Paris: With a pirate snack, children understand their parents’ illness

“They saw me go to the clinic, without really knowing what I was doing there, or if I was going back. Now they know exactly where their mother slips almost every day. They visited the place where the evil that weakens them is being chased, they met the team, they felt the generosity…Got Everyone gets what they need from this experience.” Naima is 49 years old, with four children, whom she had to tell, one day in 2019, that she had started a long battle. That this battle would also be their battle, whether they were six years old like the youngest, or 18 years old the oldest. For this entrepreneur accustomed to managing everything, the obstacle of silent anguish betrayed by appearance imposed the obstacle of unanswered questions. “I explained the situation and engaged them from the start, but there were no questions, some kind of escape hid the anxiety I was feeling. Chemotherapy, catheter, protocol, etc. These words mean nothing to the children, but they should be allowed to understand what was It happens, even with the physical changes associated with the treatment. Hair loss, extreme fatigue … “So on a Friday after school, Naama participated with her four children in “A Taste of the Pirates”, an initiative of the nursing team at the Department of Oncology in Saint-Jean-de-Dieu, where It is taken care of.

Psychological care for the whole family

Principle: Welcoming patients’ children, whatever their age, meeting time with caregivers, discovering a service, chemotherapy room, an exchange where they can ask all their held questions, a snack to close this funny visit intended to “dramatize treatment in children’s minds”, As Ana de Souza, who is responsible for the foundation’s supportive care, explains. Aude, an oncology nurse, adds: “Before Covid, husbands and children over 15 could come, but mothers were often worried about their children. We thought about this reception time, which is a Friday at the end of the day so no one is in The chemotherapy room in particular. It’s so calming for the kids to see the place, and since we generally suggest two families share, there’s a positive group effect. It’s also soothing for the women because the word spreads freely.”

Clinic Saint-Jean-de-Dieu (7) mid-April. Once or twice a quarter, a pirate’s tea party helps ease the severity of treatment and a parent’s illness.

“The idea was not to be entertaining, but rather to offer a moment of relaxation, at the same time providing psychiatric care for the whole family,” confirms Bettina Pressotti, a service psychologist. There are no forbidden questions, nothing is left unsaid, but there is no seriousness either in these unexpected exchanges, conditioned by children’s questions, which also vary by age.

Selfie on chemotherapy chairs

Then comes the visit. “It’s the mother who makes the visit, Aude identifies. The oncologist is sometimes involved, but it’s important for the patient to have that active role.” Orient the chemotherapy room, which is very bright, opens to the garden and rather warm, where the kids can try on the armchairs, and even take a Polaroid photo, just to keep a tangible memory of a visit they never imagined happy. “Having the children take ownership and protocol of the place while playing is the best thing to de-dramatize the treatment,” the nurse explains. They are happy to leave with this powerful memory.

For some, it’s more than just a memory. It becomes a crutch in the long road to their parents’ illness: When a teacher, Fatima, daughter of Naama, asked her pupils to bring “something from home” into class and explain what it represented, she chose the 6-year-old. A picture, in a chemotherapy chair… “It was part of her daily life,” Aude analyzes. “It struck me because it was so intimate, and Naima was touched by the recollection. She’s so discreet, revealing this photo and how serious it is, it was overwhelming.” For this mother, it was also a sign that “now we live with the disease together without any problem. They know that they are not alone in my disease, that a whole team is taking care of it, and it also gives me more courage to face the treatment.”

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