For the first time in seventeen years, a new Valerie Fund Children's Center has opened at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Paterson, NJ. The Passaic County-based outpatient facility neighbors the northern New Jersey counties of Morris and Essex where several other Valerie Fund Centers are located.
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New York-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital is renowned for its pediatric healthcare services, and is currently home to the only Valerie Fund Children's Center outside the state of New Jersey. According to U.S. News & World Report, New York-Presbyterian consistently makes the magazine's Honor Roll as one of the best hosptials in the nation. The hospital's pediatric hematology-oncology department is led by Dr. Julia Glade-Bender alongside a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, psychologists, educational liaisons, child life specialists and social workers. Dr. Marie Barnett recently joined The Valerie Fund family as the Center's psychologist.
In 1977, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ, was the first hospital to support Sue and Ed Goldstein in their mission to provide comprehensive health care to children in our area with pediatric cancer and blood disorders. Forty years later, their dream has come to fruition with the expansion of seven Valerie Fund Children's Centers.
In their book, "Where They Are Now: The voices that cancer & blood disorders couldn't silence," Sue and Ed reflect, "The Valerie Fund Children's Centers- in New Jersey, New York City and the Philadelphia area- evolved into what we had hoped for: institutions delivering expert medical expertise, unconditional support and loving kindness for the children under their care."
Children who are treated at The Valerie Fund Children's Centers receive comprehensive health care. This not only includes state-of-the-art medical care, but the care of the patient's mental and emotional well-being. From diagnosis to well after treatment has ended, The Valerie Fund Center's multidisciplinary team identifies and treats the physical and emotional effects that manifest in pediatric patients. Psychological effects can include changes in attitude and behavior, breakdown in interpersonal relationships, depression and anxiety.
Sue and Ed Goldstein created The Valerie Fund in 1976 after losing their younger daughter Valerie to cancer. In Valerie’s memory, they were driven to make things better for other children and families fighting that same battle. In 1989 Sue and Ed’s older daughter Stacy was diagnosed with breast cancer and in 2001, at the age of 37, Stacy, too, lost her battle with cancer.
Sue was always in the forefront of getting the word out about The Valerie Fund and parenting a sick child. She co-wrote and co-produced the early Valerie Fund newsletters, and has just recently started writing for her personal blog.
What follows is an enlightening excerpt from Sue’s as-yet-unpublished memoirs titled “Unexpected Lives”. She describes the book as “...told from a mother’s perspective... the story of how one family confronts cancer in its only two children: Valerie, diagnosed when she was three, and years later, Stacy, diagnosed at twenty five." Sue uncovers her family’s will to live fully and enthusiastically. Hovering over all, however, is a dark cloud of uncertainty as ordinary people are faced with extraordinary illness.
Amy Tarabokia’s son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006 just shy of his fourth birthday, and received his last treatment in 2009 on his seventh birthday. She notes that there are many support groups for families but very few, if any, just for moms. "Moms take care of everyone else and tend to put themselves 'on the back burner'.” One of the things she remembers most vividly is the overwhelming feeling of isolation, particularly when Nicholas was quarantined and her “only outlet was the phone.” She tried to stay positive but there was a “constant dark cloud” hovering over her. The Valerie Fund Mom2Mom program gives moms a way to connect with kindred spirits who understand what it means to have a sick child because they have been there themselves.