Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Children Under 3 Don't Get Cancer, Do They?

Excuse a bit of a rant.

I'm really getting tired of the phrase "ages 3 and up." Not only is it found in the materials for most childhood-cancer-support organizations, such as Make-a-Wish, Sunshine Kids and all family camps, but it is also found in the treatment centers themselves.

We live in a big city with one of the most famous cancer treatment centers in the world. They will treat childhood cancer ... as long as you're at least 3 years old.

Now, this doesn't bother me too much, because we are at a very good Children's Hospital, and there are some great reasons with going to a Children's Hospital, such as the fact that all of the medical staff are experienced with children -- anesthesiologists, nurses, techs, etc. The television doesn't carry Comedy Central, so I couldn't get my dose of Jon Stewart, but hey, that's pretty understandable, not to mention unimportant.

But just the fact that there is that limit -- a "you must be this tall to go on this ride" sign. Everywhere!

Many of these organizations that plan trips to baseball games and family picnics and whatnot understand that cancer affects the entire family, it affects siblings and parents as well as the patient. But if the patient is under 3, too bad. You need to take care of that yourself.

Here's what it means, having a baby with cancer:

* When you're in the hospital, or the clinic, you can't go down a few floors to grab a sandwich, like you can with a child old enough to a) understand and b) push the call button for the nurse.

* They can't tell you what hurts. So you just have to guess.

* You have to get them sedated for everything, because you can't tell them to lie still. But in order to be sedated, they have to go at least 4 hours with no feeding. Again, not something you can calmly explain to the patient.

* The normal things used to distract a kid while they're getting chemo -- video games, cartoons, promises of stickers afterwards -- don't work.

* In fact, there are no motivators that work -- telling a baby "Try not to gag on your medicine and you'll get a prize!" is useless.

* Sibling issues: they were just getting over the normal "There's a new baby in our house" issues, when WHOMP, now the baby has cancer. And all of the normal "sibling with cancer" issues, plus she can't tell them how she's feeling.

Oh, I could go on and on.

Now, I know that there are benefits to the patient being a baby -- no worries about school, they don't care (or know) if their hair falls out, you can feed them breastmilk to pump up their immunity without getting strange looks -- but dammit, we could use a little of that support, too.

Okay. Done bitchin' for tonight.

Taking a page from Anne:

1) Little Warrior seems to be getting over her cold/slight fever/vomiting without a trip to the ER ... okay, everyone knock on wood, please.
2) Even without outside help, my kids seem to be doing okay and overall, are pretty wonderful
3) TV was good tonight.


Anne said...

I never really thought about that..and it doesnt seem right at all. What does being three magically make happen anyway?

Anonymous said...

I dont understand. Im 11 and i have a question... What age to children usally get cancer???