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Treating Breast Cancer While Raising Kids: 5 Fun Ideas


Time spent with your family can lift your spirits. But with breast cancer, you might want to make some changes.

The key: keep it simple.

“I always tell my patients, ‘You don’t have to plan these elaborate outings,’ says Eleonora Teplinsky, MD, breast and gynecologic oncologist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center and Valley Hospital in Paramus, NJ. “If you’re a parent and undergoing chemotherapy or cancer treatment, your kids just want to hang out with you. “

Start with these five ideas.

Be artistic

Take a brush and tap into your artistic side.

Alexea Gaffney-Adams, MD, did so when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 at the age of 37. She wanted to create many happy memories with her then 6-year-old daughter Kennedy.

“We were trying to do a lot of mom and I activities that weren’t too strenuous,” says Gaffney-Adams, single mom and doctor in Stony Brook, NJ.

If you have the energy, you can go to a paint and sip rally. Or stay home and be comfortable. Or just grab some coloring books.

“We used to go to the craft store and buy a bunch of canvases, brushes and acrylic paint. Then we would draw pictures and paint [at home], especially if the weather was bad, ”says Gaffney-Adams.

She no longer has cancer after a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Make off-peak hours your prime time

With cancer – and especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – you want to avoid the crowds.

“If the person is actively undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy, they may be immunocompromised and will need to avoid crowds and sick people,” says Jovita Oruwari, MD, breast surgeon at SSM Health DePaul Hospital-St. Louis.

So do fun things during off-peak hours.

Tara Watts, a 36-year-old schoolteacher from New Jersey, does this with her husband and five children. Diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in April 2021, Watts received chemotherapy. Avoiding infections is a priority for her.

“We went to Six Flags on days when I know it will be less crowded,” she says. “So we go there during the week or we go there for a few hours in the evening during off-peak hours. We also go on a cloudy or cooler day, when most people are like, “We’re not going. “

Roller coasters are also something Gaffney-Adams and her daughter enjoy. What better place to let off steam?

Cook something together

“I always let Kennedy help me cook,” says Gaffney-Adams.

“We had to come up with a lot of cool new recipes because food starts to taste weird to you when you go through chemo. So you’re trying to make healthier choices or choices that give you fewer side effects or give you the nutrition you need.

You certainly don’t need to add more chores to your life while undergoing cancer treatment. So make cooking as a family easier.

A subscription to a lunch box can make this more convenient. All the ingredients arrive at your doorstep.

“We have one [delivery] one week. It didn’t blow our budget and it made mealtime special, ”says Gaffney-Adams. “We would prepare all the food and cook the meals together. It gave us something exciting to look forward to.

Take time for nature

Being outdoors can be relaxing, active, and fun for everyone. Plus, it’s better than indoor activities during the pandemic, Teplinsky notes.

“We would run to the beach and grab our beach mat, a few snacks, or dinner, and we would just sit and watch the sunset together,” says Gaffney-Adams. “I have to relax.”

The Watts family also enjoys being in nature. “We like to do outdoor activities, like biking, going for walks and going to the beach,” says Chris Watts, Tara’s husband. “The beach is a very important thing in our house.

No beach? No problem. Head to a local park.

Watch movies under the stars

Your backyard beats the cineplex. You can bring your own snacks, the floors are not sticky and there is no problem with traffic or parking!

Use a projection screen or play the movie on a personal device.

“We would set up these little pop-up tents and put a movie on our iPad or laptop and sit outside in the garden and watch a movie under the stars in the dark,” says Gaffney-Adams.

“Although we spent a lot of time at home because of how I felt, we had a lot of movie nights,” Tara Watts said.

“The joy I feel to be with my family at times like these is really what kept me going. It gives me strength. “

Presence over perfection

Remember, just being there does a lot of good.

“As we saw during COVID, children are resilient and strong. They are able to handle what happens to them, ”says Teplinsky. “And as long as they know that mommy or daddy is there, and that they are loved, then everything will be fine.”

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