Families of children experiencing the emotional trauma of life-threatening illness or injury can feel alone and without a voice. The Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress wants to give a voice to those family members who find themselves in the midst of a medical trauma and who then summon the courage, strength and resources to find their way through it.

In this installment of Family Voices, we share the audio stories of two mothers, Darlene and Kathy, whose children fought very different medical battles, but whose families experienced emotional trauma as a result. With remarkable candor, they share stories of their family's ups and downs and how they coped. Darlene and Kathy have agreed to share their stories so that other families going through the same experience may also find hope and strength from their example, and know they are not alone.

Darlene's Story

Kathy's Story

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Darlene's Story ...

Darlene is a mother of a pediatric cancer survivor. Darlene's daughter, Lauren - now 11 - was diagnosed with cancer at age 6. Shortly after diagnosis, Lauren also suffered a stroke. With wit and wisdom, Darlene talks about how she, her husband Pete, and their other daughter Katherine coped with the trauma of Lauren's diagnosis and treatment. Darlene also talks about what it was like to go off-treatment ("I equated it to being pushed off a plane and hoping my parachute opened") and the process that she and her family had to go through to put cancer in its place and move forward. ("Cancer is not who my daughter is: cancer is just something our family had to get through.") Listen now.

  • Audio Clip #1: "Does my child have Leukemia?" (3:51)
  • Audio Clip #2: A mother's fear... and guilt (1:38)
  • Audio Clip #3: Family responses: unsung heroes and post-it notes (3:32)
  • Audio Clip #4: Family coping: Trying to keep things normal... when they weren't (1:44)
  • Audio Clip #5: On being an overprotective mother (1:08)
  • Audio Clip #6: Talking each other off the ledge: the benefits of talk therapy (1:45)
  • Audio Clip #7: Coming off treatment: Learning to put cancer in its place (1:40)
  • Audio Clip #8: The benefits of having your children talk to other professionals (1:33)
  • Audio Clip #9: Advice to other parents coping with their child's cancer (1:00)

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Kathy's Story ...

Kathy's 8-year-old son Stephen went outside to play one day, and woke up six weeks later in the ICU to the sight of his mother standing by his bedside with a mass of grey hair that had not been there before. With sensitivity and raw honesty, Kathy tells the story of her family's odyssey with medical trauma, which began with being told that Stephen would not live through the night, followed by years of surgeries, emergencies, and setbacks and by still more years of grappling with physical and emotional aftershocks. Kathy speaks movingly of how Stephen's trauma not only interrupted her daughters' lives, but how they felt like they needed to sacrifice for Stephen some of the love in the family that was meant for them. Finally she discusses how the healing lessons she and her family learned in the process, including the need for professional help. ("I resisted talking to professionals in the early days, because I thought 'we're fine, we don't need that.' And we did.") Listen now.

  • Audio Clip #1: Stephen's journey: one step forward, two steps back (5:18)
  • Audio Clip #2: One mother's miracle is another mother's loss (:27)
  • Audio Clip #3: Impact on siblings: doing without and on your own (1:43)
  • Audio Clip #4: From sibling rivalry to healing relationships (1:36)
  • Audio Clip #5: Stephen: "Someone is finally speaking my language" (:33)
  • Audio Clip #6: Trying to do it all on my own (1:24)
  • Audio Clip #7: Realizing we're not out of the woods… we now live in the woods (1:57)
  • Audio Clip #8: The perils of holding your children to different standards (1:59)
  • Audio Clip #9: A mother's advice: when help is offered - take it! (1:12)

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