In 2005, Kathy Wood was ecstatic to learn she would soon be welcoming a
new grandchild. However, during her daughter’s pregnancy, she was
hit by devastating news – at the age of 46, she was told that she
had Stage 4 metastasized colon cancer. Since her granddaughter’s
birth, she has had non-stop chemotherapy treatments, lost her hair four
times and the cancer has now spread to her liver, adrenal glands and lungs.
Today she is considered treatable but not curable. But if you met her
today, you would never know it.
Nanna’s Little Angel
When Kathy’s granddaughter Jenna Suddreth, now 8, was born, she represented
a reason to fight cancer and inspired Kathy’s will to keep living
a busy, productive and happy life. The two love to go camping together,
spend Summer days swimming, and Kathy volunteers so frequently at Jenna’s
elementary school that the principal thought she was a full-time employee
at the school. She was recognized last year as the school’s Volunteer
of the Year.
“Since Jenna was born, an incredible bond was created. Everywhere
I go, she has to go too. Jenna tells everyone that she’s ‘Nanna’s
little angel’ and that she helps keep me alive,” said Wood.
To help Jenna better understand her cancer diagnosis, Kathy registered
them both in
CLIMB, a support group offered at the CVMC Cancer Center. Offered specifically
for kids whose parent or grandparent has cancer, the program serves as
a venue for 5 to 12 year-olds to meet in six consecutive weekly sessions.
An ongoing support group called PALS then continues meeting on a monthly
basis to provide more opportunities for both kids and parents to draw
on the support connections they form in CLIMB.
Through participating in CLIMB and
PALS, Jenna learned what to expect at various stages in Kathy’s treatment
plans and she learned to express her feelings through activities and conversations
facilitated by a skilled Oncology Social Worker. The meetings also offered
Kathy a chance to talk with adult cancer patients like herself about similar
physical and emotional challenges. She says that both she and Jenna acquired
coping mechanisms to help deal with the complex emotions surrounding her cancer.
During school last year, Jenna noticed a boy in her class was crying every
day at school and was always sad. After learning that the boy’s
mother had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, Kathy reached out
to the family and encouraged them to attend the next CLIMB session as
well. The boy and his family have shared with Kathy that the program helped
stimulate important, yet difficult conversations about the fear and uncertainty
that was leading to his deep sadness.
“A cancer diagnosis is scary for the whole family and can be difficult
to talk about,” said Barbara Stark, Oncology Social Worker. “A
child’s feelings may not be addressed because everyone is focused
on absorbing the news and getting started with treatment. The CLIMB program
helps kids identify their feelings and learn ways to manage them. It also
offers an opportunity to meet other families going through the same experience.
Kids learn that being sad, frightened and even angry is part of this family
trial. The sessions help children moderate their feelings without having
to internalize them or feel overwhelmed by them.”
DO YOU KNOW A FAMILY COPING WITH THE BURDEN OF CANCER?
Tell them about the next session of CLIMB: Meetings will be held from September
23 through November 1st at 6pm. Past CLIMB participants asked for an opportunity
to continue building upon the relationships and coping skills acquired
during CLIMB. In response, CVMC now offers an ongoing support program,
called PALS, which meets on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm in
the CVMC Comprehensive Cancer Center during the months CLIMB is not in
session. Pre-registration is required, please call Barbara Stark, CVMC
Oncology Social Worker at 828.326-3397 for more information about CLIMB