8 Ways to Help a Family With a Sick Child

8 Ways to Help a Family with a Sick Child #cancer #illness #compassionI’ve always tried to be supportive of people who are going through hard times and facing a medical crisis, whether it be cancer or something else. I’ve organized benefit dinners, donated to strangers fundraising accounts to help with their medical bills, and offered my help many times to other families in need. Then, at the end of 2014, I found myself on the other side. Our 2-year-old was diagnosed with optic glioma brain tumors. It was life-changing. We watched the tumors carefully with no treatment for a few months, but then in March of this year, started chemotherapy. We are now 12 weeks in to over a year of treatment and it has given me a whole new perspective on things. This is hard. Life gets messy and tough. It takes a village to get through the rough times and many people want to help, but just don’t know where to start, so I’m going to give you some ideas, based on my own experience.

1. Be there.
I know a lot of people just don’t know what to say to a family facing a big diagnosis for a child. I get it. It’s a little awkward. Some days, a simple text, phone call, or encouraging message from a friend makes all the difference. Let the family know you are thinking of them, ask how the child is doing, how they are doing… just take a minute and reach out. I have had several people I considered my good friends just drop out of my life since we started Jazmine’s treatment. As much as I try to tell myself it doesn’t matter, I’m better off, or that they are just busy, too, I have to admit… it does hurt my heart a little. There are so many times I have felt completely alone. Thankfully, I have a great family and a lot of other people {even total strangers} who have continually reached out to us and lifted us up through prayer and encouragement!

Realize that if the child is going through chemo, they probably can’t be out in public or around a lot of people because of their low neutrophil {germ fighter} counts. See if your friend or family member is up for a visit {if you’re healthy!}… it gets awfully lonely being confined to home day in and day out.

2. Start fundraising.

Even with the best possible insurance, the bills still pile up. There is time off work to care for the child, deductibles, travel expenses, medications… you name it. The stress from all these extra expenses rests heavily on a parent’s shoulders. There are so many ways to fundraise and help ease the burden for these families! Have you heard of GoFundMe or YouCaring? They are both widely-used online platforms that allow people to donate to the family and the money can be withdrawn at any time. Anyone can start a fundraising page for people in need. YouCaring is free to use, but a 3% fee is charged to cover credit card processing. GoFundMe keeps 5% plus a credit card processing fee, which brings their total to 8%. There are many more platforms to choose from, just make sure you read the fine print before choosing one to host your fundraising!

I’ve seen friends organize 5K races to benefit families, sell bracelets, make tees and sell them while donating the profits to the family. You can host a benefit dinner at a local establishment, too. The possibilities are endless! Think outside of the box and gather a team to help you carry out your ideas! Don’t be offended if the benefiting family doesn’t have a whole lot of time to devote to help you with events and such… their main focus is their child.

3. Help with their other children.

This  has been one of my biggest struggles since Jazmine has started her chemotherapy treatments. We have 5 other children besides Jaz. Five other kids who also need love, attention, help with homework, rides to activities, and all the other day-to-day stuff! My husband works out-of-town for weeks at a time, so this leaves me on my own to tend to everyone and get it done. Throw in a surprise hospital stay, and all plans go out the window. How on Earth does a mother choose between a sick child and her other children? I have felt so much mommy guilt when having to decide between what’s important and what can be put aside for awhile.

I am so grateful for the village behind me during these tough times… parents of my children’s friends offering to take them on overnights (even during school!), dance moms volunteering to give my daughter rides to and from her many dance practices, and relatives taking the kids in while we travel out-of-state for appointments. We truly couldn’t do it without this amazing generosity!

If you have a friend who needs to be at the hospital with their sick child, offer to take their other children for the day, overnight, or ask if they need help with the logistics of getting kids here to there!

4. Tend to their pets, plants, mail, etc. while they are gone.

It gets super expensive to board animals each and every time a child is in the hospital or when a family must be gone for days at a time while traveling to medical appointments. Volunteer to stop over at the family’s house and let their dogs out, feed their cats, water their plants, and/or bring in the mail while they are out. They will be so grateful. Trust me.

5. Help with household tasks.

Don’t just say, “Let me know  if you need any help!” Chances are, 9 times out of 10, the family would really, REALLY appreciate some help around the house or yard, but they aren’t going to ask for it. Shoot them a text and let them know you are stopping over Sunday at 3 to mow the lawn, or ask what morning works for you to stop by and help with some cleaning. Maybe the family needs something as simple as picking up a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread. Often times, when children are getting chemo, parents can’t take them out to run to the store or to do errands that we take for granted when our children are healthy.

6. If the child is sick and hospitalized, offer to sit with the child to give the parent(s) a break.

This has been a life-saver for me. When Jaz was hospitalized for several days earlier this month, I hastily threw everything into a suitcase to get her to the hospital ASAP. I didn’t have much time to plan out what I would need if we had to stay very long. Once we were AT the hospital, I couldn’t really just leave my 2-year-old there all alone to run home and get the things I had forgotten. My Mom drove up a few days later and I was able to leave the hospital while she sat with Jazmine and go see my oldest daughter perform in her dance show, and even run home to get fresh, clean clothes and some food {because who likes hospital food?!}. My Aunt also made a 100-mile trip to give me some relief for a few hours on another day, which I used to go home and do some laundry and hang with my other kids.

7. Put a smile on their face.

I can’t even tell you all the friends and family, organizations, and #loveforjazminejoy fans who have brought smiles to our faces on otherwise dreary days. I have about 1,337 thank-you notes that I’ve written in my head. Maybe someday they will make it to paper? Just a few examples of thoughtful gestures:

  • We have received the best care packages in the mail for Jazmine! Toys, books, personalized clothing, even a superhero cape!
  • Starbucks giftcards. {Momma can never have enough refreshers. Jaz and I make a stop there before chemo on Tuesdays to grab some oatmeal and tea. It’s my saving grace on chemo days.}
  • The cast of Peter Pan {from my daughter’s dance studio} came by the hospital in full costume to visit Jazmine and read her a book and brought the movie and even a Tinkerbell doll. This was all organized by a teenage girl and touched our hearts so much!
  • A friend’s little girl colors the cutest pictures for Jaz and sends them to our house from Tennessee. How can that not brighten our day?

8. Deliver a meal.

Cooking good meals can be tough when you are trying to juggle everything else. I don’t want to tell you the number of times we have had to have make-your-own suppers or fast food crap food the past few months, just because I don’t always have the time to devote to cooking anymore. A dance mom gave us a freezer meal one week and I was brimming with gratitude. I can guarantee no family facing cancer or other extended illnesses will turn away food.

Want a way to organize meal delivery for a family? Start a meal train. It’s completely free and helps streamline the entire process. The family can enter all their preferences and information, and then people in the community can sign up to bring meals on certain days. Genius and so helpful!

What are some ways that others have helped you and your family at a time of need? What have you done for others when they have faced a long journey with a sick child? Please share!

Follow my family’s journey at Love for Jazmine Joy.

About melissa

Melissa is the Founder of ROW and has been an oilfield wife for 14 years. She has been married to a wonderful man forever and is mother to six amazing children (17,14, 10, 10 and 2 and a foster baby!). Melissa knows the struggles that come along with the oilfield life. When Melissa isn't helping her little girl battle her brain tumors (Love for Jazmine Joy), she loves to travel, laugh, tend to her chickens, and dream of sunshine and mountains.
melissa@shrinkingjeans.net

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