Learning that a family member has cancer is heart-breaking, especially if that person is a child. I know this first-hand because it happened to my family shortly after we had moved to the United States.
At the age of four, my youngest brother was diagnosed with leukemia. The entire family was devastated and fearful. But my family knew we were blessed to be in the United States, and close to world-class medical treatment.
There is nothing more devastating than learning that a family member has cancer; especially if that family member is a small child. I know this first-hand because it happened to my family shortly after we had moved to the United States.
At the age of four, my youngest brother was diagnosed with leukemia. The entire family was despondent, grief-stricken and frightened for what the future would hold.
For any family, the shock of the news and fear of what the future holds is bad enough—but this is often exacerbated by the financial burdens that go along with cancer treatment. The new reality of day to day life is filled with trips and overnight stays at the hospital.
Parents often have to choose between taking time off from work to comfort their sick child at the hospital or risk not being able to pay rent or mortgage. In addition to medical costs, there are also often travel and housing costs. Our family struggled with all of these issues during my brother’s illness.
Fortunately for us, there were organizations and volunteers who helped us through this difficult time so that my parents could focus on helping my brother through the treatments that saved his life.
The Tommy Fund provides emotional, educational, medical and financial support to families with children who are receiving cancer treatment out of the seventh-floor clinic that bears its name at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
The assistance the Tommy Fund provides ranges from parking passes for the hospital garage to basic living expenses such as utilities and rental or mortgage payments for families in need. In addition they offer support groups for patients, parents and siblings. They have established a “Quiet Room” as a respite area for parents; provided recreational equipment for children receiving treatment; and they sponsor annual holiday parties for patients, family and staff.
Peter Parente, the board president of the Tommy Fund, told me that they have found it typically takes around six months for families to get used to the new reality of life that includes overnight stays at the hospital, doctor appointments, and keeping a cheerful face on for their child as they suffer from chemotherapy sickness.
Thankfully, there are organizations such as the Tommy Fund ready to ease the burden to enable the parents to focus on supporting their sick child and adjust to life in and out of the hospital.
Parente explained that the Tommy Fund is almost exclusively volunteer-run and requires only small expenditures for accounting and administrative costs. Their hope is to grow the fund enough to someday support families who are fighting childhood cancer at other Connecticut hospitals.
My hope is that the support the Tariq Farid Foundation has offered will, in some small way, return the favor by helping others receive the type of help our family received when we needed it most. I also hope to bring awareness to this wonderful organization and spur others to support them as well.
To learn more about the Tommy Fund, click here. To donate to the Fund, go here.