20 answers

What Can I Do for a Friend with an Ill Child?

Just when you think life is rolling along nicely...

A dear friend just found out her precious 4 year old daughter has luekemia!
She has 5 additional children (this precious girl is the second youngest).

Needless to say we as a group of friends are trying to rally in any way that we can.
We sprung into action with the obvious things: meals, babysitting for the other children, cards and balloons, much much prayer...

Has anyone been through something like this?
What meaningful thing can I do as friend to help her?
Did you have some special experience or gift or something that was meaningful?

She and her husband are rotating time at the hospital. I know this woman and she will sleep under the hospital bed if she has to!

I want to be the friend she deserves and needs through this time. Any advice or words I can offer her are much appreciated! It makes you just want to hug them all a little tighter doesn't it?!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I can't thank everyone enough for their kind and supportive responses!
You have given me so many wonderful ideas!
Please uplift this little girl (I won't say her name as Mom may want the privacy) and all sick kiddos in your prayers!
1. I am going to do a fundraiser for gas card money (great idea as they drive a huge gas gusseling Suburban).
2. Her husband works for a huge company so I think I will butt in and let HR know about the situation and see of they offer a program for co-workers to conate PTO.
3. I am going to ask all who signed up to bring meals to also do an hour's worth of chores when they drop their meal (dishes, bathrooms, laundry etc.) I think that will help with the never ending flow of kid made chaos.
4. I am rallying prayer groups on her behalf.
5. My friend is such a private person (doesn't show much emotion) but she sent me a wonderful card when I went through a tragedy so I am writng her a card each day with supportive words. I know she is uncomfortable with verbal expression or embrace.
6. I am taking some of you up on your generous personal offers!
7. I am going to try and act on behalf of the brother's and sister's...they need normalcy while all this is going on...
8. Finally, I will stay with this for the long hual. I know treatment can take a very long time and I want her to know we won't forget about her!

Thank you again!

Featured Answers

For a Special Gift, take all of the siblings over to Build A Bear and they can make a stuffed animal for her and they each can put a heart in it for her. My daughter use to work there and said that people would do that all of the time.
I hope she gets well soon.

Hi H. -

If she is open to adding herbs to support what she is doing allopathically, I would be happy to make some suggestions.

Please let me know.


M. M. Ernsberger
Certified Clinical Herbalist

More Answers

Hi H.,

I'm the mother of a 5yr old beautiful daughter, who just celebrated her 2nd year of remission from a solid tumor cancer. I know pretty darn well what you are feeling. As we went through all our treatments, clinic appts., we made friends. Some we still have, some got "called home".

You are already doing a great thing by offering your help. One of the biggest things to try to get people to understand is that you sometimes just don't know what you need.

I can only speak from our personal experiences, but here's some of our top helpful memories.

1) Meals are very helpful. Not only while the family is inpatient, but when they are home also. It's very tiring and draining to keep your "game face" on while your own heart is breaking on the inside. When our DD was diagnosed, we were (and still are) a part of Tucson Moms group. Our playgroup friends would all take turns bringing us meals. If they chose to bring their kids with them when delivering the meals PLEASE BE EXTRA AWARE OF ANY SMALL SIGN OF SICKNESS. Because the chemo totally knocks out the body's defenses, any small illness can set back their chemo treatment schedule.

2) Offer to go with your friend, if no one else can, when she's at the HemOnc clinic. It can be a VERY long day, especially for some of the Leukemia kiddos. If they need blood products, it's not unheard of to spend like 12 hrs in clinic sometimes.

3) After our experience, my hubby became the current president of Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of So. AZ. Here's the website http://www.candlelightersaz.org/
The group is run by parents who are all parents of a cancer kid. We have all stages of members. It cost them nothing, we even offer some financial assistance at times. Frequently a parent has to take a LOT of days off work to take care of their child. Yet the gas & electric still need to be paid. I presume she's at UMC. The Ped. Onc. team there is soooooooooo amazing! We still bring our nurses from 3 East goodies throughout the year. Anyway, our executive director is a parent of an ALL Survivor and I know would be more than willing to come talk to your friend, if she'd like to know where their path may take them.

4) Caringbridge.org
It's a free website where you can post your child's story. Everyone that loves your friend will want to be updated on the latest findings. Instead of calling or emailing a hundred people, you post it one place and her friends can sign up for alerts. If your friend doesn't have time or desire to do that, you could offer to do the updates for her. Just have her send you what info she'd like to be there. It can be public or private, by invitation only. For an example, here is our DD's caringbridge site:

5) Leukemia is usually a 2 yr road of treatment, depending on the type. What ever pace of assistance you plan to offer, make sure you share the load as it may be a long, hard and tiring trip for everyone.

6) Don't suggest to people to bring cuddly toys. We received SO many that we're still clearing them out after 2+ yrs. Instead, go for low energy complete craft kits. It's best if it's all brand new. Something like a shared crayon is not a good thing for an on-treatment child. Chemo zaps their energy so your looking for things they can do in a hospital bed, or play with in the 3East playroom.

7) If the child's white cell count is good, and she'll be told where it's at every day, ask if the child would like some of their friends to come play with them in the playroom. Try to give them something of their normal routine. Keep it to maybe 2 friends at a time, and make sure that the kids are told that their friend might look different.

8) There is a fantastic social worker on 3 East named Laura Haggerty. We met her through Tu Nidito when she worked for them. She knows me and my family well. You could call and talk with her, and although she can't give you specific information about your friend's case, she could give you information on what else you could do to support. Maybe help out with her housework, offer to do her grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, etc. All depends on how good of friends you all are.

9) The hospital does have movies that the families can take back to their room, for no charge. Maybe ask what the child's favorites are and find out if someone could lend them, or rent them from Blockbuster or something, so if at 3am, they can't sleep, they can put their movie on for some distraction.

10) Decorations for the room!! We would bring in colorful windsocks, a handprint collage on poster board that our playgroup made for us, photos of our dogs. Anything to help personalize the hospital room and bring some happy colors and pictures to their day.

I'm sure there is a lot of other things I should say, but it's 1am and I have to teach in the morning. If you all are in the Phoenix area, the Candlelighters branch there is just getting off the ground, I believe. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is another great source of help. As is the Melonhead Foundation in Scottsdale. Please feel free to give my email to your friend if she just needs someone to vent to that's "been there". I wish you all the best of health. Breathe alot, allow yourself to feel the emotions that are running through you. Give your friend a shoulder to unload on, then take her load and put it to rest for her. As parents, we always forget to take care of ourselves, especially when our loved ones are hurting and we can't really help. Be as patient as you can, and remember that they will need their space, as a family, sometimes to just "be". Bless you all and take care.


For updates on Ilaria's progress visit: www.caringbridge.com/visit/ilariaeasom

Plans have begun for our 3rd annual Walk 'n' Lemonade event, 09/27/08 http://www.walknlemonade.com

Help find a cure to pediatric cancers:

1 mom found this helpful

Sounds to me like you are already the kind of friend she needs. All of the things you have mentioned are what I would think she needs. I also have a friend with a little boy that was recently diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, he is three. My friends husband created a website for him so they can keep an online journal, add pictures and their friends and family can keep up on his progress. It is also a place for friends and family to share their thoughts with them. It is awesome and I think it is a great way for their family to feel an overwhelming amount of support. Mybe you can start a website or know someone who can help you put one together. You can check out Jackson's site at JacksonJobe.com. I will say a prayer for your friends little girl.

1 mom found this helpful

i ws diagnosed with PKD two years ago and this is what my friends did for me and my family. of course the meals and baby sitting was a given. no one thinks about laundry and house cleaning. my firends came up with a weekly schiedule. also driving kids around to their evenrts so their lives wont be disrupted as much. how about going to the hospital and gvieng her a manicure or pedicure. what about havign a bubble bath ready for her when she coms home. how about taking the kids one on one on a sepcial outing amaybe to the park. how about brining in mail for her and asking about paying bills for her. someone brought my husband a body pillow. it was red and looked like a giant hot dog. it was filled with micro beads. he was sleeping on a hospital recliner and that really helped him rest better. hwat about styaing with the child for a few mintues so she can take a brisk walk around the hospital grounds. there is so much more that you can do. jsut think of what you do every day and organize friends and family to take over those tasks. it will make her feel better if she doenst have to worry about every day tasks.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi H. -

If she is open to adding herbs to support what she is doing allopathically, I would be happy to make some suggestions.

Please let me know.


M. M. Ernsberger
Certified Clinical Herbalist

A good friend of mine found out that her infant has major heart defects. He has had one of three open heart surgeries. While she was in the hospital I took her books, magizines, crochet instructions, hook and yarn. One thing she asked for was blankets that she could donate to the hospital. She was so grateful to all the nurses who cared for her son, one of the nurses gave her a blanket and that meant a lot to her. So, she wanted to give blankets back to the hospital to tell them thankyou and so they could have more to give. Also, maybe a gas card, if they are driving to the hospital a lot gas could really add up
Also, to you it all seems so small, but to the person you are doing it for, it means a lot. Don't worry about doing something big, just do something!
May God be with you and your friend.

Oh how horribly sad :(

Last year I was sick and in the hospital (after I had my son) and a few of my friends donated blood because of me (I wasn't the recipient but it was still very meaningful). I think it would be really cool if you could organize a blood/plasma drive in her name. I would also recommend offering to babysit, making home-cooked meals, cleaning, a good book... mostly just letting her know you care and are there for her.

Hi, that is just heartbreaking. I would offer to take care of the other kids as often as I could, so the parents can be at the hospital togheter. The parents need to be able to support each other as much as the daughter. I would also offer to help take the other kids to see the sister and then bring them home w/me. Any thing that can put a smile on her face would be huge, in my opinion. There isn't much I wouldn't do to help a child & family in need that I care for. Her parents will be greatful knowing they can be w/their daughter together & NOT have to worry about the care of the other kids. Dinners for the ones at home and house cleaning, driving the other kids to after school stuff, homework help anything that takes the everyday pressures off of them would help.
When my father-in-law was in the hospital I was on toddler patrol in the reception area. I would take them in to visit for 5-7 mins or until the kids got restless then back out to the reception area. I did this all day. It was win-win for everyone, when the kids left w/their mom I got my visiting time. I could tell by the look on his face he appreciated it.
I hope and pray all goes well.

You wrote "much, much prayer". I'm joining in on that...praying for the Love of God through Jesus Christ to bless this family and bring healing. If you have a mind to do this, call the 700 Club 800-759-0700 for prayer. Miracles have happened through the intercessory prayer of these prayer warriors. May the Grace of Almighty God be with you and this family. My grandmother died of luekemia, so my heart is in touch with this suffering.

Offer her solutions for a healthy future - for her ill child as well as herself and her family. Learn about how the plants of the rain forest provide beneficial nutrition for helping the body to heal itself. For every disease suffered, God has provided a cure - you just have to know what you are looking for and where to find it. Deep in the Amazon rain forest you won't find diseases like cancer or diabetes because the foods the indigenous people eat provide them with nutrients to combat them. If you do find a diseased person it will be due to some toxin introduced from our civilization. I am part of an alliance who promote the sustainable future of the rain forest and our planet by teaching people how these wild grown herbs are able to rejuvenate the body, balance the systems and allow healthy life. If you are interested in more information feel free to contact me.

FundRaising, My daughter just started working at Krispy Kreme, they have a very easy fund raising program. You could ask one of the moms of the group if anyone is interested in taking this on.... With one mom in charge you'd be amazed at how much money can be raised.-- Good Luck -- we all know how close tragedy can be.

Have you thought about giving her a book of daily devotions? Possibly set up a little Bible study once a week or so, where you and a couple of really good friends could spend about an hour and half with her and help her with her spirit? I have found that being in a Bible study that has a great message with great friends brings the most fulfilling feeling and a true feeling of being loved. It lets you be in a place where nothing is taboo and you can truely lay out your feeling and then have your wonderful friends pray with you. Prayer is a wonderful thing and with friends it can get you through some of the roughest times.
My prayers are with you and your friend. God Bless

Gift cards are a great thing.
Restaurants near the hospital, so maybe the parents can have a meal together, by themselves; or near home for the whole family.
the movies or fiddlesticks, to give the family some quality time together, which will be hard to find between all the dr. appts.
the nearest Target or Walmart, for the days they just want to run in and grab something but don't have a lot of time.
Gas or telephone minutes cards
Co-workers can sometimes donate their PTO, depending on the company.
maybe get together your friends and clean their house

Sounds as if you are doing the best you can do for your friend.
Just being there for emotional support, along with the meals etc. is what she needs.
Most of all...lifting she and her child up in prayer is the best gift you could give them at this time. We can be sure that our loving Heavenly Father is holding our hand and walking us through not only the good times but also through the really tough times. He loves them even far more than you do and won't let them go through this alone. I've been through these types of things and have found that I could trust the Lord to get me through it and even though it was difficult, I came out stronger having been through these times.
Hang in there with your friend and just keep those prayers going up. She is blessed to have friends like you

I recently spent some time in the hospital myself. I had pregnancy complications and my daughter was delivered 6 weeks early. I was sick for like a week before I went into the hospital and things really piled up at home. With two other young daughters at home with Daddy, he couldn't do much either. People were willing and offering to help (mostly with meals) but it was hard to ask someone to come help clean or take our laundry and wash it (we live in an apt without hook ups... never again). An offer from someone else to do these things without my bringing them up would have meant the world to me. As it is my mom came into town and took care of it for us but it's something that you and others could offer to do that most people don't think of. My daughter remained in the hospital for a bit longer than I did and offers to give me a ride there meant a lot too. Or you could give her a gift card for gas. Any way that you can help with food for the parent at the hospital would likely help them too... The food there can add up in cost too. Good luck finding the right things to do/give. And God bless you for your service and love. Prayer is powerful and will go a long way. I pray they will all have the strength to make it through this, parents and children alike.

Hi H.-
It sounds as if you are being wonderful friends. I think that the most important thing is what you are doing, being there for her and her family through thick and thin. I know- you want the disease to magically disapppear, but it doesn't work that way, usually. It is so difficult to watch other's pain. Just remember to talk to them about their feelings, and just listen and hold their hands. Try to find them a support group of parents in a similar situation. If the child passes, just say how very sorry you are, and that you will miss their beautiful little girl. Hold her ( and her husband) while they cry. Many times, people don't know what to say, so they don't say anything. A friend of mine whose child was stillborn said that reaction was the worst, because people were trying to pretend that it never happened. Volunteer to go read to the child, play games, do all the things she is still able to do. Share those things, too. She is still the same person, although she is very ill. She'ss appreciate 'kid stuff'. I am so sorry for your friend's pain. S.

You are a dear friend to want to help in this way! One thing you need to understand is that this will go on for a long, long time and right now everyone wants to help. As time goes on, it may become more difficult for you to always "be there." Therefore, I would suggest that you do something that you can continue for the long haul.

One thing that this mom is going to be concerned with is that her other children be allowed to live life as normally as possible. If there's a birthday party her kids are invited to, perhaps you could do the shopping for that and be sure her child/children are able to get there and home. Invite her kids for playdates and provide the transpsortation. Help her shop for back to school things her kids will need. When you go to Costco, take her list along too. Just think of the daily things that you, as a mom, do for your kids. She wants the same for hers. Her sick child is now getting great care and lots of time and attention, which she should be getting! The others are, out of necessity, taking a back seat right now. So, anything you can do that will alleviate some guilt Mom might be feeling will be a great gift to her. It's always hard as a mom to focus all your attention on one child, even if that's what's required for the time.

Meals are always good, and if you can get a calendar started where friends can sign up to take their turns bringing meals, it would be so helpful.

I have a friend who is 1 year into a 2 1/2 year regimen of leukemia treatment for her 6-year-old daughter. It's really, really hard and she worries about her little boy. Anything you can do to keep life as normal as possible for the other kids will allow Mom and Dad to care for their precious little girl.

Bless you for your dear, sweet heart!

I just got done staying at the hospital with my newborn for a month while she had heart surgeries. Something that I really appreciated was visits. Days got long waiting for doctors to tell me what was going on and watching the nurses take care of my baby. If you want to take her a gift, I would recommend anything that would add comfort. I don't know what she is sleeping on or what the situation in the room is like, but I wished I'd had one of those foam mattress toppers to put on the bench we got to sleep on. I also loved having slippers to throw on when I had to leave the room and wished for a comfy blanket. Books or magazines for her or her daughter might be nice too. I also craved homemade and healthy snacks. Thankfully, the hospital provided us with meals while we were there, but it was pretty heavy.
As for the family, I would offer to do something specific like taking the other kids swimming or to Peter Piper Pizza or whatever. People would always ask what I needed and I could never think of anything or know exactly who was willing to do what. It helps when someone else thinks of what they would need in my situation and then acts on it. Something else that might help is to call when you are going somewhere like the grocery store or Wal-mart to ask if she needs anything. She may be out of toothpaste and just not have the energy to go out buy it.
Also, once she's home, keep in contact with her. It seems like people are afraid to "bother" me or get in the way, but even though right now things are crazy with doctors appointments and other things, I still need friends. If she's too busy or can't have visitors right at the moment, she'll let you know, but it's nice to know that somebody still cares.
Another thing is try to avoid asking "When" or "how long". It was really frustrating to me to keep answering "I don't know" to all of those. Often, the doctors don't even know how long ga certain treatment or hospital stay will last.
I hope this helps.

For a Special Gift, take all of the siblings over to Build A Bear and they can make a stuffed animal for her and they each can put a heart in it for her. My daughter use to work there and said that people would do that all of the time.
I hope she gets well soon.

A great way to help her out by having you and your friends pre cook several meals for their family each week and freeze them so that saves them time and they can spend more time together.

Oh my gosh, I can't even imagine what they are going through! The first thing that comes to mind is how expensive the medical bills are going to be. Have you considered starting an account in the little girls name? Holding a carwash or some other type of activity to help alleviate some of the financial burden? Also, I've found that churches really rally around families going through things like this, they have great ways to help, even if it's just getting a few more prayers said for them, it all helps. I think it's wonderful that you are so willing to help. I'd be happy to contribute in some way, as I'm sure many other Mamasource moms would. Let us know what we can do! Until then I'll keep them in my prayers.

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