Chemo is hard, but it's harder when you're a kid. Here's how one hospital is boosting morale.
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Aflac

Battling cancer can be overwhelming, but it can be even harder for young kids with cancer.

But the children and teens at the Aflac Cancer Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta have a not-so-secret trick to get through the toughest moments: It's called guided imagery, and it's a technique used to help calm people in stressful times.

The staff often asks the kids to imagine their "happy places" as a way to give them a morale boost and a pleasant distraction when they get scared during their cancer treatments or don't understand what's happening to them and why.


September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the staff at CHOA's Aflac Cancer Center wanted to do something special for their patients.

So they brought in an animator to help bring their young patients' happy places to life.

All photos from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

These kids are going through an unimaginably difficult time in their lives, but when they need to get away, these are the places they dream of escaping to:

1. Lauren's land of sparkles helps the 11-year-old through her recovery.

Lauren spent years of her young life fighting off a brain tumor. During her treatments, Lauren would go to her happy place, where "everything is sparkly."

BEFORE:

It's a land of pink, purple, and blue, covered in flowers. There are puppies, fairies, unicorns with soft horns (so they don't hurt the puppies, obviously), strawberries, Barbies, and best of all, her therapy dog, Hope.

AFTER:

2. 11-year-old Mya escapes to the sunny beaches of Rio.

Mya was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, earlier this year. She underwent chemotherapy, but eventually lost the lower part of her left leg when it was amputated. She fights on with the help of her happy place.

BEFORE:

Mya's happy place is Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In her happy place, she doesn't need crutches or her wheelchair. Instead, she's free to enjoy the sun and feel the ocean's salty breeze. Surrounded by soccer and multi-colored toucans, Mya's happiness is a beach-themed paradise.

AFTER:

3. 13-year-old Hunter's land of magic is a welcome break from his everyday stress.

Diagnosed with brain cancer last year, Hunter's gone through much more than most other boys his age. He's endured rounds of chemotherapy, surgeries, and radiation; but he's still here, being as brave as can be. His happy place is like nothing you'd see anywhere on earth.

BEFORE:

There's a walrus (who also happens to be a wizard), there are flying pandas, and flying dolphins to ride. The pandas float as high as clouds, and the people of the land live in perfect happiness. It's a carefree land where he doesn't need to feel afraid. It's his happy place, and it's wonderful.

AFTER:

4. Justice's Italian castle keeps the 16-year-old in the game.

In 2013, Justice was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It wasn't fair, and she knew it. Knowing that makes her afraid and angry, but her happy place brings some joy back into her life.

BEFORE:

Her happy place is a picnic located outside an Italian castle. There's a crisp smell of autumn in the air, and the sun shines down on her. Her basket is filled with pastas, cheeses, breads, and pastries. She's surrounded by tall, beautiful trees with colorful leaves; animals scurry around her, hoping for some dropped crumbs or a loose roll of bread. She doesn't need to feel afraid; she doesn't need to feel angry.

AFTER:

Seeing their happy places brought to life was met with exactly the reaction CHOA hoped: joy.

Just look how happy Justice was to see her happy place brought to life:

<3

There are few things as powerful as the imagination of a child. And to see that energy put to use by bringing these young patients happiness in the midst of such hardship is truly heartwarming.

You can check out interviews with the kids and CHOA staff at this great video they put together below:

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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