Queens, New York mother Stacey shares the many ways Friends of Karen helped her family. Her son Stephen, 12, is under treatment for the extremely rare Inflammatory Myofibroblastic Tumor.

“When we first learned Stephen had cancer, I feared whether he would make it and what would happen if he did not. My husband Sudesh and I always thought of ourselves as independent and self-sufficient. We taught Stephen and his older sisters Sarah and Kimberly to get back up if you get knocked down. When Stephen was diagnosed, it was difficult for us because his tumor was a rare one. First, it took a long time to really understand what was going on with his illness. Then, everything was going along smoothly, and I thought we were managing well. We are grateful to have close family and friends that helped us with whatever we needed.

When the pandemic hit, it made things much harder. That’s when things hit rock bottom. My husband is a woodworking joiner and jobs were hard to come by for a while. Our finances were getting tight, as relatives also lost work because of the pandemic and could no longer help us. Then, Sarah was selected out of 60 students to start a combined high school and junior college program. We were so proud, but we did not have the money to buy the program supplies and a computer printer she needed.

I remembered that the hospital social worker had given me some places to call for help, but I had not needed it before. I prayed on who to call first and I swallowed my pride and called Friends of Karen. I was surprised how fast the social worker Rhonda called. All I was focused on then was getting help to pay for Sarah’s school supplies, but Rhonda took the time to ask questions to see how we were coping.

Rhonda helped Sarah get the school supplies, but she kept in touch and always wanted to make sure we were adjusting and coping, which was something we did not expect. The warmth Rhonda showed us was different from other experiences we had and that really touched me, especially her concern for Stephen and his siblings’ well-being. She even arranged for Sarah to get some spending money so she could get food while she spent long days in her advanced program at school.

Rhonda encouraged Stephen and Sarah to join Friends of Karen’s weekly Friends Having Fun virtual group, and for Stephen to join the peer support group for ill children. Both have been helped by working with Friends of Karen sibling support specialist Naomi in group and one-on-one sessions.

Along with the many ways Friends of Karen has been there for us, we really appreciate that everyone looked after us as people. The love and support we gained by this helped us feel normal during a time when nothing is normal.”

– Stacey