Celebration of each small step forward in the healing journey is very important for children fighting cancer.
Commemorating the end of major treatment or a clear pathology report after surgery can be very therapeutic for the whole family.
Ceremonies can be especially meaningful when the child’s life to date has revolved completely around retinoblastoma therapy. Celebrations draw a line under the treatment, and help children understand it is over, at least for now. This is a major milestone in their life.
Photograph your child receiving the last chemotherapy infusion or radiotherapy treatment. This can be very important if you have kept a photographic record of therapy as this is a major milestone on the journey.
Take photographs of your child with the doctors, nurses and technicians who have looked after her. Use these to make photo cards, and send them as thank you notes to the staff.
Ask the hospital if they have “end of therapy” awards. If they do not, design your own certificate on a computer or create a work of art. Ask your child’s doctor, nurse or radiotherapist to present it to your child on the last day of treatment.
Give a medal or trophy to your child. You can buy “you are a star” medals on eBay, make your own or order a more personalized engraved award. Remember to also celebrate her brothers and sisters, so they don’t feel left out.
Celebrating with family and friends can be a great encouragement, especially after long months of isolation due to low blood counts. These events are also wonderful opportunities to raise awareness of white pupil and retinoblastoma.
If your child has just completed chemotherapy, she will still be at risk of infection for several weeks after treatment. Celebrations involving large gatherings should be held at least one month after the last treatment, or when her counts are high enough.
Invite friends and family to a celebratory party, or ask your place of worship to hold a thanksgiving event. If you have documented your child’s treatment journey in photographs, consider preparing a photo display that tells the story. Include photos taken on the last day of therapy.
Ask friends and family to send your child messages of congratulation for completing therapy. Young children derive great pleasure from receiving cards in the mail.
Ask friends and family to make a charitable gift in celebration of your child’s last treatment.
Choose a charity you would like to support – perhaps one that has supported your family during treatment or that helps children with retinoblastoma like World Eye Cancer Hope.
Set up a fundraising page on which you can tell your child’s story and share some photos.
Share the link with friends and invite their support.
Some parents do not wish to celebrate the end of treatment, and that is very normal. Loss of one or both eyes or fear of your child’s unknown future may be overwhelming, or you may know already from test results that therapy has failed.
The end of treatment is a melting pot of emotions for everyone. We are all unique, with our own feelings, experiences and outlook on life. Families, and individuals within families, respond differently to retinoblastoma and the end of its treatment.
There is no right or wrong way to acknowledge the end of treatment. Respect each person’s feelings, even if they are not the same as your own. Allow each member of your family (adults and children alike) space to express those emotions freely, and move forward in their own way.