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CLIMB® Program Helps Children Whose Relatives Have Cancer

M. D. Anderson News Release 08/10/09

The focus is usually on the patient - but often the patients' children are almost as affected by a diagnosis of cancer as the person undergoing treatment.

To help these children, the fall CLIMB Program (Children's Lives Include Moments of Bravery) is set to begin on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009. This support group for children of adult cancer patients helps them identify and express complex feelings brought on by a parent's illness. CLIMB has been running successfully for over two years and to date has helped over 50 children cope with a parent's or grandparent's cancer diagnosis.

The group meets once a week for six consecutive weeks, and allows children to bond through the program's guided conversation and art with other children who are having the same experience. They learn that cancer is "not their fault" and find ways to cope with sadness and anger. Children also learn to express, cope with and communicate with other children going through a similar experience.

Children in the program quickly learn that "what's said in the room, stays in the room," so they feel free to share their confidential thoughts. While it is important to teach them about cancer and its treatment, it is equally necessary to normalize the feelings of sadness that many children experience during the time that their parent is ill. They leave the group much better equipped to deal with the unsettling environment they are now operating in.

The program is facilitated by Marisa Minor, LCSW in the Department of Social Work. Several social work counselors volunteer their time to assist with the program. A concurrent parent support group also takes place at the same time as CLIMB. The parent group is facilitated by Amy LaMarca Lyon, LCSW and Jeannette Kolarik, LMSW in the Department of Social Work. It is an educational support group where parents learn and share healthy ways of how to help their children cope with a cancer diagnosis in the family. Facilitators have been specially trained by The Children's Treehouse Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the emotional support of children who have parents with cancer.

The next session of CLIMB, which is for children ages 6-12, will begin at M. D. Anderson on Thursday, Oct. 1. Sessions are held each Thursday for six weeks from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dinner is provided for families and the program is free of charge. CLIMB is also open to families in the community. To refer a family or register a child, or to get more information about the program, contact Marisa Minor, LCSW at 713-792-6826. You can also read more about the program at 08/10/09

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