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Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

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Asking for Help

No one should have to go through childhood cancer alone. However, it may feel awkward accepting offers of help. Sometimes it is hard to even know what is needed. These reminders can help families struggling with asking for or accepting help: 

  • Caring for a sick child requires time, effort, and resources. Accepting help provides a needed source of strength.
  • Friends, family members, and co-workers want to show their support. Providing help is a way for them to show love and support.
  • Help is available through a variety of resources including websites, faith organizations, support groups, and hospital-based services.

It can be overwhelming for families, especially those who are new to the cancer journey. These tips can help:

  • Designate a coordinator.
  • Prioritize what you need, and identify who can help.
  • Use websites to help organize.

Designate a Coordinator

Appoint a friend or family member to coordinate help. This is one less thing for parents to have to manage. And it can take away some of the awkwardness to have someone else ask for help on your behalf. 

Depending on needs, parents may want to identify more than one person as a point person to coordinate assistance. This should be someone who:

  • Parents know and trust, such as a family member or a close friend
  • Is organized and easy to reach
  • Knows the family's personal, social, and professional networks
  • Is computer- or technology-savvy enough to use one of the websites that makes coordinating volunteers easier

Prioritize What You Need and Who Can Help

The many needs during the cancer journey can be overwhelming. A first step is to keep a list of what you need. Talk with another family who has been through a similar experience. This can help you anticipate needs that you might not think of ahead of time. 

Identify specific ways people can help

    • Give restaurant gift cards or gift certificate to a restaurant or grocery delivery service  
    • Participate in meal sign-ups  
    • Prepare home-cooked meals that can be frozen
    • Shop for groceries 
    • Put together grab-and-go snack bags  
    • Mow the lawn or do other yard work
    • Clean the house or do laundry
    • Give a gift certificate to a housekeeping or laundry service  
    • Take care of pets
    • Collect the mail 
    • Water plants
    • Have regular phone or video calls  
    • Visit the home or hospital
    • Go out to lunch, dinner, movie or other social activity for time away
    • Run personal errands (pick up dry cleaning, meet a repairman, take the car in for an oil change)
    • Manage updates to keep others informed
    • Give rides to and from treatment so the parent can care for and focus on the child's needs
    • Babysit siblings 
    • Provide transportation to and from school or other activities
    • Check on homework, activity schedule, supplies, lunches, and other daily needs
    • Take siblings on social outings to offer support and recreation
    • Put together care packages of the child's favorite things 
    • Send pictures and cards from friends
    • Help with schoolwork
    • Arrange for phone and video calls from friends
    • Give gift certificates for special activities or outings
    • Donate to a fund that helps cover expenses  
    • Give gift cards or gift certificates to help with daily needs
    • Provide professional advice and services to address financial needs  
    • Help organize and keep track of household and medical bills
    • Make phone calls and help with challenges that may arise with the hospital or insurance company 
    • Donate vacation days or leave  
    • Provide updates on workplace or project developments when you are away
    • Offer to take on additional tasks
    • Arrange for telecommuting options and support
Pediatric cancer patient smiles at his mom while she holds him

As people learn about your child's illness, many will offer help. Keep a list of people who offer help. Even if you do not have a specific need at that moment, you can reach out later when you have a clearer idea of what might help.

Match people with ways they can help

Once needs have been identified, put together a list of the people who have already offered their help and others who can be asked. Match them with your needs. It can help to think of people in different areas of life:

  • School, including teachers, parents, and students  
  • Faith-based and community organizations  
  • Work and professional organizations

Depending on the number of organizations and potential volunteers, it may help to have a volunteer coordinator in charge of different organizations.

Help at Different Stages of Treatment

When people first find out about your child’s illness, you will probably receive the most offers of help. Keep a list of people who offer help. You will need assistance throughout your journey.  

Help during diagnosis

When your child is newly diagnosed, consider asking for:

  • Emotional support
  • Help that gives you the time alone, with your spouse, or with siblings
  • Help keeping others informed 
  • Cooking or household chores that you may not have the time or energy for

Help during hospitalization

When your child is in the hospital, consider asking for: 

  • Help with siblings or others you normally care for
  • Help taking care of your home and yard while you are away
  • A video chat with your child’s closest friend if your child is feeling up to it 
  • Help updating people with information  
  • A foldable cot to sleep in the hospital room with your child if the hospital allows it

Help during outpatient or homebound care

When your child is in outpatient treatment, consider asking for:

  • Rides to treatment when you need to tend to your child during the drive
  • Help updating people on how the treatments are going
  • Tutoring help for what your child misses at school
  • Emotional support  
  • Help with siblings and household needs
  • Help with meals and grocery shopping

Websites to Coordinate Help

Free websites and apps can help families manage and update friends and volunteers easily.

  1. www.caringbridge.org

    CaringBridge offers a place for sharing journal entries and allowing friends and family to post messages of encouragement. The site has a calendar for people to volunteer to help and a link for people to donate to a personal fund through GoFundMe. CaringBridge allows links to other websites and enables families to post requests on a calendar. However, tasks may not be assigned from the calendar request, only if a journal entry is posted.

    Visitors may be confused by CaringBridge's requests for donations to 'power your site' and believe they are giving you a donation rather than the website itself.

  2. www.lotsahelpinghands.com

    Lotsa Helping Hands is a free website that enables people to organize support, post news, and receive messages from others. The first step is to invite people to join your site. The website has a calendar function where you can post requests for help such as meals, rides, childcare, shopping, and visits. Announcements of new requests are automatically shared with the member list. They can view the calendar and sign up.

    You also have the ability to assign a member to a specific activity, an option not available on some other sites. However, the person assigned does not receive an email notification, so be sure the person agrees to the task beforehand. 

Online Donation Sites

Online donation sites make it possible for people to give money directly to families to help them manage out-of-pocket costs associated with pediatric cancer. Friends and family can help spread the word about the fund through social media and email. These sites charge fees per each donation. 

  • GoFundMe is the most well known personal fundraising site. It charges a commission of 5% plus 30 cents per donation as well as 2.9% in processing fees.
  • Generosity exclusively hosts campaigns for social issues and individuals in need. It charges a processing fee of 3% + 30 cents per donation.
  • YouCaring bills itself as the compassionate crowdfunding site. It charges a processing fee of 2.9% + 30 cents per donation.

does not endorse any branded product mentioned in this article.

Reviewed: June 2018