Katie Clarke was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction at NorthShore Glenbrook Hospital, followed by four months of chemotherapy and a year-long course of Herceptin treatments at Evanston Hospital.
Before her own diagnosis, and in memory of her best friend who lost her own life to the disease in 2006, Katie and her family would make a point of cheering on the participants of the three-day breast cancer walk in Chicago armed with motivational signs
and licorice. This, and her own breast cancer journey, would later inspire Katie and her sister to found
The Licorice Project, an organization devoted to spreading joy during a difficult time and bringing together breast cancer patients, survivors, families and friends.
In part two of her NorthShore patient story, Katie shares one of the most difficult but important moments following her breast cancer diagnosis:
I’m often asked, “How and when did you tell your kids you had breast cancer?” My husband and I agreed
that we wanted to be open and truthful about everything as soon as my diagnosis was confirmed. We turned to my breast surgeon, Dr. Winchester at NorthShore University HealthSystem, for advice on what to say to our three middle school-aged boys. We planned
a family meeting and decided that I would do the talking.
I began the conversation by telling them that I’d found a lump in my chest, to which my youngest shouted, “You’re pregnant!?” When I said, “No,” he answered, “Phew!” I told them that the lump was in my breast and they wanted to know immediately if it was
cancer. When I said that it was, they all began to cry. It broke my heart to see them so sad and frightened. Holding their hands, I assured them that the doctors were very encouraged and had given me a good prognosis since the lump was very small and I had
caught it early. I explained to them that there would be many steps, tests and procedures. I explained that it would take time and patience but that when I finished the therapy, I would be okay. Of course, many questions followed:
“Are you going to die?”
“Will you lose your hair?”
“Will you get a wig?”
“Who knows about this already?”
“Can we tell people?”
“What should we say?”
“Does this mean we can get breast cancer?”
“Are people going to bring us dinners?”
My husband and I answered the questions as best as we could, which, of course, led to even more questions. Since school was about to end for summer vacation, we assured the boys that all their summer plans would stay intact. We wanted to keep their lives
as “normal” as possible. The family meeting concluded with lots of hugs and kisses.
Telling our children that I had cancer was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do; however, it was also one of my proudest moments because of the strength and composure that I maintained during such a difficult conversation. There’s no right or wrong way
to explain a cancer diagnosis to children. Each family will deal with it in their own unique way and to the best of their ability.
When children get sick, the simple solution isn’t always just a pill or spoonful away. Aside from the fact that many medications are not
recommended for children, it's also much easier for a child to overdose on medication than an adult.
In most cases, the amount of medicine a child should receive is determined by age, weight and height. When it comes to children and medication, reading labels is very important.
Dirk Killelea, Manager of NorthShore Evanston Hospital Pharmacy, shares the following “must-know” tips for giving children medications:
The best remedy for most kids is rest and hydration. If your child has a fever or cold, keep activities to a minimum and make sure they aren't too strenuous. Coloring, drawing or reading stories is a great way to spend time until he or she feels better.
If your child is experiencing loose stools or diarrhea, make sure to provide plenty of water or electrolyte-containing drinks like Pedialyte to prevent dehydration.
How do you manage your kids’ illnesses? What remedies work best for you?
A good night’s sleep can be the difference between night and day with children. Frequent lack of sleep can greatly impact a
child’s physical, mental and social well-being. It's also hard on the entire family.
It's recommended that children between the ages of six and twelve get 10-11 hours of sleep each night. This allows them to be better rested for school, and to further their growth and development. The challenge with childhood sleep disorders is that they
aren’t always easy to recognize. In fact, since the symptoms are so similar to other conditions (such as ADD and ADHD), sleep disorders often go misdiagnosed.
Mari Viola-Saltzman, DO, Sleep Medicine specialist, who sees both pediatric and adult patients, identifies some of the secondary effects childhood sleep
disorders may have:
How many hours of sleep do your children get each night? Do they have a nightly routine?
Now is the time when our shopping lists for holiday giving may include items for children of varying ages. While walking through the aisles, you’ll see plenty of new toys along with many of the tried-and-true classics (like building blocks and dolls). With
all the options out there, how do you know which toys are best suited for what ages?
The most colorful or cute toy on the shelf doesn’t always make it the best choice. It’s worthwhile to recognize that children of varying ages have achieved different development milestones. Just as you wouldn’t give an infant a LEGO® set, you also wouldn’t
buy a four year old a teething rattle.
Kenneth Fox, MD, a pediatrician at NorthShore, gives the following recommendations when shopping for age-appropriate toys:
Play is essential to a child’s physical, cognitive, social and moral development. Toys, books and experiences that enrich creative play make wonderful gifts for the season and support healthy child development all year long.
Can you remember a time when one of your children received a toy not well suited for his or her age? What did you do?
If you’ve had young children, you’ve probably received a note from their teachers or administrators saying that there has been an outbreak of lice at school. Head lice are a very common problem for preschool, kindergarten and elementary students. In fact,
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 6-12 million infestations occur a year among children ages 3-11.
While typically not known for spreading disease, these parasites can be a nuisance to identify, treat and exterminate. Felissa Kreindler, MD, shares her insight on warning signs for detecting and treating head lice:
Have you or your kids ever had lice? What did you do to get rid of them?