have to spend a lot of time in the cancer ward. It is an extremely boring place. It sucks doubly if you have to have your birthday in the cancer ward’s playroom because your stupid brother is sick when you really want a party at Chuck E. Cheese.
My son has had to endure lots of painful or just plain scary procedures. When you are a five-year-old, going into the big donut of the CT scanner is frightening. Having a video on the TV, or a book for your daddy to read while you are being scanned can give you something to focus on that is not scary, to help you get through it.
So, in summary, kids on the cancer ward either feeling like crap or being bored out of their minds. There is a playroom on the ward (and in most other wards as well), and a larger hospital-wide playroom on the 2nd floor. They are great. They are full of videos, books, games, and video games. You can check out these things, library style, and take them back to your room to play with. These things are critical in keeping a kid’s spirits up when he is undergoing the long, long cancer treatments.
As has happened so often during my son’s treatment, I am astounded by the generosity of people. Thank you and your readers so much for Child’s Play. Know that it makes a real difference in the lives of kids who are facing the worst thing they may ever face.