Holiday Cheer!

A proud house builder!

A friend of the Tracy’s Kids program at Georgetown generously donated a whole bunch of pre-built gingerbread houses and candy to decorate them. Thank-you, Shazalyn Cavin Winfrey of SCW Designs, for making Monday at the clinic fun!

Making gingerbread houses at the clinic

 

Holiday Traditions

As you can imagine, dealing with a serious illness can throw a wrench in a family’s holiday celebrations. The ultimate bummer for a kid is to be in the hospital on their birthday, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, or some other special day.

Trick or treating at Medstar Georgetown University Hospital

 Holiday traditions can be more meaningful for kids than grownups realize. They punctuate the year and give kids a way to remember life events—the year of the big snow; the year the cousins came to visit; the year I was in the hospital. I remember a pair of candles shaped like choirboys in red and white robes that my grandmother put out on the mantle every Christmas. She never lit them, but packed them away and got them out year after year. To me they were very special. We weren’t allowed to touch them, they only came out for a few days each year, and my church didn’t have choir boys at all—so they represented some abstract holiday mystery to me when I was small.

 When I was eight, I came down with mumps a few days before a long-anticipated family vacation. I remember not only feeling sick from the mumps, but guilty for ruining the holiday for the rest of my family. The mumps came and went in a matter of weeks, but my experience helps me understand how young cancer patients must feel. Many times a cancer diagnosis causes a family to call off a vacation or postpone a celebration, and cancer treatment goes on for years, not months!

            

 Most any holiday has special food—latkes, doughnuts and chocolate “gelt” for Hannukah; turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving; gingerbread and peppermint for Christmas—and every family has its own customs that make the holiday special. If families can bring a little of the holiday to the hospital—decorations, food, games or crafts—it can help the child who is ill feel more a part of the family.

Cardboard Gingerbread House

Anything a family can do to preserve holiday traditions without compromising the patient’s care can help everyone feel more like celebrating. Holidays put the focus on families, because the special things we do bring us together. Decorating the hospital room, bringing “goodies” to share with nurses and visitors, and giving the patient opportunities to make gifts or cards for others can be important ways to be part of the holidays even when you’re sick.