Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Healthcare Perspective

Healthcare professionals know first hand the challenges facing children and families who live with chronic and serious illness. As Team IMPACT has grown throughout the years, we collaborate closely with members of the medical community, including doctors, nurses, child life specialists, social workers, and psychologists to ensure our program has a strong clinical foundation, allowing us to act as an extension of care outside hospital walls. 

This September, three healthcare professionals who have shared their perspective on the benefits they see for patients that they have referred to Team IMPACT.

Nicole Queathem, MEd, CCLS | Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center | Pediatric Hematology / Oncology

“I’ve witnessed so many positive outcomes for families connected with Team IMPACT, and the word that encompasses them all is flourishing. Patients connected with this organization become involved in something that transcends their treatment journey. They exhibit an increased sense of inclusion, they build an identity outside of illness, and they gain an exponential support system.

I often describe Team IMPACT as an additional sphere of support for an entire family– a sphere that extends beyond their relatives or medical team. With Team IMPACT, a child or teen feels chosen, and their family becomes wrapped in unconditional connectedness, joy, guidance, and strength. I also like to share that Team IMPACT remains grounded in evidenced-based practices, so the interactions and activities offered to patients can provide maximum outcomes!” 

“The impact of Team Impact is magical- in part because it gives the child something to belong to that is not illness focused, and in part because it creates a natural support system. The team members are an exciting, capable, new population available to the child- for fun, for support, for help and diversion at a time when life can feel hard!”

– Nancy Cincotta, MSW, MPhil, LCSW | Psychosocial Consultant

Kellye Carroll, MS, CCLS | Director, Chase Child Life Program at UCLA Health / Mattel Children’s Hospital

“The initial [cancer] diagnosis is always an extremely difficult time because it marks the moment when everyone in the child/teen’s lives change. That moment is a crisis moment and for many families, help and support come out in force. However, the cancer journey is a long one, and often, the people who came out to support at the beginning end up focusing back on their own lives at some point. This is completely understandable but leaves the child and family feeling isolated and alone on their path. Unexpected support, like joining a team through Team IMPACT is so vital at this point in treatment. 

Cancer is isolating. Kids and families suddenly have to cope with a very different life and lifestyle than what they were used to. Kids often feel distanced from their friends and activities. At these times, Team IMPACT steps in and provides that supportive, team family that is so important to the mental health of not just the child impacted by disease, but the entire family as well. Having that team around you, supporting you, caring about you, provides an immeasurable comfort to our patients and families.  

We had a young teenage patient who was dealing with a cancer diagnosis following a chronic diagnosis he’d had since birth. This child had never played sports because his body was never able to handle the rigor, so his parents had tried to shield him from the world of sports, thinking this would be better than him seeing yet one more thing he “couldn’t” do. Through Team IMPACT, he was connected with a local university and had the opportunity to be part of a team for the first time is his life. For him, it wasn’t about sports. It was about these older kids who cared about him and his siblings, who checked in on him when he was in the hospital and always welcomed him as “one of them” when he was able to make it to a team meeting or practice. Having that opportunity changed this child’s life and provided so much joy to his whole family.”   

Brienne Leary, MSN, RN, CPNP – PC / AC | Pediatric Nurse Practitioner | Stem Cell Transplant | Boston Children’s Hospital

“Children with cancer face numerous challenges on their road to recovery.  From the moment of diagnosis, everything about their life changes; the sanctity of “norm” is lost.  Almost every component of their lives is driven by their disease, and families often describe a complete loss of control as they navigate the seemingly unending ways it impacts their lives. 

Team IMPACT offers children and their families a welcome reprieve from this identity as “the kid with cancer”.  Instead, they find a new role, accompanied by an improved sense of self-worth, of being a teammate, a friend, and an inspiration.  I’ve personally witnessed time and time again the pride my patients feel as they share the videos, pictures, stats, and social media posts about their team.  Nothing is better than watching a patient have a pick-me-up video chat with a teammate while they’re admitted to the hospital or in clinic for a chemo run. The relationships they form give them hope and meaning for something bigger than their illness. In turn, these amazing kids give their college teammates the gift of perspective, arguably one of the most powerful tools a young adult may ever gain.” 

Nancy Cincotta, MSW, MPhil, LCSW | Psychosocial Consultant

“When a child is diagnosed with cancer every family member enters a new world, one in which they have no experience. The rules change, family roles change, time changes, everything feel foreign which causes each individual member to feel a bit like a stranger in their new world, and in their old world.

When a child’s cancer recurs it brings families back to how they felt at the beginning, but this time with the knowledge that the cancer may be more difficult to treat and that the road ahead may be much more challenging—sometimes the friends they have made in the cancer community may not be as available to them as their child’s recurrence provokes the fear that their own child could relapse- it is a frightening and isolating time.

A conversation I had with a mother has stayed with me—as a mother of a very sick child there was a lot she had to let go of- and a lot of joy she did not have…being a Team Impact mom gave her part of a normal experience that she thought she would never have- she could cheer for her daughter in connection to a team- she could cheer for a team- she could sit in the sun and have the wind blow on her face in the stands- and she could by team clothing!!!  It is hard to think about the losses for each family member as they adapt to the “illness” routine— Team impact challenges the illness routine and brings back some of the joy of life.”