No time to adjust
Sa'ran shares her family's story
I will never forget that day in October 2019. My twin sister called. She was at Advanced Radiology with my 17-year-old son Nazear. I needed to meet her there. I was told the swelling in his neck may be a symptom of Lymphoma and I immediately took him to Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. I heard the dreaded words, “Nazear has cancer.”
The next few weeks felt like a tornado. As a single mother, everything is your responsibility and in your control. Not this time. Suddenly everything was out of my control. I had to take an unpaid leave of absence from my job, withdrew from my graduate program, withdrew Nazear from his first year of college and relocated my younger son Christian temporarily to live with my sister. All my focus had to be on Nazear.
On chemotherapy days, we know what we’re going to get. I know Nazear is going to feel sick. He will feel tired and lose his appetite. Cancer impacts your ill child’s health, but it also attacks the financial and emotional health of all the family members as well. What I didn’t realize is how quickly a serious illness can wipe out all of your savings within a few weeks’ time. I met with our hospital social worker Katie. I was sobbing, unable to breathe. I was worried about how I was going to pay my bills when Katie said, “We’re going to call an amazing organization, Friends of Karen.“
Friends of Karen is the take charge organization we needed. My car was two days away from being repossessed when I met Friends of Karen social worker Rhonda. Our refrigerator was nearly empty. I felt helpless, yet Friends of Karen was proactive in helping to meet the needs of my family, both financially and emotionally. Friends of Karen always seems to call when we’re having a rough time. When Friends of Karen creative arts therapist Jane is working with Nazear, in most cases it’s the only visitor other than family that comes inside the house due to Nazear’s fragile immune system from the treatment. Illness can be very isolating for a young adult like Nazear.
Cancer doesn’t give you time to adjust to a new normal, but Friends of Karen was there to stabilize our situation and even help us to experience moments of joy. Our family enjoys singing and we are so thankful for the karaoke machine we received through their holiday Adopt-a-Family program. Friends of Karen made everything easier. They helped cover so many everyday expenses so we were able to stay comfortably in our home and feel relief from the stress of how to provide for my family. My son Nazear also expresses his thanks to Friends of Karen for relieving his mom of the stress and worry of how she was going to take care of us. Our family mantra is “fight hard” and we encourage anyone going through something similar to stay in the fight! Thank you to all the staff and supporters of Friends of Karen.
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Friends of Karen believes that families can maintain a sense of balance and stability even in the midst of the crisis of caring for a child with a life-threatening illness.