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How to Help Families Dealing With Childhood Cancer

Girl Who Lost Sister to Cancer Shares What You Can Do For Families Going Through the Same Thing

"Katy never specifically talked to me about dying, but this is what happened right before she passed away," begins Kristin Long Barry, years after her 12-year-old sister lost her two-year battle with pediatric colon cancer.

My mom was with her early that morning and she was lying there and suddenly shot up in bed. She said: "Mommy, the doves just touched me! I see Jesus and He wants me to go with him!"

My mom said Katy was scared to leave all of us. But when my mom told her it was OK and to go, she laid back down and died.

If that story – or the touching photo of the siblings, with young Katy giving a full-tooth grin – doesn't make you want to do something for a similar family in need, Kristin has some firsthand advice on what you can do for other families whose children have had cancer. In a Facebook post shared by KTVU anchor Frank Somerville, she explains how she was a week shy of her ninth-grade graduation at the time of her younger sister's death and remembers the acts of kindness that truly made a difference.

  1. Pray. "I believe that the most important thing we can do for these families is to pray for them. But we can also help out in other ways."

  2. Prep meals. "When Katy was sick, it was so nice for my parents not to have to worry about meals."
  3. Run errands. "Moms tend to spend a lot of time in the hospital with their child, so offering to do laundry or pick up a sibling from school can be a blessing."
  4. Send over a toy. "Sometimes it's as simple as sending a quick note telling the family you're thinking about them, or sending over a toy for the child to take with them to one of their treatments."
  5. Give a gift card. "Gift cards to restaurants and grocery stores are a great idea, as well as any monetary gifts to help with the overwhelming costs that occur trying to battle the disease."
  6. Embrace them. "If you know someone whose child is struggling with cancer, and you're not sure what to say to them, don't say anything. Just give them a hug."
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