Supporting Students Who Have a Parent With Cancer

As a school counselor, I often work with students whose parents are terminally ill, or have recently died.

This year, I worked with six middle school girls who were all living with their mother’s cancer diagnosis. Six moms, 5 different types of cancer, 7 of us in a group that I called “Parents With Cancer”.

My own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when my son was almost one year old. I do realize that I can never fully understand how they feel, as I was an adult when my mom was in treatment. But because of my experience with my own mom, the girls said that it helped them share their experience with myself and the others in our group.

Some days our little group spent time just talking about unrelated topics, sometimes we ended the session with everyone in tears. Unfortunately, our sessions ended with the bell ringing for the girls to report to their next class. On days when the girls needed time to compose themselves before facing their peers again, it was often a struggle to convince their teachers that it was legitimate for my girls to come to class late.

Our weekly sessions continued on until just before school ended for the summer. I ordered bracelets for each girl with the poem “What Cancer Cannot Do” engraved on them and gave them out during our next to last session.

Not more than one week later, I received an e-mail from the father of one of the girl’s that her mom had unexpectedly passed away. I called the girls down to my office and told them the news. They all asked for the information for the viewing and the funeral.
The next evening, I went to the funeral home to pay my respects. There I saw all my girls. Each one had asked their parents to bring them to support their friend. I was so proud of them. At the end of the viewing, as I was saying my good nights, I saw that each of them wore their bracelets that I had given them.
When I returned to my car, only then did the tears flow. Friendship and support can be found everywhere, we need only to open our eyes.

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