About this blog

About this blog

This is part of a self-help leaflet or book that I have been meaning to write to share the coping strategies I found through my son’s four-year odyssey through leukaemia and PTSD. Blogs written by Sarah

  • Patient Name: Henry
  • Cancer Type: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia
  • Age when diagnosed: 7

Things to do to help ease anxiety through traumatic situations

30th June 2020

Dealing with difficult situations

Having come through treatment, and end of treatment, I can see now the incredible resilience and empathy that Henry has learnt through his experience. I truly believe that these characteristics will help Henry through his life when dealing with difficult situations. I have learnt that I can get through the hardest of times even when it feels impossible. As a family, we have developed coping strategies and a deep understanding of the importance of appreciating each day. It was hard, no doubt, but what we learnt as a family was to take each day as it comes, look for the silver linings in the simple things, not dwell on the things we couldn’t do and find ways to make the best of our new situation without thinking too much about the future. A tricky balancing act but mostly we managed to adapt to our ‘new normal’ with some days better than others. Henry, his Dad and I would really like to share the things that helped us through in the hope that they may help you and your family too. I think that by counting every tiny achievement each day like this, it will eventually add up to you being able to do more than you ever imagined.

1. Exercise

For Henry’s Dad, exercise became his physical and emotional support through trauma. He found it really important to get outside, see his friends at the running club and to feel like things were normal by keeping a good routine. Henry too benefitted from keeping physical as the Vincristine affected his knee joints so he was unable to walk for a short time. We knew how important it was to try to keep up his strength and stamina gently through walking, and then when he was stronger and his Hickman line had been taken out, lots of swimming and cycling. Henry was given a lightweight bike from Cyclists Fighting Cancer and it has really helped strengthen his joints and improve his stamina.

2. Art and creativity

I strongly believe in the powerful therapeutic properties of creativity for everyone regardless of what artistic skill they think they may or may not have. I teach art classes to children and adults and emphasise to everyone that the end result really doesn’t matter. The process of making is the thing that should be fun, enjoyable and relaxing. Henry has always loved building Lego and loves drawing too. He has also enjoyed making clay or saltdough pinch pots or creatures, this has strengthened his hands and joints as an extra benefit. My sister made hundreds of colourful wool pompoms to help her through a difficult time and ended up turning it into an art installation as part of a Sculpture Trail I was organising. He has created a short film on how to make his origami bird design, which you can join along with below.  

3. Reflexology

Henry has always liked having his feet rubbed gently at bedtime. I was trying to think of ways to help him find deep relaxation as his body was on high alert so much of the time and so I took him to a reflexologist for a short session. I wasn’t sure how he would respond, particularly after experiencing so many horrible procedures lying on a hospital bed, but he absolutely loved it. When we left the therapy centre he said he felt like he was walking on a cloud! I felt that a weekly reflexology session was a good way of teaching his body how to fully relax again after the end of cancer treatment and that everything was okay. I have continued to give him a foot massage every evening at bedtime using a lavender foot balm which I find relaxing, too.

4. Pets as therapy

This may not be an easy solution but getting Kobi as a therapy dog for Henry was one of the best decisions we made. Kobi is a Jack Russell crossed with a Chihuahu and is the kindest little dog ever. Just looking at his face and stroking him has helped Henry calm down and when we were in isolation in hospital talking to Henry’s Dad and seeing Kobi on FaceTime. We also got a fish tank as we enjoyed visiting the fish in hospital so much. I thought this could be a good home schooling project too but in the end the fish have definitely ended up being my therapy as I find them so relaxing to watch, I didn’t know I could love a tank full of fish so much!
Henry with dog

5. Grandad’s poetry

Henry’s Grandad Mal used to read poetry to Henry’s Mum and Auntie Laura at bedtime when they were little. He also read to Henry at various times during Henry’s hospital stays and while we stayed with them during treatment. In March 2020, he has started recording some of his favourite poems and has uploaded them onto SoundCloud where they can be downloaded for free. They are lovely and calming to listen to at bedtime or anytime when things feel a bit too much. I hope these tips for looking within will be able to help families at whatever stage of their childhood cancer journey.
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