Dealing with separation from a parent undergoing cancer treatment or losing a parent to the disease is a difficult experience for anyone, but it is especially hard for young children. Thanks to City of Hope’s cuddle pillow program, children can tangibly find comfort and healing and keep memories of a parent or other loved one alive.
Jo Ann Namm in City of Hope’s Child Life Therapy program developed the cuddle pillow program to offer therapeutic comfort to children of adult patients who are battling a life-threatening illness or who lost their battle against cancer. Each customized pillow features the patient’s handprint, as well as artistic images of favorite family mementos, hobbies, sports teams, pets, holidays or colors. The pillow also includes a special written message from the patient.
“Our goal for using cuddle pillows is to have a way for loved ones of patients to remember them and never forget how important this person is in their lives,” Namm said. “Additionally, youngsters oftentimes do not have the emotional skills necessary for coping with the loss of a loved one, which is why such support tools are so important for the emotional well-being of the entire family.”
Cuddle pillows can help children cope with separation anxiety when a parent is away undergoing treatment. “Recently an adult transplant patient gave pillows to her young daughters to help them cope with her absence at home,” Namm recalled. “The girls sleep with the pillows every night, and it provides them with a sense of closeness to their mother in knowing she designed them especially for them.”
They also can be an end-of-life memory item, offering comfort to a child right away — and later becoming a family heirloom.
Beth Landa, a physician assistant in City of Hope’s Division of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, became the official seamstress for the cuddle pillow program after she came upon Namm and her team sewing the pillows by hand.
“When Jo Ann told me what the pillows were used for, I knew it was a done deal that I was going to help out,” Landa said. Although sewing the pillows takes time, Landa said she cannot imagine a better way to use her expert skills. She sews about 30 pillows a month.
Landa’s assistance goes beyond sewing. Since the program relies strictly on donations to keep going, Landa and friends from her sewing group donate fabrics. Donations from City of Hope’s Patient, Family & Community Education Department and the Hospitality Committee also help buy supplies, and a donation from the Pink Links Women’s Cancer and Community Group also has supported the program.
To learn more about the cuddle pillow program, please contact Namm in Child Life Therapy at ext. 64513.