H.U.G.S. helps patients

Kelsey David, reporter

Having a friend with cancer stinks. My best friend, Ryder*, was diagnosed with cancer during his freshman year of high school. For about a year now, he’s been in remission — the period of time in which doctors no longer detect cancer cells in the blood.

Cancer is when abnormal cells in your body start to grow uncontrollably. These growths then form tumors. There are hundreds of types of cancer, but all end the same if not treated — death. Early detection means a higher survival rate once treatment, such as chemotherapy, starts. It’s not contagious, and you can decrease your risk of cancer, too.

Even after Ryder entered remission, there were many bumps in the road to recovery. He slacked in school, and lost a lot of his friends when they couldn’t handle his sickness. His diet and athletic activities changed drastically. He had lost a lot of hair and weight, so his self-confidence practically disappeared after all the treatment he underwent. Plus, all the medication and energy loss made him grouchy, so it was really hard to ignore the stand-offish attitude he acquired after his diagnosis.

It’s rough being a friend of a cancer patient. It’s a full time job, because you have to be there for them through the whole journey. You can’t back down if something goes terribly wrong, and you can’t come back only if something goes right. There were many times where I couldn’t even stand seeing Ryder without a beanie on his bald head, or the central line sticking out of his chest. But I stuck it out, because he, as sappy as this sounds, needed me. I wasn’t always happy to be there for him, but it was definitely worth it.

Thankfully, Ryder didn’t have to do it alone, though, and neither did I. We went to support groups and therapy sessions to ease the difficulty of coping with the complications that accompanied cancer.

Hawaii has a local organization called H.U.G.S. (Help, Understanding, and Group Support) that focus on not only children with cancer, but any terminal illness. McKinley High School helped the HUGS foundation fundraise with last years’ winter ball, A Walk Down Candy Cane Lane. The H.U.G.S. organization is dedicated to providing support and enhancing the quality of life for Hawaii’s seriously ill children and their families. They have programs such as peer support groups and monthly family events. They also provide hospital outreach, which includes the Laughter Wagon, a volunteer program that lets trained volunteers engage children, teens and siblings with interactive games and activities that help to reduce stress and anxiety.

With the help of organizations and programs like H.U.G.S., Ryder’s life gradually returned to normal. He’s swimming again, and he’s able to look into a mirror now without cringing. He’s gotten his grades back up, and he lost the snarky attitude and replaced it with so much appreciation for life that it’s not even funny. He’s learned to appreciate everything more.

If you have a friend with a terminal illness, or even if you have it yourself, just remember to stay positive and stay strong, and that you don’t have to go through it alone. Don’t focus on only the negatives, and keep in mind that the illness doesn’t have to take over your whole life. Even if you don’t personally know anyone who’s terminally ill, you can still help brighten their day. Interested in helping them cheer up during a difficult time?

Check out www.hugslove.org for more info on volunteering and applications.

*name has been changed.