CLIMB program helping families stay open about their cancer diagnosis

“We didn’t really know how to deal with younger kids, or how to talk about it, we were really off for a while,” Schmidt’s wife Leslie described.

This disease can be a tough topic in children, so Sanford Health created the CLIMB program, which stands for Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery.

Through group activities and discussions, parents learn how to talk to their children about cancer and the children learn how the treatment works.

“She had to go to the radiation center, she learned about blood cells and platelets,” said Leslie Schmidt, talking about their young daughter Piper. “You don’t hide things from your children, they will know,”

This is also a way to connect with other families going through the same thing.

“For me, I come in here in the morning and try to say hello or put a smile on someone’s face, it’s like you’re all in it together in some way,” Ben Schmidt said.

Psychologist Dr. Kara Richardson-Cline said parents should take the time to process the diagnosis first and then be honest and candid with their children.

“Tell Mom, Dad has cancer. We’re going to work as a team with our medical providers. We’re going to have a plan on how we can all get through this,” Richardson-Cline said.

When asked why this made the subject of cancer easier, their daughter Piper replied, “Because it’s not a secret anymore.”

Ben Schmidt sticks to his maintenance plan and says the disease is starting to go away. They also stay connected to the families they met at CLIMB.

The support program lasts six weeks and is available to parents with cancer who are being treated at Sanford with children ages 7 to 12.

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