When a child has cancer, they very often have to stay at home due to the fact that the cancer itself and the treatments used to fight it can weaken the body’s immune system making it easy for them to catch germs and get ill, and because their system is so weak they will get sicker than one usually would.
This means that Little Fighters often have to stay at home in order to protect themselves, but missing school and not being able to spend time with friends can be very depressing.
One of the reasons a child with cancer may have to stay at home is due to a condition called Neutropenia, which is when the body has very low levels of certain white blood cells called neutrophils, which are the body’s main defense against illness and infection.
Normally, when a germ enters the body of an individual with a healthy immune system, it jumps into action, sending an army of neutrophils to the area to attack. These neutrophils will actually “remember” the specific germs the next time and try to head them off before they cause any serious trouble.
A child with cancer has fewer neutrophils to protect the body, and is therefore more likely to get infections. Neutrophils are often damaged by the cancer treatments; both chemotherapy and radiation work by killing the fastest-growing cells in the body ~ both good and bad.
Blood cells are amongst the quickest-growing cells in the body, therefore they often get accidentally destroyed along with the cancer cells.
Doctors will generally do a blood test called an absolute neutrophil count (ANC) to judge how careful the child with cancer needs to be about avoiding germs, and may prescribe special medication to help their body produce more neutrophils.
Children with cancer who have impaired immune systems need to stay away from other people as much as possible, and schools, malls, and even churches where many people are in close proximity to each other are dangerous as any germs could spread easily.
Some days, cancer treatments can make a the child with cancer feel tired and without energy. Other days, they might have more energy.
It is important that you help your Little Fighter find ways to beat the boredom, and with that in mind, here are a couple of tips that may help:
Allow and/or help your child to stay connected with others as much as possible. Fortunately with all the technology available today this is possible via Skype, e-mail, Social Networking sites, and chat programs on cellular phones. Skype is also great for keeping in touch with family such as grandparents.
Where possible, get your child’s school lessons and help them to keep up at home so that they will not lose out and can easily slot back into the curriculum when they return to school; it will also make them feel more in touch.
Art is a great way to express one’s feelings, so make it possible for your child to draw, make a scrapbook or a collage of their favorite photos, do arts and crafts, sew, knit, or paint. Helping your child to complete a larger project like making jewellery or clothing, or building a model is also a great way to keep them busy and happy. If your child likes writing, keeping a journal is also a great way of staying busy and of coping.
Spend time in the garden or on the balcony; fresh air is good for any ill child ~ just make sure they have a hat and sunscreen on when going in the sun.
Children benefit from being in nature and can learn much about how plants grow, the seasons and much more when outside so they are learning without even realising it, which is a bonus.
If your child has the energy, making over his or her room is a great idea; paint the walls; hang posters of their favourite pop star/actress/sports hero or just their favourite toy; create a comfy spot for them to sit with lots of pillows and blankies and some music, books, and comics. The most important thing is to make sure they are comfortable and do not get depressed, so make it colourful.
Make sure that there are enough games to keep your child busy and keep their minds working; this can include jigsaw puzzles, building blocks, computer games (but not too many of these), and anything else that they do not necessarily need someone else to play. Also have family time where the whole family can share time and play and have fun together.
It is with the above in mind that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust supplies our Little Fighters with Bags of Hope not only in hospital but also when they are at home, because these bags are filled not only with snacks and hygiene products, but also with educational toys and games.
It is also one of the reasons that we try to give our Little Fighters some kind of birthday party when the parents cannot afford to and when the Little Fighter’s health allows it, so that they do not feel out and so that they can socialise at least a bit and feel like a “normal” kid even if just for a few hours.
The Little Fighters Cancer Trust is a registered NPO with PBO status. This affords private and corporate donors the taxation benefits as set out in Section 18A.
BEE score points are also accumulated.
Trust Reg No: IT2817/2010
NPO No: 089 376
PBO No: 930037657
Account Holder: Little Fighters Cancer Organization
Bank: FNB Paarl Mall
Account No: 62277783249
Branch code: 250057
Swift code for international donations: FIRNZAJJ
Trust Reg No: IT2817/2010