EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
BURNET — When Reagan Johns began her journey as a parent of a child with cancer, she got a lot of help and sympathy from friends and family — all very appreciated — but they didn’t quite understand what she and Brodie were going through.
“It’s really hard to talk about the things you go through as a parent when your child has cancer with someone who hasn’t been through it,” Johns said. “Our kids go through chemotherapy, which most other kids don’t, and what it does to their bodies — as a parent, you’re making them go through that. You can’t know what that’s like as a parent unless you’re going through it.”
Johns and two other parents of children with cancer — Heatherly Bieze and Lisa Degetyer — are creating a pediatric cancer support group to give families a place to turn for that support.
The first meeting is Thursday, Sept. 6, at Hope House, 700 Janet Drive. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. Johns said they’re looking at holding meetings the first Thursday of each month.
While organizers are hoping to invite professionals and guest speakers a couple of times a year to talk about topics relevant to the families, a lot of the meetings will focus on helping each other through difficult times.
Johns is no stranger to the world of pediatric cancer. Her son was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma cancer in June 2017. He was 4 at the time and underwent a series of treatments, including 40 weeks of chemotherapy.
While there are pediatric cancer support groups available, most are in Austin.
“There really isn’t a lot in the Hill Country for parents with kids who have cancer,” Johns said.
This support group is a step to helping families that are dealing with pediatric cancer. Part of the goal is to share information about services and programs, but it’s also just having someone to lean on.
“For me, it’s having someone who truly, really understands what our kids are going through,” Johns said.
As the trio of parents began working on the support group they learned of more families in the Highland Lakes affected by the disease.
“What’s really surprising to me is there’s a lot of friends I went to high school with in Burnet whose kids have cancer — at least five that I know of,” Johns said. “I know of one family in Llano, at least. We know there are more. There’s probably quite a few of us. This is who the support group is for.”
The meeting includes food, and it’s a family event, so kids are welcome. Johns said they’ll have some older kids who can help take care of the younger ones during the meeting.
As for Brodie, he’s doing much better now, and has wrapped up his chemotherapy. He even started prekindergarten this year at Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School in Johnson City.
“He’s excited to be in school,” Johns said.
Email Johns at email@example.com for more information on the support group or to let her know if you plan to attend so organizers have enough food. If you don’t RSVP, it’s OK; just show up anyway.