Mommy, What’s Cancer?

Posted on Jun 1, 2011

Meredith Cooper helps kids answer the tough questions that come with serious illnesses.
By Alex Davy

Originally appeared in St. Edward’s University Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 1 (Summer 2011)


You know what to do when your kids get sick: You take them to the
doctor, give them your love and support, and tell them it’s going
to be Ok. But what do you do when you’re the one who’s sick?
when you’re tired all the time, when you’re stuck in a hospital bed,
when you can’t be the parent you used to be? How do you tell your
children that their pillar of strength can no longer stand?


“Kids with very sick parents have a lot of big questions,” says
Meredith Cooper (MAhS ’01), a child-life specialist who has
made it her life’s work to help children cope when their parents
or guardians have a chronic or life-threatening illness.


Why is Mommy gone so much? If I kiss her, will I get sick,
too? To help answer these questions — and to fill a void left by
the health-care system — Cooper founded Wonders & Worries
in April 2002 alongside her colleague Melissa Hicks. “We’re
focused on giving children an age-appropriate understanding of
the illness, treatment and side effects, so we can dispel myths and
misperceptions,” Cooper says. “Usually, the conclusions children
draw from the snippets available to them are more frightening than
the truth.”


Cooper, who holds an MA in child development from the
University of Texas at Austin, drew on her education and her time
at the Children’s Hospital in Austin to forge a unique and powerful
organization. But she needed something more: a counseling
license. “I realized that to fully serve both the children and their
parents, I needed to earn my professional counseling license,
and St navigate here. Edward’s was the perfect fit for me.” Her coursework at
St. Edward’s earned her that certification, and Wonders & Worries
was born.


Her keen awareness of a child’s outlook helped her conceive
an inspirational program that utilizes the universal language of
children: play. children color pictures, go on mini-field trips and
develop coping skills in an open and honest environment. Since
its inception, wonders & worries has served 900 families and
approximately 3,600 individuals — and the organization shows no
sign of slowing down.


“In a time of crisis and uncertainty, the program is a rock,” says
Rosemary Douglass, who became so passionate about Wonders
& Worries after chairing a gala fundraiser that she jumped
into volunteering and now serves as president of the board of
directors. “It really makes a difference in these kids’ lives. It’s
incredible. Once I saw the results, I was hooked for good.”

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