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Prepping When… Your Child Has Cancer

James Talmadge Stevens talks about three main reasons for prepping:  natural disasters, made-made events, and personal crises.  Well, we found ourselves in the midst of a personal crisis last March when Isabelle, our one-year-old, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer.

Of course we were NOT prepared for that diagnosis (noboday could be), and we were also not prepared with the things we’d need for Izzie’s first 10-day hospital stay.  Though we experienced so much help from friends, family, and hosptial staff, we felt a lot like refugees as we tried to function in this foreign environment and cope with the grief and shock of her diagnosis, a barrage of tests and procedures, a stint in ICU, and the start of cancer treatment.

Izzie has remained a joyful, active, normally developing toddler in the midst of a year of chemo, surgery, many scans under sedation, and two stem cell transplants.  We still have a long and uncertain road ahead but are trusting that God is in control and that He loves us and our little girl.  (If you would like to follow her story on CaringBridge, please contact me for a link.)

I’ve found many of the practices and resources of preparedness to be a huge help in the midst of our journey through cancer treatment.  We never know when a simple clinic visit is going to turn into an all-day blood transfusion.  A fever could spike at any time and result in an ER visit and overnight stay.  At the very least, we know for sure that it won’t be long before we’re back in the hospital for another treatment.  Being prepared for these and other scenarios frees us up to enjoy our time at home and helps us feel more adusted when we’re at our new home-away-from-home.

Our bug-out bags have been replaced with hospital bags (though I think they’d actually serve us well in other emergencies too.)  I’ve found that if I launder, replenish and repack immediately after each visit, my mind is fresh about what was helpful or unecessary and what we’d like to add for next time.  It’s just as easy to repack all the blankets and clothes back in the bags than stash them in our dressers.  Most of all I’ve found that this strategy frees up my mind to better enjoy our time at home and to remember all of the other last-minute details when getting ready for Izzie’s next hopsital stay.

So in my trunk (along with my regular emergency food) I keep a bag 3 large duffel bags ready for hospital living:  a bed-in-a-bag (you never know where you’re going to have to crash), clothes and toiletries for the rest of the family, and a bag with clothes, diapers, medical supplies, and enough blankets and toys to turn our patient-princess’ hospital crib and room into a happy little sanctuary.  (Before a no-sleeping-on-the-floor policy was enforced, we also used to pack two foldable yoga cushions.)

I also assembled a special backpack for our weekly clinic visits, which can last from 2-8 hours depending on her lab results.  The morning of a visit I pack a lunch and plenty of drinks and snacks.  These I can carry in this bag where I’ve stowed IV-compatible changes of clothing, a blanket, diapers and wipes, special toys and books reserved for clinic trips, numbing cream and bandages (in case her port needs accessed), bandaids, notecards and a book for me, a jacket and some cash.

Having a preparedness mindset and strategies in place has helped make this difficult situation less stressful.  It has freed us up to live normally when we are home, and has helped make our hosptial visits more pleasant.  To learn more about Izzie and to find other pediatric cancer resources and ideas, please visit my other blog, Always Hope.

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Our Preparedness Journey

What’s prepping?  Although we’ve long had an interest in many of the skills and topics  that fall under the category of prepping (gardening, hunting, cooking from scratch, etc.), it’s been less than a year since my husband and I were introduced to the term and set out to intentionally develop skills and accumulate supplies that would help us become more self-reliant and better prepared.

Prepared for what?  What first came to mind when I thought about “emergency preparedness” were large-scale events like hurricanes, pandemics or terrorist attacks.  While  natural and man-made crises are definitely important reasons to be prepared, I’ve learned that more personal concerns like job loss, sickness, local power outages, and even positive events (like the birth of a child) can also create a need for preparation .  I’ve also found that being more prepared makes everyday life run more smoothly.  It’s always helpful to have a house stocked with groceries and essentials, and buying items in bulk or stockpiling with coupons means that we are always getting our groceries at the best possible prices. Developing the skills of preparedness–cooking from scratch, first aid training, fishing, hunting, herbal medicine, wildcrafting, gardening, etc–is very empowering, has helped us live a healthier lifestyle, and has given our family a lot of fun experiences and mutual interests.

Where to begin?  Actually setting about to get prepared can be a daunting task.  I immediately had dozens of to-do, to-buy, and to-learn lists in my mind, and I continue to feel overwhelmed at times.  Of course, nobody can ever be completely prepared for every possible situation, and there are some situations for which we can’t prepare at all.  I guess it’s just important to remember that it’s a journey so I’m trying to set small goals and keep working away at it.

What’s my motivation?  One important thing I keep coming back to is the heart and purpose behind my prepping.  I can easily be motived by fear of the potential dangers and uncertainties in this world.   Fear can prompt me to be controlling, attempting to manage my life and family in such a way as to prevent any bad thing from ever happening.  Although fear can have value in getting my attention and moving me to take action, I don’t want it to be the reason for what I do.  I know that fear (and the related desire to take control) are indicators that I need to call on God, rest in His provision and protection, and seek His leading.  I believe that God is leading our family to be prepared, and that that leading is part of His provision.  I believe that He intends our preparations to be part of the resposbilities He gave us in managing our household well, and that He intends us to use this part of our life as a ministry–to encourage and assists others in their preparations, and to offer help and hope in times of need.

The journey continues!  I look forward to sharing our preparedness journey through this blog and hope that I can offer some helpful resources and ideas for others in the process.  I also look forward to learning from all of you who are on this journey as well!

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