Walking alongside families at each step of the journey, and supporting them as they navigate their way.
For families, the childhood cancer or blood disorder journey is far from linear. It’s impossible to predict the twists and turns that life will take. Showing up in a meaningful way means meeting families where they are. It also means trusting them to be experts of their own experience – they know how it really feels to be facing the challenges of each day. Support should encompass the crises that come up at any point of the journey.
"When my son got diagnosed, we had to leave our home behind and get flown out overnight to live in Vancouver. I had no time to pack anything or get organized. It was traumatic and horrible to say the least.
I was stuck there with no food. My social worker went to the freezer to get a WCK meal for me, and it was the first meal I had since it all happened. That was my lifesaver meal."
– Oncology Parent
“There’s a new patient – a little guy from way up north – who was recently in the hospital. With MRIs, scans, speaking with me…the family were there the whole day.
Being able to give them a meal amidst the chaos spoke the love. To say, ‘Take two minutes before we go back to the chaos…’ I can’t tell you how important those meals are.”
– Dr. Caron Strahlendorf
The WCK Food in the Freezer at BC Children’s Hospital immediately provides families with comforting and convenient meals when they first arrive at the hospital, whatever the time of day or night.
When your world has been turned upside down and nothing feels normal anymore, showing up with a nourishing meal says:
“You are not alone. We are here and we care about you.”
We keep the hospital freezer topped up every week so that parents can fuel themselves during the treatment journey, and kids can enjoy palatable food whenever their appetite comes back.
The baskets of snacks provide energy to keep families going during long clinic days and when waiting for their child to come out of surgery.
“We need parents to be well rested and well fed as they care for their kid. The proximity of the WCK freezer means that they can take a few minutes to rest, recuperate, and enjoy their meal. Sometimes the kids can’t tolerate any smells in the room, so the parents can go to have their meal then come back to their child, all in a short space of time.”
– Oncology Nurse
“The WCK food in the freezer makes such a difference. Some of the kids just love the meals and it’s the only thing they’ll eat when they come into the hospital, so parents count on them being there.”
– Oncology Nurse
“I always really enjoy the WCK meals and snacks in the children’s hospital that make me always excited to go to my medical appointments.
It’s really helpful that there are meals for families in the kitchen so that my mom doesn't have to think about food, especially when I stay in the hospital for a long day.”
– Young Person
“My son loves his Hangouts group. I swear it's the highlight of his week. His first comment this morning was, ‘Today is Hangout day, mommy!’
He had a brutal clinic day yesterday and it warmed my heart to hear how Hangouts bring him such joy."
– Oncology Parent
“When my blood levels are low, I feel very tired and sore. My body forces me to rest. Getting regular blood work, even when you’re feeling fine, and having to get transfusions when you’re low is hard on the body and the mind. WCK helps me by setting up lots of fun games and meeting new friends at Hangouts and City Camp. We don’t talk about our illnesses, but we know we all have something special inside us.”
– Young Person
Virtual City Camp and online Hangouts mean that children and youth can stay connected to their Hangout Buddy and other friends who “get it,” even from their hospital bed.
Running WCK connections programs virtually makes them accessible to kids on treatment. Read more about why virtual programming matters here.
“With City Camp, I don't think I've ever felt so comfortable sending my son somewhere since he was first diagnosed.”
“City Camp offered the opportunity for my son to feel like a regular kid again in a safe and welcoming environment.
As a parent, I had the confidence to leave him every morning, knowing the medical team and camp staff had my son’s best interests at heart.”
“My favourite part is all of it! We’re eating lunch now and then we’re reading a story. Oh, and also we made rocket ships. Oh, and we’re also gonna make cupcakes today!”
– City Camp Kid
Receiving treatment through a port can be uncomfortable for kids and youth, particularly when they have to lift their shirts and expose their whole tummies.
WCK Port Shirts remove this discomfort, and provide children with control over unzipping their own shirt to get ready for treatment.
Read more about Port Shirts here.
“The Port Shirts are the best thing anyone can think of. My kid loved it. We used to take off his shirt to access his port, and he wasn't comfortable with no shirt on. I started taking a blanket, but it slides off easily. The Port Shirt made it so easy! We received the shirts in beautiful colours and one had Dinosaurs on it that my son loved.”
“It’s so helpful and convenient, especially with treatment schedules every week. Whenever the nurse comes in, my son is already opening up his Port Shirt for the treatment. I don't even need to help him.”
Leaving the medical bubble
“‘Oncology stable’ is not the same as ‘mom stable.’ You’re living with day to day worry. Sometimes, it’s harder after treatment because, while in treatment, survival mode takes over and you are just getting through it.”
“Childhood cancer and blood disorders force you to live day to day – living with ‘what if’ is impossible to sustain”
Coming home from the safety of the hospital and no longer being surrounded by a medical team can feel terrifying. Sometimes families feel like others expect them to “go back to normal,” when no such thing exists anymore. The crisis point can come when, to outside eyes, surely the crisis is over now?
Parents and siblings can carry huge worries for the child who has a diagnosis. The child can carry equally huge worries about the impact their sickness has on everyone else.
Along with these emotional burdens, families face loss of income from taking time off work, coordinating scans and check ups, taking on caring responsibilities for their child, and managing ongoing side effects.
This is why we provide boxes full of easy-to-heat meals to families at home through our Nourish at Home program.
“The idea of preparing meals some days is just too much for me. The food provided nourishes our family and I can just pop it in the oven without having to plan anything. Then I can get back to spending time with my kids. It's just one less thing to worry about in the mountain of concerns I'm dealing with.”
It’s an unbearable fact that some families still experience the loss of their child due to cancer or a blood disorder. It seems obvious, but needs to be said, that support should not drop off at such a time:
“On May 16, 2020, Cameron passed away peacefully in our home, surrounded by our family. So much was lost that day, but WCK did not leave. They stood with us in our grief and said that WCK families are WCK families for life and set out to understand better what bereaved families need to survive the trauma of loss. WCK is committed to supporting families after loss and offers many connection opportunities for siblings, including City Camp.”
Entering the adult world
Living with or beyond a diagnosis can make adolescence even more complicated than usual:
“If they don't learn to seek care at the right time or keep on top of things, they might not see the effects of it right away. It can affect them down the road.” – Hematology Nurse
It can be hard to articulate the ongoing impacts of the cancer/blood disorder experience. It’s challenging to navigate a world that doesn’t always understand what you’ve been through. Hangouts provide a space for youth to share and validate each other’s experiences, building confidence and empathy.
“I’ve felt happy because I haven’t felt lonely. As someone with a blood disease, it helps to hang out with people who actually understand what you’re going through.”
– Young Person
“My favourite part about our group is how effortlessly we strike a balance in goofing off and keeping it real. It’s the one place where I know I can drop a complaint about chemo side effects to people who get it, and then crack a joke the next minute without it being weird. Our group has helped me find a place for cancer in my life that acknowledges my reality without drowning me in it.”
– Young Adult
The Club is a program for young people ages 15-25 that builds competencies in areas such as medical advocacy, financial literacy, and stress management:
“This program has made me feel empowered to make changes in my life. I have experienced kindness and empathy that I’ve never seen anywhere else.”
– Young Adult
Knowing someone is thinking of you
“Receiving PJs is like receiving a warm hug of support.”
“The support we received while in hospital provided stability and met basic needs that were near impossible to meet on our own. For the continued support we receive while doing outpatient, we cannot thank the community enough. This journey is far from over, but we are so grateful we do not have to walk it alone.”
“Things are getting better with your support.”
“More than anything, it’s a community. Cancer and blood disorders are a normal part of what we talk about without it being the focus. It’s a really good balance between keeping it real and enjoying our time together.”
– Young Person
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