Many of us have some version of a “happy place” (Mine usually involves a sailboat, a calm ocean, and a drink with an umbrella in it), but for kids battling cancer, a happy place is much more than a daydream: it’s a powerful tool for coping with the pain and anxiety of cancer and cancer treatment. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and to honor the occasion, the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta brought in an artist to draw the happy places of children battling cancer. The resulting images are fun and imaginative (Italian castles! Unicorns! Walrus wizards!), and they are testament to the strength that these kids call on every day to help them keep going.
In a video created by the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center, four cancer patients explain what their happy places are like. As Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta explains in a blog post, for kids with cancer, “the practice of ‘going to your happy place’ is more than just a catchphrase; it’s a coping mechanism that can release endorphins and assist with pain management.” In the video, child life specialist Lauren Whaley says that the children are encouraged to use guided imagery “anytime they’re feeling pain or they’re getting really stressed out.”
For example, Justice, a 16-year-old who was diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia in 2013, describes her happy place as an autumn picnic near an Italian castle. She says that imagining the scene helps her to remember that “just because I’ve been dealt this hand doesn’t mean I’m going to quit the game. I have to keep playing.”
Lauren, age 11, battled an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor in her brain for years before finally being declared cancer free. She describes her happy place as a world where “everything is sparkly.” She has her therapy dog there, and they are surrounded by puppies, unicorns (with soft horns, of course, so that they can play with the puppies), and pink, purple, and blue.
Last year, Hunter, 13, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that eventually turned into brain cancer. He says, “The hardest part was just losing everything that I remember.” (Yes, you will need copious tissues for this video). In his happy place, dolphins are taxis, and walruses are wizards that use their magic to make pandas fly.
Eleven-year-old Mya was diagnosed with bone cancer after she felt a pop in her knee while running in February. Having since had her leg amputated above the knee, Mya imagines her happy place as sunny Rio de Janeiro, with Christ the Redeemer overlooking the city.
Watch the whole video below, and learn more about the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta here. (Did I mention that you'll need tissues?)
Images: YouTube (5)