All posts by CHOC Children's

Vote Yes on Proposition 4- Children’s Hospital Bond

Please join CHOC Children’s this November in voting YES on Proposition 4, the Children’s Hospital Bond.

Prop 4, The Children’s Hospital Bond, provides $1.5 billion over 15 years to support critical, life-saving care for California kids. California’s 13 regional children’s hospitals, including CHOC Children’s, provide specialized care to children and young adults who suffer from serious and life-threatening disease, regardless of the ability to pay. Our hospitals handle more than 2 million visits each year.

This November, vote YES on Prop 4 to support CHOC Children’s and California’s 12 additional children’s hospitals.

Learn more about Prop 4

 

 

 

 

Finding Humor in Cancer

Brianna Miller is a 22-year-old from Southern California who was diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma shortly before her 21st birthday. She is a patient at CHOC Children’s. In this five-part series, she takes readers along on her look back at her journey with cancer.

If there’s one thing I’ve come to know more intimately over the last year than I did before, is that cancer makes people uncomfortable. I completely understand. It can be hard to know the right things to say, the best way to react to bad news, and how best be supportive. Along with all the bad things that accompany cancer, however, there are a lot of things that happen and you can’t help but laugh. I want people to know that it’s completely okay to find humor in cancer!

When I was first coming to grips with the impending side effects of chemo, I found that an effective way to ease my anxiety was making jokes to help make light of my situation. I’ve always been easygoing, and this developed into a sense of humor during treatment. If we’re being honest, going from having long hair to being completely bald is shocking but also can be funny! I kept hair ties on my wrist even after I had no hair and would reach for the brush just out of habit. I would often make jokes about being bald, and my friends would always redirect and reassure me that my hair would grow back. Of course, I knew that my hair would grow back, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t have a little joke at my own expense in the meantime! Now that my hair has started to grow back, it looks kind of funky- I like to call it my “baby Orangutan” look. I know it looks funny, so someone reassuring me that it doesn’t really just makes me internally cringe. I understand the impulse to make someone feel better, but if I’m lucky, I’ll only have to do this whole cancer thing once in my life- might as well make it interesting while I do!

Of course, it’s never okay to make fun of a cancer patient’s trials or downplay their experience, but to consistently only talk to a patient about their experience in a serious tone can be quite frankly boring and frustrating. I’ve found so many great, sarcastic memes and apparel from other members in a Hodgkin lymphoma support group on Facebook and through other groups like Stupid Cancer, and they never fail to bring a smile to my face. My personal favorite was my Halloween costume last year, Charlie Brown. I figured I might as well take advantage of the baldness while I had it!

bri-miller-charlie-brown-halloween

I think it’s important for people to realize that if a cancer patient is making light of their situation or making jokes, it’s perfectly okay for them to join in too! Sometimes long hospital stays or hard chemo days can be bleak and tiring, and bringing humor into the situation can help immensely. You have to do what is best for you.

Learn more about the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children's

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CHOC Teen Advisers Weigh in on NYT Article “Please Stop Merchandising Mental Illness”

In response to a recent New York Times article titled “Please Stop Merchandising Mental Illness,” the CHOC Children’s Teen Advisory Council weighed in on our culture’s tendency to romanticize mental illness. The CHOC Children’s Teen Advisory Council is made up of outstanding teens who are active in their community, committed to academic success, and support CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children.

Armed with examples of what they see and hear in each of their schools, they discuss how each of us can do our part to put an end to the misconception that having a mental illness is trendy.

Do you have other ideas? Leave them in the comments below. We want to hear from you!

Layla, age 13

Slogans and quotes can be printed on a bag or shirt quicker than people can think about what it really means. Sometimes, people can say things before they have a chance to think about what they are saying. For example, a word we use commonly is crazy. It may seem innocent, but crazy can mean different things to different people. We have to be more aware when choosing our words. Instead of using words like crazy and insane, describe something unusual as strange or bizarre. If we make little changes, it can slowly make a difference.

Carina, age 15

Most people don’t fully understand anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses. On social media you find people talking about it all the time, which is great as it brings more awareness and allows people with actual mental illnesses to share their stories. However, it has become almost a cool thing to say on these platforms. Social media and TV shows have a part to play in the growth of mental illnesses being “trendy” and also bringing more awareness to it, but they could do more to provide real education. People don’t understand what mental illness is, and some just believe that anxiety and depression, for example, are just feelings.

I see some of this happening at my school. In most cases I hear the phrase, “Ugh, ______ gives me anxiety” when in reality, they mean stressed and it usually has to do with tests, quizzes or an upcoming presentation. I’m not sure if they do actually have anxiety. However, most people I hear use the term very loosely and should be more careful with their word choice.

Cameron, age 15

It doesn’t surprise me that people romanticize mental illness. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting attention; humans are a social species and attention is essential for self-esteem and social skills. However, people are trying to normalize terms like depression or anxiety, almost in an effort for people to see an exaggerated version of their emotions. Something that comes to mind is a shirt that I’ve seen others wear that depicts an adorable coffee cup with the phrase, “No Coffee Makes Me Depresso” My friend pointed out to me how the shirt was problematic. Odds are that not having coffee doesn’t make this person depressed. I dismissed it as a poor excuse for a joke, but thinking about it, it was a call for attention. Not having coffee doesn’t make you depressed. It may make you upset or even feel a little off, but it doesn’t make you depressed, something experienced by millions of Americans. Depression is a widespread illness that shouldn’t be joked about in this way.

Celebrities are also extremely vocal about mental illness, which can be both good and bad. If many people speak out about mental illness, the suffering can start to seem normal. It then becomes this situation where when someone comes forth with their struggles and they are met with responses like, “So does everyone else” or “It’s not just you” which can invalidate their feelings. After all, it’s normal, right? If there’s nobody with social influence speaking out, who’s going to inspire those struggling by themselves to come forward? Society is complicated, but for now we just need to develop an understanding for each other and extend a helping hand to those who feel helpless.

As a society, we must grow to learn that mental illness is a serious issue, not something that we weave into our everyday lives for the sake of seeming trendy or getting attention. We’re only human and we make mistakes, but it’s time we fix our mistakes.

Alyssa, age 14

My first reaction to these claims is that we should be mindful that people express themselves different ways. We may not agree with how they do it, but it’s best to perceive their actions with some empathy and take the extra step to see if they are trying to reach out. Fashion has always been a form of expression so by people expressing their feelings with a necklace that says “anxiety” or an article of clothing that says “sad” that could be a way of expressing themselves or a cry for help. Mental illness should never be seen as a joke and should be taken seriously. Mental illness should never be trendy and should be talked about more, so if having an article of clothing or a piece of jewelry with the words “anxiety” or “depression” sparks up a conversation, then that’s a positive thing for people who care about helping people with these illnesses because it spreads awareness

Heather, age 14

I believe that having issues or being depressed has become a trend recently for adolescents. A while back, the TV show “13 Reasons Why” became popular with teenagers. The show depicts a girl named Hannah going through depression and eventually committing suicide. In my opinion, anyone watching the show who was going through similar stuff that Hannah was going through, would became sad along with her. I thought the show tossed around words like suicide, rape and depression very casually, making these words’ connotation less severe. When words like that are casually tossed around on popular TV shows and in songs we hear on the radio, people begin to use these words in their everyday conversations without really knowing the effect of their word choice. This trend in conversation leads companies to create backpacks, pins, t-shirts and other merchandise with these words in trendy font because it has become an ideal lifestyle for almost every teenager. Whenever people come across a difficult or stressful situation they often say ‘I’m gonna commit’ or “kms’’ which stands for kill myself. By casually using serious words in everyday conversation, some of these intense mental health situations have been stripped of their true meaning and are being tossed around like a joke. This is unfair to the people that actually struggle with mental health problems.

Submit a question for our teen advisers

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How a Bone Marrow Transplant Can Save Someone’s Life

Every three minutes, someone is diagnosed with a blood cancer, like leukemia or lymphoma. As many as seventy percent of these patients don’t have a compatible match in their family, and must hope to find an unrelated donor. You can help these patients increase their odds by joining the Be The Match Registry®, an international registry of potential matches for those seeking a bone marrow transplant. Today, meet two CHOC Children’s patients who have benefited from a bone marrow transplant.

Emma-bone-marrow-transplant-story

Emma, age 23

In the summer of 2017, I went from being a healthy 21-year-old college athlete to an acute myeloid leukemia patient in less than a week’s time. To say it happened fast is an understatement. The doctors told me I needed a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible. Dozens of my family members got tested to be a donor, but because it needed to happen quickly, we used my dad. I received his stem cells on October 3, 2017. The procedure was difficult, but my medical team and the hospital staff were incredible. The oncology floor was like a huge family made up of patients, caretakers, survivors, supporters, and many others who had been touched by cancer. Thankfully, my husband was there every step of the way. By March 2018, I was able to move back to my hometown and resume college online. I was able to reclaim my life and feel hope for my future. Right now, I’m three weeks away from the one-year mark. I feel good, and I’m so grateful for my bone marrow transplant. It gave me back my life and the best gift of all: time.

Zaiden-bone-marrow-transplant

Zaiden, age 3

I was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia when I was 2 years old. Thankfully my parents took me to an amazing hospital, CHOC Children’s. Everyone is amazing there! I started heavy chemotherapy, and everything was going well. Unfortunately, I relapsed after nine months of treatment. It was after this I had my first bone marrow transplant, with my dad as my donor. Again, I was kind of back to my normal life when I relapsed again at the six-month mark. After this we tried Car T Cell therapy, but I again relapsed after nine months. So, in April 2018 I had my second bone marrow transplant and this time it was my sister who got to be my donor. These treatments were not easy, but I have been living my best life since then.

I am extremely lucky that I was able to be matched not once but twice with people in my family as my donors. A lot of kids are not as lucky and have to wait a long time to find a match. Because of my treatments it inspired my parents to register with Be the Match in hopes they could do the same thing for someone else that saved my life.

Tips for Healthy Grocery Shopping

By Alyce Watanabe, Dietetic Technician, Registered at CHOC Children’s

Preparing a healthy meal can be next to impossible if you don’t have the right ingredients in your kitchen. Going to the grocery can feel like a burden if you are not prepared. However, with a little preparation, shopping for healthy foods can be a breeze and save you money in the long run.

Do some prep work before you get to the store to keep from having to go back for forgotten items and to help you focus on finding nutritious foods.

  1. Clip money-saving coupons from weekly ads or use coupon apps on your smartphone.
  2. Create your menu for the week and grocery list before going to the store. Stick to your list.
  3. Shop the store perimeter first. That is generally where fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, and dairy, are located. Processed foods that often contain added salt, sugar and fat are usually found in the center aisles.

Minimize distractions to make healthy choices.

  1. Try to avoid peak hours when stores are busy. Crowds and stress often cause people to make quick choices instead of taking the time to find the healthiest option.
  2. Avoid shopping when you are hungry. A growling stomach can make it tough to resist some of those tempting treats!
  3. Consider leaving young children at home if possible. A tired or hungry child may make it challenging to take the time to read labels. Often, less-healthy items with packaging that appeals to children are kept on shelves at their eye level, making it easy for them to grab and toss in your cart.

Take time to read labels. A quick glance can help you decide between similar items.

  1. Look for whole foods as much as possible. Choose whole fruit over juices to provide fiber and help you feel full for longer.
  2. Consider canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. They last longer than fresh items and because they are picked and canned or frozen at peak ripeness, they may contain more nutrients. Watch the sodium content of canned vegetables.
  3. Foods with fewer additives, in their more natural state, tend to be healthier. Many people look for foods with a maximum of five ingredients.
  4. Watch the portion size on the package. Sometimes foods are listed as two or more servings even when you would probably eat the entire package in one sitting.

Aim for variety and try something new! 

  1. Make trying new foods fun for your family by selecting a new or unfamiliar fruit or vegetable each week. Search online to learn about the food and find recipes.
  2. Substitute something for your usual routine. Consider using sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes for a new flavor and for extra fiber and vitamin A.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the USDA MyPlate guidelines to make sure you are getting foods from all food groups. While you are planning meals and shopping, think about the foods that will be on your plate.
nutrition
The MyPlate model shows a great visual way to balance our food groups.

Some hints for a healthier table:

  • Balance Calories
  • Enjoy your food but watch portion sizes.
  • Foods to Increase
  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose 100 percent whole grains whenever possible.
  • Children under age 2 should receive whole milk because they need the fat for brain growth and development. However, children over age 2 and adults can switch to fat-free or low-fat milk.
  • Choose lean sources of protein such as lean meats, chicken, fish and beans.
  • Foods to Reduce
  • Compare labels for processed foods such as canned soups and frozen meals. Choose those with lower amounts of sodium (salt).
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

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