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Where's MY gas card?

WARNING:  whiny post ahead

One of my dear friends told me just a few days ago that her 11 year old nephew has been diagnosed with leukemia.  Like many forms of leukemia, it seemed to have developed rapidly, but the young man is in the finest children's hospital in the area, and the doctors believe the type of leukemia he has is a highly-treatable form, so there is much reason for hope.

You can only image the blow the parents must feel:  to go from normal to nothing-will-ever-be-the-same-again in one tiny moment.  There is a whole new vocabulary to be learned, a whole new set of rules and adjustments, a critically ill child to soothe and protect, all while you still have a job, other kids, a house, the need to eat, and all the other things that go into life.

My friend told me that as soon as the diagnosis was made, folks from the American Cancer Society stopped by to give the parents gas cards, food vouchers, information, etc. - all meant to make life in a hospital away from home a bit easier.  I begrudge them none of this:  anything to make life a bit easier for them and their family is good.

Here's my thing:

Where the &(%&*@ is my gas card????!!!

You know, when my kid was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness (okay, it's a mental illness, but she almost killed herself twice - that I know of), no one showed up on my doorstep with gas cards and food vouchers to help out while we were traipsing back and forth between the hospital and home.  Why is mental illness treated so differently than physical illness, especially where children are involved? 

It's not that I think the American Cancer Society shouldn't be doing these things - they absolutely should.  It's just that a parent sitting in a waiting room and hearing the words "major depression" and "suicide" and "bi-polar" should have just as much support and information as a parent hearing the words "leukemia" or "lymphoma".  Instead, we are made to feel as if we can't talk to anyone about it - there's something shameful about depression and bi-polar - as if it's our fault as a parent.  Certainly no one blames the kid with leukemia for his or her symptoms, but they do with mental illness.

Okay, I'm done whining.  But I would sure like to continue this discussion.


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