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Welcome to Coping Space

Cindy Kerr / February 1, 2018

You’re likely here because you have just been handed the news that every parent fears: your child is facing a tough battle. Maybe you’re here at the suggestion of hospital staff to help you navigate your child’s illness or injury, and to care for yourself and your family. Perhaps you are a friend or teacher, and you are unsure of how to best help a family whose child has been diagnosed with a life-changing illness or injury.

But when a child has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, or has been seriously injured, one thing is for sure: life will never be quite the same.

I know this because, years ago, I heard a doctor say three words, “Ryan has cancer.” My son—a happy, energetic, adventurous, and inspiring twelve-year-old—had cancer. The word “osteosarcoma” followed. And soon we embarked on a journey that included 30 months of chemotherapy, 15 surgeries, the amputation of his right leg and over 150 days of physical therapy. The cancer came back five times. He beat it four.

Throughout his treatment, Ryan never let his illness get him down. He seemed invincible. Yet, he wasn’t. And my husband, my daughters, and I weren’t either. The truth is, 30% of mothers whose children undergo cancer treatment suffer full symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) long after the treatment is over. Children who survive their battles suffer from PTSD at a rate of 20%. Fathers and siblings face the same stress, pressure, and anxiety. And, too often, hospitals are not adequately equipped to address it. I know it, because I lived it.

That’s why Case for Smiles decided to partner with leading trauma experts at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children to develop Coping Space. When a child is handed a tough diagnosis, his or her entire family needs support. They need to support each other. And their surrounding community needs to know how to support them as well.

Coping Space is built on that very foundation. Whether you are the parent of a sick or injured child, a sibling of that child, an educator, or just a friend, our resources can help you navigate this journey—the one you thought you’d never have to take—and lift the fog of the inevitable traumatic stress.

At Case for Smiles, everything we do is designed to walk alongside families as they cope with the trauma of childhood illness or injury. We believe in helping families feel better to heal better. And this blog will regularly offer information, suggestions, and compassion for you and your family. Some of the posts will be from me, and others will be from guests whose experience—both lived experience and professional experience—may help you process, cope or grieve.

As many of you may know, I am now facing my own battle with cancer, and I have been revisited by many of the stresses I felt with Ryan’s sickness. Waiting for scans, jumping when the phone rings, scheduling treatments and surgery, the sounds of the hospital, and worrying about my husband, my daughters and my granddaughter. It never goes away, but it does get easier. And I want to share my experience with you as you face your fight.

We won’t fix it. But we’ll help you to heal.