Article by Alesia Shute
Dealing with Childhood Illness: How online support through social networking sites provides relief in the middle of the nightAccording to the National Cancer Institute, more than 10,000 children under the age of 15 were diagnosed with cancer in 2007, making it the deadliest disease among U.S. children in that age group.I was diagnosed with colon cancer at age seven and spent most of my childhood in and out of hospitals, enduring six major surgeries and several minor ones decades after the cancer was in remission. If you are reading this article because your child has been diagnosed with a similarly devastating disease, then you are aware of the startling statistics. Every day, you hope that doctors will find a cause and a cure. Caregiving has taken over your life and that of your family’s. And although you are not alone in your plight, you probably feel like you are.Caring for a child with a catastrophic illness is physically and emotionally exhausting. As a parent, you must stay strong for your sick child-and for the rest of the family, including your other children. You become stretched very thin trying to take care of everyone, and you probably feel hopeless at times. My parents were amazing. As I reflect back on the years when I was really sick, I don’t know how they got through each day. While my illness changed the dynamics of how our family functioned, they worked hard to continue living life as “normally” as they could. I’m sure many times they felt as if they were on an island and that no other parent could be experiencing what they were experiencing, both emotionally and physically. But in today’s world of the Internet, parents don’t have to feel that way. I am not an advocate of Internet diagnoses, but I am a big cheerleader for social networking and the doors these sites open for parents who are struggling each day with loving and caring for a sick child. On my Facebook page, I have met some amazing people-yet I don’t know any of them personally. I have connected with people from all over the world and listened to their stories. As they go for treatment, I and other “friends” rally around them as a group. We answer each other’s questions, provide support, and squelch fears. If my parents had this type of virtual support when I was a child, it would have provided much needed relief, especially at 3 a.m. when they couldn’t sleep.Facebook, MySpace, and Yahoo! Groups all have online support groups for different types of illnesses. Various organizations also have their own online networks, as well, where you can chat live or post to message boards. Support is such an important part of managing your child’s illness, yet friends and family who aren’t going through the same experiences may not truly grasp what you are dealing with. Search Google for a support group for your child’s illness, and you’ll be amazed at what you will find. There are parents out there just like you, needing the same support that you need. After you join, you may just read and “listen” for awhile, and that’s okay. As you grow more comfortable with the group, you can share your fears and tears, and the joys and milestones that you experience. Knowing that there are people living a life like yours can sometimes be comfort enough. And it can give you much needed hope.About the AuthorWhen Alesia Shute was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 7, her life was redirected as was that of her entire family. She would go on to survive six major surgeries that had never been tested on a child, several minor surgeries and countless hours of pain and months of hospitalization. Alesia had to grow up quickly and adjust to being sickly and different from others. Everything’s Okay is her story of survival that details not only her recovery, but also her struggles through school, boys, marriage, and pregnancy, with some hilarious tales of life and family to boot. Contact Alesia directly at Alesia@EverythingsOkayBook.com.