There is nothing quite as scary as hearing the word cancer. When my family first heard this, we had no idea what to do. We were completely overwhelmed. Confusion and fear set in. The year was 2000.
In 2008, I created a nonprofit corporation known as Cancer Connection of Northwest Ohio in order to provide the guidance and support that I would have liked my family to have had. We provide free, hands-on services to ensure that no one goes through cancer alone. Our unique programs were created based on the needs of our community, services that no other organization is providing.
In 2010, we received our first pediatric patient, which led to the beginning of our Kids Konnection Program. This program is the only specialized support program for children with cancer in the area. Our Chemo Buddy services set us apart as one of only two organizations in the United States offering direct support to children going through infusion chemotherapy. Our youngest patient was six months old.
In the past 11 years, we have provided $1.4 million in free programs and have served over 4,700 cancer patients and their families. 90% of our budget is programming. 82% of our patients are stage 4 or advanced, metastatic cancer. We are currently providing services for 16 children with cancer.
My three daughters inspired me to write three children’s books. No child should ever have to deal with something as complex and frightening as cancer, but the reality is that they do. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer in 2000, my daughters were all under the age of seven. As a mother, my goal was to protect them and refrain from talking about it in front of them. Even if I had wanted to explain it to them, I would have had no idea how. What I realized later on was that not explaining it made them even more fearful.
These books are designed to help loved ones succeed in talking and explaining cancer to a child in a way that they will understand without frightening them. They are a tool that can be utilized not only to initiate the conversation, but to help encourage sharing between the child and the adult. The books explain what cancer is, how it is treated, and the side effects—on three different age-appropriate levels: Beginning Readers, Young Readers, and Young Adult Readers. Each book ends with a project or idea that children can do for someone in their life who has cancer. These books are part of our Cancer Education Program, and we take them out to schools to share with students. The books are being sold both nationally and internationally and are available on Amazon.
Jean Schoen is founder and president of Cancer Connection of Northwest Ohio, Inc. (419-725-1100)