We are proud to introduce our readers to Bright Spot Network, a platform that helps families navigate cancer. It was founded by two incredible mothers and inspired by their own experiences with cancer. It is a community that provides young cancer survivors who are parents of small children with a safe space for individual and family healing, recovering and reconnection. Today, we interviewed Co-Founder Haley Pollack on what makes Bright Spot Network so special. Spoiler alert: a lot!
What was your inspiration for starting Bright Spot Network?
Aimee Barnes and I started Bright Spot Network after our own cancer diagnoses. Aimee was diagnosed with breast cancer the day before she gave birth to her second child, while raising a four year old. I was diagnosed with colon cancer, after having just returned to work from parental leave. My kids were six months old and three years old.
We didn't know each other at the time of our diagnoses but we were both independently having similar experiences. We found ourselves falling through the cracks among medical social workers. We needed and wanted resources on how to talk to our kids about our cancer, including the everyday ways that cancer affects your life: changes to energy level, hair loss, or the need for kids to learn gentle touches after a parents' surgery. We didn't know any other young parents with cancer and it was isolating to say the least.
A caring healthcare provider introduced Aimee and I... and from there we became quick friends. We talked about our kids and our cancer, our jobs and our relationships. Together, we put into words what we both knew: there was a gap in resources for young parents navigating their own cancer diagnoses. Bright Spot Network was born out of those conversations.
Aimee Barnes and Haley Pollack, Co-Founders
What do you love most about the organization?
We know cancer is a trauma to the whole family, not just the patient. Bright Spot Network makes sure that all of our resources are free and as barrier-free as possible. Our Bright Reads program provides parents with free age-appropriate kids books on cancer, big emotions, grief and loss.
I love the books we recommend, that we provide the books for free, and that parents can choose what will speak best to their kids. As a parent, I love reading to my kids and when I was going through cancer treatment reading to them about a parent's unconditional love or about cancer was both a way to connect but also provided a helpful opening into talking about my own cancer, which was a really hard conversation. Books can provide the opening to the hard conversations we need to have.
What has been the most rewarding part in bringing Bright Spot Network to life?
The community that has been built around Bright Spot Network has been nothing less than humbling. In support groups participants bring their whole selves. It is a special place to celebrate wins big and small and for individuals to share their dark moments just as fully.
I have seen this community rally around friends and bring new cancer patients into the fold. Being a new parent or a parent of young kids is enough on its own. Adding a cancer diagnosis to the mix can be overwhelming. It's wonderful to have a place where other parents understand the difficulty of talking to young kids about cancer and the heartache that comes alongside.
Aimee Barnes with her children
For more information about Bright Spot Network, check out their website here and follow them on Instagram @brightspotnetwork.
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