I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be one day be the social worker of a child with cancer. The idea didn’t even remotely cross my mind, until one horrible day when I rushed with my uncle and his 6-year-old son to the emergency room, on his pediatrician’s advice. The stay in the hospital was much longer than expected. After ten days of hospitalization, during which extensive check-ups of all kinds were done, the doctors spelled out the horrible news to my uncle: “your child has a malignant cancer.”
The days following that fateful day were very trying, confusing, tiring, sad, ambivalent, shocking and laden with mixed emotions of horror and frustration. It was very difficult to deal with our feelings, yet we had to think clearly and be able to make the right decisions for my cousin. We really felt at a loss. As I recall it, this was the most difficult time throughout his son’s ordeal.
In early 2001, I volunteered with a group of parents of children with cancer in the Jerusalem hospital. We discussed about the situation of their children and shared information on the services provided for the welfare of these children. After some time the parents felt the need to alleviate some of the pain endured by the children, their families and their friends. We helped them by conducting recreational activities and social visits, in an effort to boost everyone’s morale and to create a more comfortable atmosphere. This is also believed to have a positive effect on the therapy. The dream materialized by the end of 2001, when Zeina was born.
Zeina, the center for families and friends of children with cancer, was born out of the need for a supportive context that could address the needs of families in these difficult times. Children with cancer are, above all, children. Naturally, they are mostly affected by their environment, especially in the close circle of family, relatives and friends. A positive attitude is the best thing that can be done for a child suffering from cancer. Indeed, my cousin was subjected to harsh treatment regimens and needed all the confidence and positive support he could get.
During my participation, Zeina helped me to understand how to develop psychological and social stability for sick people. For instance, I worked with the counseling staff how to maintain a level of awareness sufficient to understand a patient’s sudden illness and how to cope with it. My cousin also could go through their harsh therapy regimen with higher spirits and better adaptation tools, thus considerably raising his chances of survival.
The dream of every child with cancer -like my cousin’s dream- is to overcome the illness and be able to pursue a fruitful to live in nurturing environment during and hopefully after the illness. Zeina gave me the strength to create a socially and psychologically supportive environment for my cousin, uncle, aunt and their families with the aim of strengthening their self- esteem and encouraging them in their long journey of therapy.