CLIMB program helping families stay open about their cancer diagnosis

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“Not really knowing how to address it with younger kids, or how to talk about it, we were really at a loss for a while,” Schmidt’s wife Leslie described.

This disease can be a heavy topic with children, so Sanford Health set up 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 kids about cancer, and the kids learn about how treatment works.

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

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

“To me anyways, I come in here in the morning and I’m trying to say hi or put a smile on someone’s face, it’s kind of like you’re all in it together in a way,” Ben Schmidt said.

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

“State that mom, dad has cancer, we’re working as a team with our medical providers, we’re going to have a plan for how we can all get through this,” Richardson-Cline said.

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

Ben Schmidt is staying on his maintenance plan, saying the disease is starting to go away. They also stay connected with the families they’ve met at CLIMB.

The support program runs for six weeks, and is available for parents who have cancer being treated at Sanford with kids ages between 7 and 12.