By Caroline Rider
For many families with children, summer is a time for vacations, outings, and fun. However, a summer vacation when your child has cancer can seem out of the question. But sometimes, a summer getaway is just what the doctor ordered.
I’m not suggesting a month in Paris, but a few day trips or long weekends can help a family heal. I know this all too well. In 2006, my then 4-year old son Charlie was diagnosed with leukemia. Charlie later relapsed and had a bone marrow transplant. Despite our challenges during the four years Charlie battled cancer, we had some wonderful family vacations. Some were a week long and others just a few hours.
Here are some tips for keeping your family active and adventurous. Be sure to plan around your child’s treatment schedule and check your ideas with his or her doctor.
- Surprise your kids. Don’t mention days ahead that you are all going to the beach in case the trip has to be postponed because of illness. Instead, secretly plan to go to the beach (or the lake or the city), and get everything prepared. In the morning, if everyone feels well, tell the kids you are going on an adventure.
- Be prepared for bumps in the road. We kept a soft-sided cooler in the car, stocked with non-perishable snacks (goldfish, granola bars, and pretzels) as well as juice boxes and water bottles. We also packed a “special supplies” bag that contained sun screen, bug spray, a picnic blanket, rain ponchos, and first aid kit. With cancer in the family we added medications for car sickness, spare medications, and comfort items.
- Don’t try to do too much. The whole family is already worn out from your cancer ordeal. Don’t try to cram in too many activities. Aim for quality, not quantity.
- Let your children lead the way. Let them each have a day when they decide what the family will do. Give them a few parameters (distance, price, time). They may choose an amusement park or a movie, or they may want to tour the local fire house or police station.
- Plan a “staycation.” If getting out of town for a whole day is impossible, you’ll find plenty to do in your own backyard. Go to local museums. Visit every playground in your town and rate them from best to worst. Try a new restaurant. Many communities have fairs and festivals, summer music series, art in the park, parades, and events for children. Check your town’s website to see what events are planned in your area.
- Think outside the box. When all else fails, stay home, but make it an adventure. Set up a tent in your backyard or even your living room. No tent? Make one with blankets draped over the furniture. Throw a picnic blanket on the floor, eat hot dogs and s’mores, and sing campfire songs. Camping’s not your thing? I’ll bet your kids will have some ideas.