The Playful Parents

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Living With A Child Battling Cancer

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In this post, I have invited Joanne Poon, the author of ‘Brave Maeve’ and the producer of ‘Brave Maeve: The Musical‘, to share with us her personal battle with her daughter’s cancer. Her daughter, Maeve, was diagnosed at 3 to have Stage 2 cancer just as Joanne had a newborn baby. During Maeve’s cancer battle, Joanne, kept a blog, Maevie Baby!

To date, there have been several media coverage you can find on the papers and online about the Poon Family’s hope-inspiring journey in battling, and overcoming, childhood cancer. Do watch this video feature of Joanne by Singaporean of the Day. You can find out more from the Brave Maeve Singapore Facebook page. Fellow Mom Blogger, Pamela, also has some great videos of the family on her blog post.

A Sunday Life Feature On The Poon’s Testimony of Miracles, Hope & Faith

But just for the readers of The Playful Parents, Joanne will be sharing what that battle with her child’s cancer has changed her as a parent. She will also share tips on how we can support families who are facing the cancer battle.

The Poon Family Celebrating Maeve’s 4th birthday even as she battled cancer

Q: Throughout the entire ordeal, what was the one thing that helped keep you going?

Faith in an almighty God, friends and family who did everything from the practical to the completely indulgent for us, a wonderful helper who was sole parent to my 4-month-old baby, Paige, for six months while we were in hospital with Maeve, a husband, who did everything from washing my breastpump in the middle of the night in hospital, to taking night shifts with me with Maeve on the potty every 2 hrs, to settling every financial/admin thing associated with treatment cost, insurance etc. Oh yes, and Earl Grey Tea every afternoon facing the wall and pretending I’m not in hospital for those few minutes!

Q. How has the battle with its tears and victories changed you as a parent, and your parenting views?

I’ve never been the kiasu parent type nor stressed over academic competencies, but I did worry about my daughter’s lack of Chinese ability, so I sent her to a chinese kindy for a couple of months, even hired a tutor for a month.

But after this battle, I really couldn’t give a toss! The fact that she’s alive, she’s happy, she is going to school like a regular kid, I just count my blessings that I’ve got my daughter back. I guess there is a tendency to be more indulgent of her, to be more careful, more protective, but we are constantly reminding ourselves that we do need to parent her in a loving, but firm fashion, so that she doesn’t become a menace to society next time! I guess many parents in Singapore would be pretty appalled by our lack of attention to her academic work and our focus on loving life and just nurturing her natural curiosity about our amazing world.

Q: To parents of children who are battling cancer or other critical illness, what would you like to say to them?

Throughout our journey, the one thing I’ve learnt is to be your child’s advocate. No doctor or nurse will know your child like you do (ie. what helps them to brave a finger prick, a lumbar puncture, consent to draw blood etc) and the truth is, in hospital, you need to help the medical workers get the job done easily.

So for example, with Maeve, we always brought along reward charts for various procedures and a bag of treats which she could dip into for braving various procedures! You might feel like you’re completely alone (and most times in hospitals, especially in isolation rooms, you are physically alone), but you are not. I hope Brave Maeve Singapore  will be able to connect various parents on this arduous journey and let them know, there are a whole lot of parents like myself, who will help see them through if ever the need someone with them.

Q. To all of us parents , what would you like to tell us?

Don’t sweat the small stuff! Give your child extra cuddles, look at your child in the eye when he talks to you (put that iphone down!), marvel over the things she tells you, encourage your child to do his best academically (but not at the expense of living life richly), and PSLE does not and should not determine what a wonderful child you have, so stop the 101 enrichment classes already! Spend the time (and money saved), enjoying precious hours with your child.

Q. What are some meaningful and helpful ways friends can support a parent whose child is battling with cancer or other illnesses?

Don’t say “let me know if you need help/if there’s anything I can do”. Chances are, we are too busy to call you and tell you how you can help us! so you can:

1. Visit (if you are not sick) and give the tired parent a bit of a respite. Play with the child, sing songs together, draw, bring a game along. most children look forward to visitors as the many months stuck in hosital is quite a royal pain.

2. Pack a treat box with little inexpensive treats for the child (maybe little encouraging notes for each day/week for children who can read, or small candies and other surprises, that they can do a lucky dip with, especially when the day has been particularly traumatic)

3. Cook the child’s favourite food. Most don’t like hospital food. So grilling some chicken wings or whatever the child likes and bringing it in for dinner is always welcome. (just check on diet restrictions first) Bring for the parents too!

4. See if other family members need help/care, especially for the well sibling left at home. Volunteer to babysit, take them out for the day, go over to supervise homework for a couple of hours. Siblings are often neglected and they act up and add to parental stress. (friends of mine and neighbours bought milk bottles, infant formula etc for my baby as I had none!)

5. Skype with the child (if the child is old enough). As the child can’t leave the hospital, if gets very lonely. (some friends of ours would skype with Maeve and entertain her when there were no visitors and I was too exhausted to do a song and dance for her!)

6. Bring a musical instrument over and play it. (guitar, harmonica, lap harp etc) Sometimes, they are in so much pain, just someone singing and/or playing an instrument is very soothing.

7. Send regular messages to the parents and child to remind them that you are thinking about them, praying for them, or just simply to tell them about anything really. Try not to call (texting is good) as it can get really busy what with holding a screaming child down for a procedure or emptying the potty or thwacking air bubbles from IV lines!

8. Plan an art and craft project for the kid and go and do it with them. Or bring a few nice books and read it to them. Bring Brave Maeve!

The Inspiring Poon Family Today

 All images courtesy of Joanne Poon 

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