The Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation began in 2006 in memory of a little girl named Libbie, who lost her lifelong battle with leukemia at the tender age of five. The foundation’s mission is to provide relief to Central Texas children with cancer as they fight the greatest battle of their young lives.
After Libbie’s death, her mother, Becky Nichols, vowed to keep her daughter’s memory alive by helping other families whose children battled this deadly disease. Becky would never forget the many long weeks she spent in the hospital, trying to help Libbie as she struggled to eat during treatments. She created the Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation to fill a gap, as the only program in Central Texas that supplies pediatric cancer patients with comfort foods while they are undergoing cancer treatments.
The foundation’s Comfort Through Food program provides children in cancer treatment with comfort foods, fun food activities and celebration cakes.
Demand for Comfort Through Food services continues to increase along with the growing Central Texas population—the number of children diagnosed with cancer at Dell Children’s has tripled since 1998. In 2014, 100 patients were diagnosed with cancer, and almost half of these patients are from low-income families.
Through a generous gift from the Fifth Age of Man Foundation in 2016, the Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation added Libbie’s Funtime Foodtruck to extend fun interactive food activities and events for these special kids and their families.
Childhood cancer and its effects on children and their families
According to the National Cancer Institute, mortality rates for childhood cancers have declined dramatically since the late 1970s; and today, 80 percent of children with cancer will survive. While achieving cure or long-term survival is the most critical goal of a childhood cancer program, it’s only half the battle. Helping the patient “survive” the traumatic effects of the diagnosis, grueling and painful treatment schedules, and school disruption and isolation from classmates and friends are equally important in helping children become physically and emotionally strong during their battle with this deadly disease.
From the moment a child is diagnosed with cancer, a family begins an emotional journey in search of answers. What kind of cancer is it? What treatments will work? Will our child survive? What lies ahead for our family?
Children or adolescents with cancer may spend many days or weeks at home, in outpatient clinics, or hospitalized while undergoing surgery, radiation or chemotherapy treatments. They often don’t feel well. Their immune systems can become compromised from treatments, so they must avoid germs and all contact with people and public areas. Many patients receive home bound schooling for long periods of time and lose contact with classmates and teachers. Kids with cancer often become isolated or depressed, and their need for psychosocial support—non therapeutic interventions that help a person cope with stress—increase dramatically. The amount of stress on the entire family increases at this time, as family members are forced to quit jobs and worry about finances, fear for their sick child’s life, and worry about cancer’s effects on other siblings.
Cancer and its treatments can negatively affect a child’s appetite and tolerance to foods, making it difficult to eat and maintain adequate nutrition to keep the body strong. Cancer treatments can change a child’s senses of taste and smell, making foods taste bitter or metallic; it can cause mouth and/or throat sores or a sensitive oral cavity that causes trouble with swallowing.
Adequate nutrition can be the key defense in the fight against cancer by helping pediatric patients manage symptoms and aid healing and recovery. In addition, providing additional psychosocial support for the entire family is crucial during a child’s treatment for cancer.