“Momcologists” Help Children and Each Other Fight Cancer

DES MOINES, Iowa –Cancer is tough for anyone, especially a child. But the kids don't fight alone.

Meet their momcologists. Kristin Gaber said, "We kind of call ourselves momcologists because you very quickly have to step into roll of nurse, researcher, doctor almost. You have to understand all of that very quickly."

If you spend any time with the women, you'll hear lots of laughter and see many tears. "He went through 10 months of high dose chemo as well as radiation and just passed away in July of this year. And, this group got me through all of it," Emilie Matthias said tearing up at the end. Her son Garrett died after battling rhabdomyosarcoma.

They're part of a group called Des Moines Area Oncology Moms. It's a closed Facebook group started by two moms about four years ago. Nearly two hundred people are now part of the online community exclusive to moms. "Moms have a unique viewpoint in all this. We tend to be the primary caregiver. We tend to be the ones that need a little bit more of that emotional contact and support from each other," said Gaber. Her daughter Alice was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when she was three. Alice is now six and cancer free.

The moms share advice and offer support "They're the ones you text in the middle of the night or you Facebook message and they're saying, it's ok, it's alright. We've all been there," said Stacie Wendland. Her son Cooper has Leukemia.

Sometimes the mom simply vent. “It's a place where you can say, ugh, my husband forgot to give meds," said Gaber.

Some were hesitant to join. "I had lots of welcoming comments that we're here for you, and this was not my world, these were not my people. These were not my friends," said Steph Reinhart, mom of a high school freshman with ALL.

Others knew they had no choice. Mom Michelle Coleman said, "I reached out because I thought I was the only one that was feeling this way." He daughter Gracie was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkin Lymphoma when she was 15. She now has no evidence of disease.

It’s a group they wish they wish no one needed, but they're thankful to have. "We say welcome to the group, but we're sorry you're here," said Angie Thompson. Her daughter
Emery was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma at 5 weeks old. Emery died in March, just shy of her second birthday.

Moms of children with cancer can be added to the Des Moines Area Oncology Moms Facebook page. They’ll just need to fill out a questionnaire.

The group is selling shirts this month. Proceed will benefit the Child Life Departments at University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics and Blank Children’s Hospital.