Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Hi Everyone! My name is Clare DeVeau and I am one of the Pediatric Oncology Social Workers at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. I graduated from Hope College in 2014 with my bachelors and then went on to the University of Michigan for my Masters of Social Work, graduating in 2015. After working in the schools for 4 ½ years, I joined the team at Helen DeVos in January of 2020 and haven’t looked back. I am a West Michigan native and am happy to call Grand Rapids my home.

September is a special month for those us of up here in the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic. September it is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Although we are always highlighting pediatric cancer in this space, September is a month-long focus on education, awareness, and research of Pediatric Cancer. It seems like nearly everyone I meet has a friend or a friend of a friend that has been impacted by childhood cancer. This is because 43 children per day are diagnosed with cancer in the US (National Pediatric Cancer Foundation). Childhood cancer is the #1 cause of death in children in the US and yet only 4% of national funding goes towards treating childhood cancer (National Pediatric Cancer Foundation).

Children’s Healing Center helps to provide a space where families don’t feel how small their world has become.

47 of the over 15,000 children diagnosed with cancer in the US during 2020 are patients I have the pleasure of working with every day. As a social worker, I tell families that I will walk with them from diagnosis all the way through treatment and into follow up. The most common question I ask families throughout treatment and follow up is “What do you need?” The world of cancer treatment easily becomes overwhelming for parents and families. The medical treatment alone is a foreign language. Then there is managing work schedules, caring for siblings, emergency room visits at the drop of a hat, overwhelming feelings, the list goes on. At times it can be hard for our parents and patients to even grasp what they may need. I work hard on getting to know families as they manage the fact that their lives have been turned upside. Part of this work includes knowing what resources exist in the community for them.  I am always looking for resources and organizations that will provide patients and families with more of what they need on their treatment journey.

Children’s Healing Center is one of our amazing resource partners that we are thankful to share with families. When a child is diagnosed, so many changes for them and their family. When they hear the words immune compromised, their world gets so much smaller. Less big events, less parties, more hand sanitizer, and a smaller circle. Children’s Healing Center helps to provide a space where families don’t feel how small their world has become. They can attend events, celebrate, and get a night out, all while knowing their child is safe and secure. The Children’s Healing Center is another space that pauses to ask our families “What do you need?”

As we move through Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage you to think of children and families in your life that are impacted by Childhood Cancer. Check in with them and ask, “What do you need?”