When Glenda Palmer's daughter was sent to Seattle in 1996 to see a doctor at the Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, she thought she and her daughter would be back in Juneau within a few days.
"We went down there not knowing it was cancer, thinking we were just getting a check-up because my daughter wasn't doing well," Palmer said. "We never got to come home for seven-and-a-half months."
The Palmers had to figure out on their own the complexities of pediatric cancer care and the logistics of life in Seattle while the daughter received treatment.
But at any given time, several families in Juneau may be going through the same ordeal and may be able to benefit from sharing their knowledge, Palmer said.
Palmer, Lisa Corcoran, Sue Hirsch and Susan Quigley - who are mothers of cancer patients - began meeting several years ago to give each other logistical as well as emotional support.
"We learn so much about medical billing and how you do stuff in Seattle that is so different than what's for adults," said Hirsch.
The informal group of mothers will become an official cancer support group later this month, when pediatric cancer patients and their families will gather for the first meeting of Caring for Cancer Kids. The group will function under the auspices of the Southeast Alaska Cancer and Wellness Foundation.
Palmer knows of about eight families in Juneau who are interested in the group. But more families may come out of the woodwork.
"We don't really know how many people will respond and what kind of interest there will be," she said.
While Caring for Cancer Kids will be useful to current cancer patients and their families, it also will be a valuable resource for recovering patients. Recovering from cancer can take years, Palmer said, even after the patient is considered cured.
"We're all in different stages of recovery and we hope to be able to help one another through the different stages," Palmer said.
The group will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. on the first Monday of every month in the Riverbend Elementary School commons. The exception to this schedule is the first meeting, which will be held at the same time and place but on Oct. 20.
A free meal will be provided at each meeting. Caring for Cancer Kids is looking for community groups to volunteer to prepare meals.
"Families that are going through this type of ordeal, just having dinner provided really frees up the parents to be able to make it to the meeting," Palmer said.
The Cancer and Wellness Foundation will provide the group with educational resources, financial support and access to volunteer medical personnel who can help answer questions.
"It was an area that we'd not had a support group for," said Tish Griffin Satre, vice president of the foundation. "It was nice for us to help them formalize their efforts."
The foundation sent Palmer and Corcoran, who will organize the Caring For Cancer Kids meetings, to Portland in September for training.
"We've got some great support here, but this is kind of new territory for us and for the community, so we felt it was good to get some parents trained," Satre said.
For more information about Caring for Cancer Kids, contact Lisa Corcoran at 790-2424 or Glenda Palmer at 789-0244.
Christine Schmid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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