Childhood Cancer

Children need to play, especially when hospitalized. The hospital might have a recreation therapy or child life department that has toys, books, dolls, and crafts, and is staffed by specialists who really know how to play with children. These staff members may also provide therapeutic activities, such as medical play with dolls, which helps children express fears or concerns about what is happening to them.

When I wanted to have a conference with the doctor about Katy’s treatment, I called recreation therapy and they sent two wonderful ladies to the room. The doctor and I were able to talk privately, and Katy had a great time making herself a gold crown and decorating her wheelchair with streamers and jewels.

The fun-filled activities and smiling staff people in the recreation therapy rooms are a cheerful change from lying in a hospital bed. If your child needs to stay in bed or is too ill to go to the play area, you can arrange for a child life specialist to bring a bundle of toys, games, and books to the room. Music therapists might also come by the room to visit. This can give you time to go out to eat or take a walk.

Sometimes you can create your own fun with just a little imagination. On one particular occasion, Matthew was feeling especially bored. With a little ingenuity, we soon discovered that four unused lV poles and as many blankets as we could “steal” from the linen cart made for one pretty cool tent. We then used the mattress from a roll-away cot, and spent the night “camping” in his hospital room. He had a wonderful time.

Exercise is important, too. For kids strong enough to walk, exploring the hospital can be fun. Even if your child can’t walk, you can wheel her around in a wheelchair, pull her in a wagon, or push the IV pole down the hall with her standing on the base of it. (This is also a great workout for you.) You can also:

• Plan a daily excursion to the gift shop or the cafeteria

• Go outside and walk the perimeter of the hospital if weather and the neighborhood permit

• Climb the stairs to the roof to feel the sun on your face

Tori was sick and could not go trick or treating one year. When she was in the hospital after Halloween, we went reverse trick or treating. I brought in her witch costume and she ran around the hospital giving out candy to her therapists, nurses, and doctors. It was fabulous. She looked so cute. People in the halls did think it was a little weird but staff members understood that you do what makes you happy. Just call November 16th Halloween and everyone just pretends it is.