When Edgar first started attending the Kids and Teens Circle support group, he stayed pretty quiet. It’s not that he didn’t have a lot to say; his mother was battling cancer, after all. But this group that his mom’s friend had recommended, at the Winnetka location of the Cancer Support Community, was all new to him, and he wasn’t sure he was ready to share his feelings just yet.
Three years later, Edgar is a confident high school graduate, and he enjoys coming to the Kids and Teens Circle group every week with his sister and twin brother. “Edgar has not only opened up with his feelings but is also an active member in the group and in his family,” says Jacqueline Nederlk, LCSW, a licensed therapist who facilitates the Winnetka Kids and Teens Circle. “He is kind and loving to his five-year-old niece and is an amazing supporter to his twin brother.”
Sadly, Edgar’s mother passed away two years ago. At that time, Edgar knew that his friends in the group would be there for him and would be able to understand what it’s like to have your family’s world turned upside down by cancer.
“The group has helped me grow into who I am now,” says Edgar. “When I first started going to the group, I would stay quiet and mostly just listen to everybody, but I communicate better with others now. Hearing other people’s experiences and what they went through really helped.”
Now when new members come to the group, Edgar tries to be the one to help them feel comfortable talking. At each meeting, the group members have a chance to share their experiences over the past week and talk through any challenges they are facing. “They help you through a lot of other problems besides cancer,” says Edgar.
There are also opportunities to get creative and have fun. During the holidays, they made gingerbread houses. Another project that meant a lot to Edgar was a “Wish Pillow.” The teens wrote down wishes for their lives and kept them in a small pillow that they took home with them.
Edgar was recently looking at his pillow and realized that his wishes had come true. “My wishes were to find a job and go to college. I have a job, and in a few weeks I’m starting college,” he says.
Cancer can take away a lot of things, but it has not stolen Edgar’s dreams for his future. And one day at a time, he is working hard to make his own wishes come true.
Kids and Teens Circle is a support group with locations in Westlake Village, Winnetka (bilingual), and Oxnard (bilingual) for children or adolescents who have a family member with cancer. The group is offered by the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara and is absolutely free. Each group is facilitated by a licensed professional therapist. For more information or to donate, visit www.cancersupportvvsb.org or call (805) 379-4777.