Thursday, May 10, 2012


A screenshot from the game

                Here at Family House we recently got a donation that we can’t wait to share with our guests and anyone else who may have children battling cancer. It started with HopeLab (visit for more information), a nonprofit organization founded in 2001 and their mission to combine the highest standards of scientific research with innovative solutions to improve the health and quality of life of young people with chronic illness. They then developed a wonderful video game called Re-Mission (visit ) in which kids assume the role of Roxxi—an armed nanobot who works through various missions to battle colonies of microscopic cancer cells and save the healthy organs.  
This game focuses on helping the issue of medication adherence, which is a complex problem for teens and adolescents with cancer. They typically have numerous prescriptions that change frequently and have quite toxic adverse effects. These young people need intense support to help make medication adherence a priority. In the randomized trial, patients who played Re-Mission were more likely to adhere to their oral medications. Not only did they enjoy the game, but their improved adherence may possibly lead to improvements in overall health.
Re-Mission is a fun video game for kids and it can be a welcome distraction from the side effects of the disease and the medication that treats it.  It is also a helpful learning tool for children who may not understand cancer and its effects on the body. Moreover, Re-Mission empowers siblings. It provides a way for them to learn and understand cancer and treatment in their time and on their terms. Re-Mission provides a way for kids with cancer and their sibling to join together in the fight against cancer – and begin to talk about cancer.
We are excited to share this fun, educational, empowering game with our Family House adolescents and teens, and hopefully it can make a difference both in medication adherence as well as their understanding of the disease. For our families that are back home, or for anyone at all who might find this a useful tool, you can simply visit the website and download or order copies of the video game for free. We’d love to hear feedback on what families think of the game!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Family House Community

           As many of our families tell us when they open up about their favorite aspects of Family House, the sense of community built up here is incredible. Families that stay here are able to meet others going through similar situations and form bonds that help support them while here. Many parents have told us that the relationships they’ve forged during their time at Family House are irreplaceable connections that will remain long after they leave. The other weekend, two families currently staying at our 10th Avenue home went on a little trip that exemplified what our Family House community truly is.
           We recently interviewed the Atwood family, who came to us from Fresno a number of weeks ago so that their young daughter Laci could receive radiation treatment. While here, they met the Courtemanche family and instantly became friends. Meanwhile, back home, John and Karissa Atwood’s friends were organizing a monster truck racing fundraising event for Laci. The Atwood’s decided to invite their new friends along for the trip, and both families packed up and made the drive down to Bakersfield for the weekend.
In their hometown, the Atwood’s provided everything for the Courtemanche’s to make sure they felt welcome and supported. Then, the day of the event, the community of support fostered at Family House became even more apparent as Abbi Courtemanche stepped up to help in the fundraising for Laci as she went around with a hat collecting donations. The fundraiser ended up being a huge success, due in part to Abbi’s help in gathering donations. The Atwood family then made a great gesture of friendship in sharing the proceeds of the event with the Courtemanche family.
It is connections and friendships like these that embody the sense of community at Family House, and we thank all of our families for always thinking of each other in such generous and thoughtful ways!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Fernandes Family Story

The Fernandes Family
The Fernandes' journey in San Francisco and with Family House began in 2010 when their son Frankie was found to have a tumor at the base of his neck. Frank Fernandes and his wife Diane would like to share Frankie's story, from his point of view:

My name is Frankie and when I was 5 years old I was having a lot of neck pain, so my mommy and daddy took me to the doctor. It all started about June 18th when I started having this really bad neck pain. The pain would come and go. We went on our family vacation to Disneyworld the last week of June and I didn't feel real good, I was tired and my neck kept bothering me. On 4th of July I had a really bad episode and my parents took me to the ER at Kaweah Delta, but they couldn't figure out what was wrong so they gave me some motrin and tylenol, and sent me home. Two days later I went to see my doctor. Dr. McNich did some x-Rays of my neck and a swab of my throat everything looked normal and she was stumped, so she sent us to Childrens Hospital in Madera. On July 12, 2010 we found out, from the doctors at Valley Childrens in Madera, that I had a tumor at the base of my brain. They decided to send us to UCSF San Francisco since they are the best for these types of tumors. This is where we learned I had a tumor called a Clival Chordoma and I would need to have surgery to remove it. After a couple months at UCSF I then underwent 8 weeks of Proton radiation treatment so that my tumor would not come back."

Frankie at UCSF hospital
Unfortunately, as is the case with many of our families, this was only the beginning of the treatment process Frankie would need to undergo. Over the course of the last two years, the family has kept a personal website including journals that they wrote to detail day to day struggles and triumphs over the course of Frankie's treatment, as well as Family House and its importance to them (see journal from 3-21-2012). Frank and Diane would love to pass their website info on to all, so everyone can read their journals. Please visit to learn more about the Fernandes family's story!