My dad died of cancer nearly two years ago. Since then, I’ve wanted to help other kids who have had a parent or loved one diagnosed with this disease. This led me to Kids Konnection at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. Working here has always been rewarding, but it’s especially fulfilling when one of these amazing children shares that the program is making a difference in their life.
Kids Konnection is a support program designed to help youngsters cope with cancer in their family. It consists of six weekly meetings, each gathering lasting 1.5 hours. The program teaches kids to understand cancer with children their own age.
Shortly after the last Kids Konnection session, I caught up with Kaitlyn Yeagley, a caring seven year old with a love for crafts. Kaitlyn told me that Kids Konnection taught her it was okay to talk about cancer. “It helped me feel safe,” Kaitlyn said.
Before Kids Konnection, Kaitlyn was reticent to talk about her mother’s cancer. She felt burdened and didn’t want to upset her mom. Kids Konnection gave her a secure place to talk about her feelings. This helped her realize that she didn’t have to hold everything inside. “It made me feel comfortable to talk to my parents.”
Kids Konnection crafts and activities act as a doorway to empower the kids to speak up. Kaitlyn loved being able to write down how she felt and connect with other children. “It was nice to be able to talk to other kids about what cancer would do.” The crafts also gave her the opportunity to share what she felt with her parents. Her mother Betty said she really started opening up after the third or fourth week.
Today, Kaitlyn openly talks about cancer with her family. She discusses concepts such as how long the cancer is going to last and when the next appointment is. She also asks what she can do to help her mom. Kids Konnection has shown Kaitlyn that she doesn’t have to go through the cancer experience alone.
About the Author
Natalie Safford is a 22 yr old with strong ties to the community in general and the Tri-Cities medical community specifically. Her mother worked as a medical office manager, her uncle is a surgeon and her extended family assisted many physicians in their relocation to the Tri-Cities. She is a graduate of Gonzaga University and is currently working as a substitute elementary school teacher. She lost her father to cancer in 2014 and a year later sought out volunteer work at the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. On her volunteer application she noted a desire ‘to make a difference in cancer awareness and the cancer patient experience.’ We are proud to be mentoring Natalie in her goal to become a writer and we are more than pleased with the contribution she is making to Kids Konnection.