Superformula

/Superformula

Superformula

There’s a pediatric oncology unit in Brazil that’s trying out a fairly clever idea. They’re using comic books and superheroes to explain chemotherapy to children. Kids are given their drugs in super-hero branded IV containers and given comics and animated cartoons which depict heroes like Batman, Superman, and the Green Lantern getting similar “superformulas” to help them regain their powers.

There’s a pediatric oncology unit in Brazil that’s trying out a fairly clever idea. They’re using comic books and superheroes to explain chemotherapy to children. Kids are given their drugs in super-hero branded IV containers and given comics and animated cartoons which depict heroes like Batman, Superman, and the Green Lantern getting similar “superformulas” to help them regain their powers.

As cute as it is, these things really matter. One of the biggest challenges physicians face in treating cancer patients (childhood or otherwise) is getting people to believe in the treatment and take their medicines religiously. If slapping a Batman logo on a bottle of Methotrexate gets kids invovled in their treatment that’s a great thing, but at the same time I wonder if we’re giving these kids enough credit.

If you watch the video, some of the children being treated are very young and some are quite a bit older. There are some nine and ten year olds in the film and while they probably get a kick out of the superhero stuff, they’re also old enough to be both aware of and conversant in the actual medical language of their treatment.

One of the challenges we face at camp is making chemo non-threatening enough that kids can mentally engage it but still taking it seriously enough that they can be part of their own therapy. One of camps most unsettling and inspiring sights is an 8 year old tossing around 10 sylable words for sophsticated chemotheraputic drugs. While dressing up these chemical cocktails like something out of the Fortress of Solitude may serve to inspire kids to stick with their treatment regime, it’s also important that they not be denied the opportunity to cope with big, frightening, and daunting things the way that kids have for generations: by learning about them.

Cancer treatment isn’t magical; it’s science. It’s something that we can quantify and understand and while, yes, that takes some of the wonder and mystery out, it can also serve to impart to childhood cancer patients a valuable lesson: cancer isn’t magical either. You don’t need to be an alien from Krypton or a multi-billionaire-ninja to beat it because you’ve got the backing of the smartest, hardest working, and most dedicated minds in the medical world on your side.

Not all heroes wear capes.

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