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Family Matters - Fall 2008

Spiritual Care for Children, Teens & Young Adults Living with Cancer

By: Dick Maddox - Dick Maddox is the residing chaplain for the Children’s Cancer Hospital. He has been working with the Children’s Cancer Hospital for five years and spiritually supports patients and caregivers from a variety of denominations.

It doesn’t take long after a cancer diagnosis for even a child to understand that his or her life has changed. Clinic visits, hospital stays, therapies, needle sticks, and a host of accompanying strangers replace school, friends, and play. It doesn’t make sense because the child has no life experiences to draw upon. Therefore, children, teens and young adults turn to their parents for protection and guidance through this confusing time. What they see in their parents is often anxiety, fear, helplessness, confusion and uncertainty. Things are different and kids know it, despite the assurances and extra hugs. 

As a chaplain, my role and purpose is not to rescue children or their parents from the thoughts, questions and feelings they have on the journey of living with cancer. It is not to encourage them to believe or disbelieve any particular faith story or stance. Rather, I to try to gain a family’s trust – enough to let me in on the journey, so that I may listen, empathize and help them reflect upon whether and how God, or whatever or whomever is the supreme being or guiding force in their life, is also on the journey. 
When appropriate, I pray with and for our patients and their families, and I read from or provide sacred

texts and writings. I offer blessings upon stem cells prior to transplants and arrange for the administering of sacraments. I also ensure that patients and their families are allowed to practice their religious rites and rituals without undue hindrance. Beyond such expected duties, however, are the opportunities I have to listen to kids who have questions and doubts about their life and faith, who are fearful of the future, and who want desperately to express all this with those they love.

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