Wednesday, August 03, 2011

In Which I Quit

Things have been quiet here for several months. I was limited by my organization's social media policy, to be sure, but I was also limited by my own concerns.

You see, I haven't been happy in my work since January. I survived a brutal weekend on-call, a coworker went on bedrest leaving me and another coworker to cover, and my division continued to use me inappropriately. I can't tell you how many times I learned about a tumor progression or strained family dynamics weeks or months after the fact.

The division saw me as the bill payer and resource keeper. Social work is so much more than that.

Was I able to educate families beyond the division's limited use of me? Absolutely. Was I able to do a lot of good? There's no doubt in my mind.

But I felt like I was drowning there. And in the midst of all this, my old dream of writing resurfaced.

My last day of work was June 30. I can't say that I'll never come back to social work- it is in my blood after all- but I want to see where writing will take me. I'm burned out and need to reacquaint myself with myself.

In the month since, I haven't missed being there at all. I'm infinitely happier. I know without a doubt it was the right decision.

I miss my coworkers and the families I worked with but I'm excited to see what will happen next. I don't regret my time there- it wasn't all bad- but it's definitely time to move forward.

Thank you, dear readers, for all you've helped this blog to be.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

On-Call Superstitions

I'm in the middle of my first weekend on-call. It's strangely scheduled due to the holiday. On Friday night, off New Year's Day, back on for Sunday and then Monday, which is the observed holiday. Let's just say I can't wait for 8 am Tuesday morning!

I realized I have a few things that I will or will not do while on-call, as if these things can improve my odds.

I don't make plans. I hate leaving things early and I'm always paranoid I won't hear the pager.

I don't light candles when I'm at home.

I don't make any meals that involve lots of preparation. Quick and easy is the name of the game.

I will often wear more office-appropriate attire while I'm home. If I'm ready to go, then I won't be called? It doesn't seem to make any difference but in my mind.

I try to catch up on things around the house. Cleaning, picking things up, laundry.

If I'm able to make it to church, I sit in the back at the end of the row. Just in case.

I thank God for every hour, or half hour, that I do not get paged. It helps me keep a more peaceful spirit. If I do get paged, I start praying for wisdom and strength!

What are your on-call superstitions?

Friday, December 31, 2010

Pediatric vs. Hospice Social Work

Can you believe I've been at this for 6 months now? Sometimes my pediatric hem/onc world doesn't seem that far from what I used to do in hospice. And yet, there are some noticeable differences!

In hospice, most of my patients were over 70 yo, with a few being in the 40-69 range. I rarely had a pediatric patient. In pediatrics, all my patients are about 20 yo and younger.

In hospice, I saw a variety of diagnoses. In pediatrics, my specialities are brain tumors, sickle cell, and benign hematology. Whereas in hospice, I knew a little about a lot, in peds, I know a lot about a little.

In hospice, my desk was my dining room table and whatever I could fit in the trunk of my car. In pediatrics, I share an office with a view. I have my own desk. I have two drawers of a large filing cabinet. Space, space, space!

In hospice, I was on the road all day doing home visits. I had the largest territory of the social workers so I did a lot of driving. In pediatrics, I come to work in the morning and I stay in the same place. I vary between the clinic and the hospital. It's really nice to be in the same place.

In hospice, I worked primarily with the patient and their family. In pediatrics, that's still true. The older the patient, the more I'll work directly with them, instead of just their parents.

In hospice, I had a cell phone, a laptop, and landline voicemail. In pediatrics, I have a pager, landline phone and voicemail, and a desktop computer.

In hospice, I was on-call an average 72 hours per month over a weekend. We didn't get any time off for being on-call. In pediatrics, I have one day and one night call per month and 2 or 3 weekends per year, plus a rotating holiday every few years. We get one post-call day after weekend call or holiday call.

In hospice, I provided emotional support, counseling, and prebereavement. In pediatrics, I still do the same thing!

In hospice, I had to all sorts of case management. In pediatrics, we have case managers that take care of that stuff. I still educate families about resources, however.

In hospice, I worked with 3 other social workers. In pediatrics, I work with a billion! (Maybe not quite that many but the support is phenomenal.)

There are many more comparisons I could make but I think you've got the picture!

Friday, November 05, 2010

More Pediatric Resources

Here are resources related to support, information, fun stuff, wigs, and more. As always, comment if you're aware of others!

Camps, Fun, and Wishes

Afghans for Angels-

-Free afghans or chemo caps for children with life-threatening illnesses

Angels for Hope-

-Free crocheted angels, butterflies, or smiley faces for those in need of hope

Audrey’s Umbrella-

-Encouraging mail (cheerful cards, letters, and small gifts) for patients with brain tumors

Believe in Tomorrow- 800-933-5470 6601 Frederick Road, Baltimore, MD 21228

-“Home away from home” respite houses in Maryland for families of children under 17 receiving active treatment for a life-threatening illness

-Includes beach and mountain locations

Benefit4Kids- 1-877-B4K-KID0

-Outdoor wish-granting program for children under 17 facing a terminal illness, includes hunting, camping, fishing, and more

Chemo Angels-

-Adopted by a Chemo Angel and Card Angel who send cheerful notes and occasional small inexpensive gifts during chemotherapy or radiation treatment

Childhood Leukemia Foundation-

-Hope Binder- a way of organizing treatment protocols, medicines, doctor's appointments, blood counts, physicians, hospitals, nutrition concerns, insurance benefits, calling cards, informational booklets and more

-Phone cards to use while away from home for treatment

-Wish Basket Program- Available for Baby, Child, or Teen, may include toys/games, pajamas, personal care products, and $50 Wish Card

Children's Wish Foundation International- 800-323-WISH

-grants wishes to children with life-threatening diseases and provides opportunities for families to enjoy themselves away from the hospital environment, national

-Holiday Program, Family Focus, Hospital Enrichment, Young Minds (infant to age 3)

Friends of Jaclyn Foundation-

-Child is adopted by a college or high school sports team within their geographic area. The child is involved with the team through messages, emails, Facebook, etc. and often invited to attend games with their family.

Hugs and Hope-

-Child’s story is featured on the website, people can then view it and send Happy Mail (cards, letters, small gifts) to your home

Love Quilts-

-Personalized cross-stitched quilt for children with life-threatening illness

Make a Child Smile-

-Child is featured on MACS website, where visitors can then view profile and send cards, letters, and small gifts by mail

Project Linus-

-hand-made blankets and afghans

Songs of Love- 800-960-SONG

-Creates a free personalized original song for children age 1-21 who face life-threatening or life-limiting illness

- Each CD is professionally produced with lyrics containing the child's name and references to all of his or her favorite things. Songs are written and performed in any language in the musical style that the child likes best (pop, rap, rock, etc.)

Special Love-

-Located in Virginia, camps for childhood cancer patients and their families, including camps and getaways just for parents and siblings

There’s a Monkey in my Chair-

-For children age 4-11 receiving active treatment for cancer or a brain tumor

-Provide a large stuffed monkey that sits in the child’s seat when they can’t go to school, a miniature monkey for the child to keep, backpack, book, journal, disposable camera, and photo album, all to keep the child and their class at school connected

Information and Support

American Cancer Society- 800-227-2345, Nashville chapter- 615-327-0991

-Road to Recovery Program- volunteer drivers provide rides for those who do not have access to transportation, not available in all areas

-Look Good…Feel Better for Teens- age 13-17 for boys and girls, helps them cope with how cancer treatment and side effects can change the way they look. Includes tips on skin care, hair, and makeup, plus information about nutrition, exercise, fitness, and teen social issues.

-One free wig per cancer patient

-Search for support groups in your area, access information about cancer and more

American Childhood Cancer Organization (Candlelighters)-

-largest publisher and distributor of free books on childhood cancer

Candlelighters of Middle Tennessee- 615-383-2023, 55 Wyn Oak, Nashville, TN 37205

-Programs and services include Candlelighters publications, support group meetings, teen programs, in-hospital visits, family activities.

Gabe’s Chemo Duck- 615-830-0126 (8am-5pm CST)

-Offers Chemo Duck (play therapy tool), mini-book on how to use the chemo duck as a teaching tool, activity book, and educational DVD

Gilda’s Club Nashville- 615-329-1124, 1707 Division Street, Nashville, TN 37203

-Free lectures, workshops, classes, support groups, and social activities

SuperSibs- 866-444-SIBS

-Information, support, and packages for the siblings (age 4-18) of childhood cancer patients

-On-line information for parents, other family members, teachers, etc.

Medical Expenses

Aubrey Rose Foundation- 513-265-5801

-Assistance with outstanding medical bills not covered by insurance

Cancer Care-

- Limited financial assistance for homecare, childcare, transportation, medication and co-pays


-Provides co-payment assistance to insured Americans who financially and medically qualify

Friends of Man- 303-798-2342

-On a case-by-case basis for the needy, they provide assistance with prostheses, wheelchairs, and medical equipment

-Applications can only be submitted by referring professional

Needy Meds-

-Information on patient assistance programs (medication at low or no cost) and free or low cost clinics, plus the free NeedyMeds Drug Discount card

Partnership for Prescription Assistance-

-Helps patients without prescription drug coverage get the medications they need

Patient Advocate Foundation-

-Provides case management services to patients with chronic, life threatening and debilitating illnesses, serves as advocate and liaison

Personalized Patient Web Page

Care Pages-

-Free patient blog to communicate with friends and family

-Articles about illness, caregiving, stress management, and more


- A free way to communicate updates about your loved one’s health concerns to family and friends while saving time and emotional energy. Authors add health updates and photos to their personal page and visitors can leave encouraging comments in the Guest Book

Wigs/Hair pieces

Childhood Leukemia Foundation- Hugs-U-Wear Program

-Provides a free custom made, 100% human hair wigs with kid-friendly hats

Hats Off for Cancer-

-Provides free hats to cancer patients

Heavenly Hats Foundation-

-Provides free hats to cancer patients

Locks of Love- 561-833-7332

-Hair prostheses provided to children with permanent or long-term hair loss for free or on a sliding scale according to need

-Synthetic hair pieces available for short-term hair loss or for children under age 6

Where There’s a Need- 866-803-6095

-Provides unique Hair Scarf to girls who experience hair loss

Wigs for Kids- 440-333-4433

-Provides wigs or cranial prosthesis to children under the age of 18 who have lost their hair as a result of medical treatments or health conditions. Children must come from families that cannot otherwise pay.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pediatric Cancer Camps and Wish-granting

This is a very incomplete list of camps and wish-granting organizations. Some are state-specific, some are national. Please comment with any others that you're aware of!


BASE Camp- for pediatric patients with cancer, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, and other rare/orphan hematological diseases and their siblings living in Florida

Camp Boggy Creek- for Florida’s seriously ill children

Camp Good Days- located in New York, camp programs and services are free to childhood cancer or sickle cell disease patients and their families from around the country and the world

Camp Mak-a-Dream- located in Montana, camp programs and services are free to childhood cancer patients and their families from around the country

Camp Quality USA- 14 camps located throughout the US, camp is free to childhood cancer patients (ages vary according to specific camp)

Children’s Oncology Camping Association International- directory of camps in the US, Canada, and other countries

Special Love- Located in Virginia, camps for childhood cancer patients and their families, also offer scholarships and emergency financial relief for Virginia residents


Benefit4Kids- outdoor wish-granting program, national

Children's Wish Foundation International- grants wishes to children with life-threatening diseases and provides opportunities for families to enjoy themselves away from the hospital environment, national

Make-a-Wish- wish-granting program, national

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pediatric Cancer Resources

A list of state-specific and national pediatric cancer resources. These are primarily financial assistance-related, unless otherwise specified. There are many more out there so please comment if you're aware of others.

Adam Bullen Memorial Foundation- children and adults with cancer diagnosis in Massachusetts

Alex’s Lemonade Stand- information and resources for all cancer patients, financial assistance for patients at certain hospitals

Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation- assistance for single mothers of childhood cancer patients at certain hospitals, otherwise may be eligible for Every Day Assistance Fund

Angel 34- childhood cancer patients, national

Angel on my Shoulder- unique assistance, camp, and more for cancer patients in WI

BASE Camp- pediatric patients with cancer, sickle cell anemia, hemophilia, and other rare/orphan hematological diseases living in Florida, hospital lunches, food and financial assistance, milestone parties

Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation- childhood cancer patients living in or being treated in Illinois

Brain Tumor Foundation for Children- brain tumor patients at certain hospitals in the south

Bryan’s Dream- national, brain tumor patients

Cancer Care- patients with cancer, national

Cancer Warriors- critically needy childhood cancer patients in Georgia

Chai Lifeline- primarily for Jewish patients with cancer, national www.chailifeline,org

Childhood Leukemia Foundation-information and gifts for pediatric cancer patients (any cancer), national

Children’s Cancer Association- childhood cancer patients in Oregon and SW Washington

Children’s Cancer Fund of America- childhood cancer patients, national

Children’s Cancer Fund of New Mexico- childhood cancer patients in New Mexico

Children’s Cancer Recovery Foundation- childhood cancer patients, national

Children’s Chance- childhood cancer patients in South Carolina

Clayton Dabney Foundation- terminally ill children, national

Cure for Cancers- cancer patients in northern California

Embrace Kids- childhood cancer or blood disorder patients in New Jersey

First Hand Foundation- childhood cancer patients, national

Foundation for Children with Cancer- childhood cancer patients, national

Friends4Michael Foundation- childhood brain tumor patients, national

Friends of Karen- childhood cancer patients in parts of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York

Godstock- chronically ill children in North Carolina

Have a Heart Children’s Cancer Charity- childhood cancer patients, certain East Coast hospitals and children’s organizations

Hawaii Children’s Cancer Foundation- childhood cancer patients in Hawaii

Hope Cancer Fund- cancer patients living in California, Colorado, Kansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Michigan, Nebraska, and Wyoming

Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services- childhood cancer patients living in these California counties: Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito and South Santa Clara

Jake Owen Raborn Foundation- childhood cancer patients, national

Jonathan Cancer Fund- childhood cancer patients living in Onondaga County, New York

Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund- terminally, critically, and chronically ill, severely disabled, or seriously injured children living in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey

Locks of Love- hair prostheses for childhood cancer patients, national

Melonhead Foundation- childhood cancer patients, national

Michael Magro Foundation- childhood cancer patients at Cancer Center for Kids at Winthrop-University Hospital

Michael Quinlan Brain Tumor Foundation- brain tumor patients in Kentucky and southern Indiana, educational materials, support groups and counseling, relaxation therapies, financial assistance with medical expenses

Mikey’s Way- childhood cancer patients, distributes toys and handheld electronics at hospitals in New York

Miracles of Mitch Foundation- childhood cancer patients in Minnesota

Mission4Maureen- brain tumor patients, national

Mission of Hope Cancer Fund- cancer patients living in Michigan

A Mother’s Kiss- childhood cancer patients in Long Island and Metro-New York

Multi-County Cancer Support Network- cancer patients living in these Tennessee counties: Franklin, Coffee, Moore, Lincoln, Grundy, Marion, Warren, and

National Children’s Cancer Society- childhood cancer patients, national

Nikki Leach Foundation- cancer patients age 16-25, national

No Wooden Nickels- cancer patients in Illinois (hoping to expand by 2012)

Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation- brain tumor patients in Oklahoma

Padres Contra el Cancer (Parents Against Cancer)- Latino childhood cancer patients in southern California

Reflections of Grace- national, brain tumor patients

Rise Above It Foundation- patients age 15-39 undergoing or pursuing clinical trial options, national

The Sarah Grace Foundation for Children with Cancer- patients in the Pediatric Oncology Departments of Schneider Children's Hospital, Winthrop, Columbia, Montefiore, and Nassau University Medical Center

Smiles for Sophie Forever- national, brain tumor patients

Sparrow Clubs USA- any child with a major illness or significant disability with a compelling practical or financial need, national

Szott Foundation- childhood cancer patients in the Twin Cities, Minnesota

The Tomorrow Fund- childhood cancer patients treated at The Tomorrow Fund Clinic Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Center at Hasbro Children’s Hospital

United Cancer Assistance Network- support and assistance to cancer patients residing in southeast Missouri and northeast Arkansas

Wigs for Kids- hair prostheses for low-income childhood cancer patients, national

Zichron Shlome Refuah Fund- Assists Jewish children or adults with cancer with a variety of assistance, national

Thursday, October 14, 2010


The other day the mother of a patient told me I've done a 1000 times more in my short time there than my predecessor ever did. That made me feel great! But also sad that some of my patients were underserved before.

Tomorrow my work "honeymoon" ends. I have my first day call. My first night call is next Thursday. Thankfully, my first weekend call isn't until January. I told my boss I've really enjoyed not dealing with on-call for the past 5+ months. No keeping my schedule open, no stress, no on-call nerves. It's been beautiful. Still, this is part of the job so I will suck it up and do it. One day and one night call a month and 2 or 3 weekends a year isn't that bad. Is it?

I've been hard at work at compiling a resource list for cancer patients. At first it was only resources my patients can use. Then I realized I was looking up organizations a few times after parents would ask me about them so this list includes everything, all states. If I hear about it, it's going on the list. Once it's done, I'll post a version of it here so be on the look out!