I will never forget the day when my Chris was 12 years old, and he sat at our kitchen table with tears in his eyes. You see, this was supposed to be one of his rare golden days. He felt well, and his blood counts were high enough that he could go out in public. But there had been a miscommunication. The ride to the movies with all of the neighborhood kids had left without him.
No big deal for your average 12 year old, but devastating to a child who's life is dominated by debilitating treatments and forced isolation. But it doesn't have to be that way! Here are some suggestions on maintaining a friendship with a young cancer patient.
- Give the family your phone number and encourage them to call you to schedule a play date at their convenience. Make sure you say this in front of the kids because they'll hold the adults accountable.This will require some flexibility on your part, but the rewards are priceless.
- Rent a movie, do Netflix, video games, or board games with the patient at their house. Sometimes cancer patients feel well enough to socialize, but are too immunosuppressed to go out.
- Take them to an afternoon matinee. Doctors will sometimes give this the okay, because there are fewer crowds and less risk of infection.
- Have a quiet picnic outdoors. The patient may lack the stamina to run around, but getting out in the sunlight does wonders.
- Educate your child. Assure them that cancer isn't contagious. Let them know that their friend's appearance may be affected by the chemotherapy, but they are still the same person inside. Answer their questions honestly.
- Give your child opportunities to be creative.You'll be amazed at the ideas they come up with! One of Chris's friends always asked when his next hospitalization was scheduled and he made sure that he always called. Another friend emailed jokes. One family adopted Chris for Christmas.
- Visit the patient at the hospital. Children's hospitals are loaded with toys and activities.
- Don't become frustrated if your patient friend has to cancel at the last minute. Don't give up on the friendship.
- If the patient isn't allowed visitors use Face Time, Skype, or social media to connect.
- And most important of all when they are together—let them play and just be kids!
Proverbs 17:17: "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity."
Making the extra effort to befriend a child with cancer not only brightens the patient's life, it teaches compassion and gratitude, and it reminds us that the best things in life come from the heart. You and your child will be blessed beyond measure!
I would love to hear your suggestions. Is there something I should add to the list? Please leave your comments.