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Tips for helping families deal with childhood cancer

When I write about childhood cancer, I'm often explaining the expert knowledge of Stanford physician-scientists who are studying how a specific tumor spreads, monitoring after-effects of chemotherapy, or learning how to harness the immune system to fight malignant cells.

But doctors aren't the only childhood cancer experts. Parents who have helped their own child survive cancer treatment develop valuable knowledge about what it takes to get through those difficult months.

Recently, as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, one of these parents, Gabriella Medrano-Contreras, shared the wisdom she developed as her family coped with her daughter Giselle's treatment at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. And on the hospital's blog, she gave four great ideas for how to support other families going through the same thing.

One piece of Mendrano-Contreras' advice, "consider the child's nutritional needs," spurred her to take action for kids with cancer, as the blog piece explains:

Gabriella’s passion to help her daughter eat healthfully was in part motivated by her awareness of the propensity for ALL survivors to develop chronic health conditions, including obesity. This led to the creation of a Nutrition and Wellness Guide developed by Stanford Children’s Health in partnership with Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services and Superheroes Against Childhood Cancer.

The guide, which was created for children with cancer and their families, outlines five strategies for supporting the child’s nutrition and care needs: 1) manage stress, 2) keep your child hydrated, 3) strengthen your child’s digestion, 4) serve nourishing foods and 5) manage your child’s weight.

The cover of the nutrition and wellness guide features a great photo of Giselle, along with a caption that will be heartening for other families who are just starting cancer treatment: "Giselle, former cancer patient and current healthy kid," it says.

Previously: Study highlights childhood cancer survivors' increased risk of future health problems, A look at the dramatic improvement in pediatric cancer survival rates and From leukemia survivor to top junior golfer
Photo courtesy of Gabriella Medrano-Contreras

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