NEWEGEIN – To support children of parents with cancer, the Buddyhuis Foundation – in collaboration with the St. Antonius Cancer Center – developed three initiatives: the buddy bear, the chemo countdown calendar and an animation. They can help children to better understand their parents’ disease process.
Femke Riel, founder of the Buddyhuis, came up with the idea of developing something for children whose parents have cancer when she developed breast cancer a few years ago. “After I had the first course of chemo, my son asked, ‘Mommy, why do they have to make you sick to get better?’ An understandable question, because after that first chemo I was not feeling well and soon started to lose my hair. In his opinion, the hospital did more harm than good. Fortunately, I was able to take him with me on a subsequent visit to the hospital, so that he could see for himself that everyone was doing their best to make me better. ”
Since it is not always possible – certainly in the present time – for children to come to hospital with their parent, three initiatives have been developed that can serve as support.
The idea behind the Buddy Bear is that the cuddly toy goes to the hospital on behalf of the child and stays close to the parent during treatment. Femke: “For children it is often already a comfort when their father or mother is not alone. In addition, the bear is a good way to start a conversation with children about what the parent experiences when he / she is in the hospital, so that they better understand what is going on. ”
To further support this, videos are being made with Maartje Sier, oncology surgeon at St. Antonius. She goes ‘out to hospital’ with the bear and visits, among other things, the chemo department, where the bear gets an IV.
The chemo countdown calendar
“Cancer treatment is often a long process and for many children it is incalculable,” says Femke. “That is why a countdown calendar was drawn up together with a patient, in which the long process is divided into shorter phases. As a countdown tool we have ‘pacman’ magnets, which ‘eat the wrong cells away’. Such a calendar not only has a positive effect, but also provides structure in a chaotic time. ”
Entertainment for children and teenagers
An animation has been made for older children and teenagers. It explains what cancer is and what it can do to children’s feelings. “When a parent gets cancer, it can raise many questions for a child. This animation can answer questions and helps to enter into a conversation with each other. ”
Femke: “We hope that these initiatives can provide support during an often sad period that a family goes through after one of the parents is diagnosed with cancer.”
The Buddyhuis brings (former) cancer patients and their loved ones together to share experiences, to act as a source of information, to develop activities and to give advice to improve the quality of life of these people, before, during and after the disease. All this always under the umbrella of the St. Antonius Cancer Center; this offers a lot of security in times of uncertainty.