Finding the Good Days: Pediatric Cancer

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Mary Tiso, Gilchrist Kids Clinical Manager

A diagnosis of pediatric cancer is a devastating blow to children and their families. Fortunately, pediatric cancer treatment has come a long way in the last 20 years, and many childhood cancers have treatments, cures and the likelihood of a long, healthy life after treatment. Sadly, though, there are certain cancers for which a cure is highly unlikely. The Gilchrist Kids team has the honor of caring for these children.

Cancer treatment can be difficult for even the most resilient of children and families. Managing cancer—with all the side effects of treatment, hospitalizations, doctors’ appointments, tests and scans—becomes a full-time job. Many children undergoing cancer treatment cannot attend school, play with their friends, or live ‘normal’ lives. Gilchrist Kids’ goal is to try to bring ‘normal’ back to these children and their families.

Thanks to Concurrent Care for Children, a tenet of the Affordable Care Act, children may receive curative, life-prolonging treatment for their cancer while receiving hospice care. For many families, Gilchrist Kids hospice care allows a sense of normalcy to enter back into their lives, allowing children to spend more time at home with their families, doing the things they like best. We work closely alongside the child’s treating team to ensure they are given the best chance at a cure while planning for the possibility that a cure may not happen.

In our Pediatric Hospice Inpatient Unit at Gilchrist Center Baltimore, children may receive respite care as part of their hospice plan of care. Respite allows children to receive several days of nursing care so that their families, who may be exhausted from providing the day in and day out care, can have a short time to care for themselves. This chance to recharge, relax and prepare for their difficult ongoing journey is so important for families caring for their child.

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Gilchrist Kids patient enjoying his time in Gilchrist Center Baltimore’s playroom.

The inpatient unit staff understand that respite care is also a time for a child to just be a child. They plan special activities for children. Before the respite stay, the Gilchrist team finds out what foods, activities, books, songs, colors and movies the children like best, and plan to make them available at the unit. Many days you can find staff and patients singing, dancing, laughing and forgetting, for a few days, the long journey they have been on, as well as the journey ahead of them.

Gilchrist Kids understands that often, the best medicine for children and families is living life to the fullest, as all children are supposed to. With our support at home and our inpatient unit, we hope to let children with cancer and their families find all of the good days they possibly can.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. To learn more about Gilchrist Kids, visit: https://www.gilchristcares.org/kids


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