We just celebrated the 5-year anniversary of my son, Cooper’s, cancer diagnosis. He was 2 when we found out he had leukemia.
When we talk about his cancer treatment and hospital trips now, it amazes me what he remembers—and what he doesn’t. He will actually say, “I loved those times.”
Maybe he was too little to remember, or maybe he blocked out most of the bad stuff. Either way, I’m glad he remembers the good things.
Here are 5 ways we made hospital trips easier for my son.
1. Special Clothes And Toys
Cooper’s immune system was weak from the cancer treatment, and we often ended up leaving for the hospital with no advanced warning. Since we live two hours away, we kept a suitcase packed at all times.
It was filled with some of Cooper’s favorite comfy clothes and “hospital toys.” We called them hospital toys because he only got to play with them when he was in the hospital. That made them feel like a fun treat.
2. Different Rules
At home, we did our best to limit how much TV Cooper watched. But when he was in the hospital, we were much more lax on our limited TV rule.
Sometimes, the only giggles we heard all day were when Tom and Jerry were chasing each other around the screen. So, I didn’t feel too bad about temporarily bumping up the TV time.
3. A Sweet Treat
Cooper loves the popsicles they have at the hospital. Of course we buy popsicles at home, but we never could seem to find the exact same ones as the hospital. So they were a special treat.
On the flip side, we also kept a stash of his favorite food and snacks from home. Cooper seemed to find comfort in eating food that was familiar.
4. Always Having A Spare
Cooper’s blanket, Greenie, is practically another family member. That blanket has comforted him through more cancer treatments than we can remember. It has been a constant when so many other things in Cooper’s life were unpredictable.
But it never failed. Greenie—who could go for days on end without being washed at home—ended up in the laundry every day at the hospital. We learned pretty early on that it was important to pack a spare Greenie (or two) for hospital trips. That way, Cooper never had to be without his comforting blanket.
5. Focus On The Fun
One of the most spectacular things about Children’s is all the fun activities they have for the kids. We did our best to make sure Cooper didn’t miss BINGO, the volunteer dogs, and the snack cart that came around.
One time they even had a huge pile of gifts in the lobby that kids could pick from. Cooper was stuck in his room, so I went down and took pictures of the things I thought he’d like.
Then, we let Cooper pick which toy he wanted, and I brought it up to him. That new toy entertained and distracted him for the rest of the hospital stay.
It’s the little things—the treats and surprises—that can make it seem like a fun adventure for our kids, rather than a hospital stay. I’m grateful Cooper is holding onto the good parts of that hard time. Our cancer kids’ positive attitudes never cease to amaze me.
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