How to talk to your kids about cancer: a local program aims to help

Published: Feb. 5, 2019 at 12:05 PM CST
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Comprehending a cancer diagnosis is never easy and people typically have a lot of questions. While as adults, understanding what's going on can be difficult, it can be especially confusing for your kids after a loved one is diagnosed.

But a local program is looking to help answer those questions for kids.

In January of 2018, Ben Frederick of Eau Claire received some pretty shocking news. He was diagnosed with colon cancer. While the news came as a surprise for him and his wife Monica, their next question was, how do we tell the kids? That's when they heard about a local program called Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery or CLIMB.

Does cancer ever end? What does a port look like? Is cancer catchy?

These are just a few of the questions on the minds of several kids when they find out a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for 15 years and I’ve always prided myself for being able to solve problems and help people get through some dark times in their life, but I was not remotely ready to talk to my kids about that diagnosis,” Ben said.

But that's what the CLIMB program at Marshfield Clinic hopes to answer.

“We really felt it was important to have a support group for children because they are such a big part of everything that's going on in their family and cancer is a whole family experience,” said Marcy Elwood, a clinical oncology social worker at Marshfield.

This program was especially important for the Frederick’s two kids after Ben's diagnosis.

“The feeling of the day for session 3 was sad,” explained Tyler, Ben’s son. “Because you may feel sad when your parent doesn't want to do anything because they're 'bleh.'”

But Marcy said, sad is just one of the feelings she sees in the class.

“A lot of times kids are just very scared or worried about their loved one,” Marcy said. “We have kids come in who are kind of mad about the situation because they don't understand how it happened to the special person in their life.”

“It’s not a topic that anyone wants to talk about but it's necessary,” Ben added. “We owe it to our kids so that they feel, they know what’s going on, and they need to be well informed that they aren't afraid of anything. And it’s okay if they are afraid of anything so we'll just talk about it and take everything day by day.”

Through open conversations to tours at the hospital to demonstrations, the CLIMB program is helping families bond, giving kids a little more clarity and leaving everyone full of love.

“Just that reassurance knowing that the kids are okay emotionally because sometimes they don't really want to talk to you and just knowing that they're okay through this was a big, big deal for us,” Monica, Ben’s wife said.

“We love them very much, but we want them to know they're not alone and they never will be alone,” Ben added. Monica chiming in, “And that it’s ok to have the feelings that they're having.”

The CLIMB program is held 4 times a year and each one is a six-week session. They’re held on Tuesday evenings and are free and open to kids regardless of where they receive healthcare.

If you want to find out more about the program,

This segment is sponsored by Marshfield Clinic Health System.