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When Your Child Has Cancer: Dealing With the Diagnosis
Learning About the Diagnosis and Treatment Options
- What kind of treatment will it be?
- How long will it take?
- Where will it take place?
- Are there other options?
- Has the hospital or center treated other children with this form of cancer?
- How successful is the treatment?
- Is there an experimental treatment for this type of cancer?
Talking to Your Child About the Diagnosis
Experiencing Life After the Diagnosis
Ways to Help Yourself
- Talk to members of the treatment team. These experienced professionals can offer support and recommend resources in your community. For example, joining a support group can help you share experiences with other parents. Or, if you would prefer one-on-one counseling, ask the treatment team if they can recommend a therapist.
- Learn as much as you can about your child’s cancer. This will help empower you. Just remember that childhood cancer and cancer in adulthood are not the same, so be sure to find the right information. The treatment team can recommend articles and books.
- Set aside time, even a half hour, just for you. Do something nice for yourself, like getting a massage or taking a relaxing bath. Spending time meditating or praying can help rejuvenate you.
- It is also important to schedule time for you and your partner to be alone. Plan an enjoyable activity, like going out to dinner, where you can take a break from stress.
- Family and friends want to be involved. Reach out to them. They may volunteer to do household chores, cook meals, run errands, or babysit your other children; take advantage of their offers. If you are getting a lot of phone calls about your child’s condition, ask someone to be the “go to” person, providing the call-backs and the updates.
- Is there a new hobby that you are interested in? Since you will be spending time waiting in the hospital, see this as a chance to do something that you find relaxing and enjoyable, like learning to knit or crossword puzzles.
- You still need to take care of the basics. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy foods, drink a lot of water, and exercise. Just being outside can help relieve stress.
Ways to Help Your Kids
For your child with cancer:
- No matter what, friends are still important to your child. Find ways he can spend time with them. If your child is in the hospital, a quick phone call or an email from a friend can make him smile.
- If your child has to stop going to school, ask the treatment team if you should get a home tutor. Also, sharing information with your child’s teacher and the school nurse can help them understand the diagnosis and treatment, as well as provide you with more support. Classmates may be curious about your child’s condition. Some hospitals have back-to-school programs that educate the entire class about cancer. This can help your child readjust to life at school. Ask the treatment team if this is available.
For all of your children:
- As much as possible, keep the routines and rules that you had before your child became sick. This will help them feel more secure.
- Schedule family meetings where everyone is free to talk about their concerns.
- Explain that whatever they are feeling is normal. Encourage your kids to talk about their feelings.
- Talk openly about cancer; educate your family. Ask older siblings to play a role in treatment. This will help them feel involved and empowered.
- Take time to do something fun with your kids. Everyone needs some relief from stress.
American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov/
BC Cancer Agency http://www.bccancer.bc.ca/default.htm/
Childhood Cancer Foundation http://www.candlelighters.ca/
Cancer, anxiety, and fear. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MBC/content/MBC%5F4%5F1x%5FIntro%5FAnxiety.asp. Updated August 2008. Accessed December 3, 2008.
A cancer diagnosis can affect emotional help. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MBC/content/MBC%5F4%5F1x%5FIntro%5FAnxiety.asp. Updated August 2008. Accessed December 3, 2008.
Emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/MBC/content/MBC%5F4%5F1X%5FThe%5FEmotional%5FImpact%5Fof%5FA%5FCancer%5FDiagnosis.asp. Updated June 2008. Accessed December 3, 2008.
Getting beyond “why me.” American Psychological Association website. Available at: http://www.apahelpcenter.org/articles/article.php?id=32. Accessed December 3, 2008.
When your child has cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/docroot/ETO/content/ETO%5F2%5F6X%5FWhen%5FYour%5FChild%5FHas%5FCancer%5F7.asp. Updated January 2001. Accessed December 3, 2008.
Young people with cancer: a handbook for parents. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/youngpeople. Published July 2003. Accessed December 3, 2008.