Over the last couple of weeks on this blog you’ve read about Joseph, his cancer diagnosis and his family. It is not an easy time for this family of five but Joseph and his wife Maria are determined that the cancer diagnosis will not break apart their family.  Angel Foundation’s Facing Cancer Together program is helping them develop and strengthen their skills to better meet and manage the cancer experience.

Teens supporting teens

“Thank you for saying that–I thought I was the only one,” Joseph’s son Mark said after listening to Emma, another teen in the Facing Cancer Together teen group.  Emma had just shared that since her mom’s cancer diagnosis, she has often felt very alone.  None of her friends had a parent with cancer; none of her friends had a mom who was bald and sick all the time and her friends’ moms and dads were at all the volleyball games and other activities.  Emma’s mom was too sick to be in crowds and Emma was increasingly alone and on her own.

However, the one thing they did do as a family was attend Facing Cancer Together programs.  Getting together with other families helped make the whole cancer thing a bit more normal.  Here she was “Emma”–not the poor girl whose mom has cancer.

When a parent has cancer, the family life the children are accustomed to evaporates.  Facing Cancer Together is a place where families can go to receive the education and support they need to help them meet and manage the many challenges of the cancer diagnosis.

When Maria, Mark’s mom, suggested the family attend the Facing Cancer Together Education and Support Series, Mark resisted.  What would he have in common with a bunch of kids he didn’t even know?  He didn’t want to go and talk about his dad’s cancer–he didn’t even want to think about it.

Eventually, Maria was able to get Mark into the car and together with his younger brother Nick, and little sister Amelia, they drove to Angel Foundation.  Mark, still determined that he was not going to get anything out of the program, reluctantly joined the other teens.  He didn’t talk, but he did listen.  First, the other kids shared what they’d been doing since the last time–one boy’s mom had surgery, another boy’s dad had been declared cancer free, and so it went with each kid sharing the normal day to day stuff that goes with having a parent with cancer.

When Emma talked about feeling like she didn’t fit in with her friends anymore, loneliness and isolation, Mark recognized the feelings.  Emma shared:

“It’s really comforting to know that even when you feel like you can’t keep going, Angel Foundation is here to support you and help you change your focus from the feeling of despair to ‘Wait, I felt like I couldn’t keep going?  When was that?  How could that happen when I have this group?'”

Throughout the evening Mark became more comfortable.  Sure, they talked about cancer and one boy was really sad and cried a little.  But it was so cool to be in a group where that was normal and everyone understood how he felt.  They were able to talk about sadness and fear, but also about joy and happiness.  They even were able to talk about some of the ways their parents could still make them crazy–they were teens, after all.

Facing Cancer Together provides critical information and support to families facing a parental cancer diagnosis.  Each year over 23,000 Minnesotans are diagnosed with cancer and one in four is the parent of young children.  On average, 50,000 Minnesota children live with a parent who has cancer.  Angel Foundation believes that families can actually grow stronger, even in the face of great adversity.  Facing Cancer Together is here to help them do it.

Make a difference in the life of a family.  Support Angel Foundation today and help us meet the $10,000 challenge by the end of the year.