How to Cope when Your Child Is Diagnosed with Cancer

You are told that your son or daughter has cancer. You freeze when you hear the words leave the doctors' mouth, your body goes numb. At first you don't believe him. "No." You tell yourself, "No. He just got the papers mixed up with some old person who lived their life to the fullest. Not my child. No." All you want to do is return to live before those terrible words. However, you know that isn't going to happen and that you have to put on a brave face and get through this even though you don't know the ending results. You will cry, it's normal. Here are some things to help prepare you and keep you strong in your support of your child.


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    Adjust to the health care system.
    • Ask for maps or a tour of the hospital,
    • Have each professional explain the part they play in providing care,
    • Determine exactly where treatment will take place,
    • Make hospital rooms as homey as possible, bringing things like blankets from home make the environment much more comfortable,
    • Have activities on hand for time spent in clinic (such as art, a certain subject, etc.), puzzles, and board games are always good,
    • Clarify the role of the child's referring doctor,
    • Review the written materials provided by the team or available through your American Cancer Society,
    • Ask team members to describe how the "system" works, ask other parents who have dealt with cancer in their child. Cancer support groups are very helpful because you meet people in similar situations,
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    Ask the child's doctor:
    • The type cancer
    • Recommended treatment
    • Expected length of treatment
    • Side effects (ask for literature) from chemotherapy regiment(s)
    • Long term prognosis, chances of relapse,
    • Names and phone numbers of support groups
    • Available literature defining the type cancer
    • The name of an oncologist most experienced in that particular cancer
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    Be totally honest with your child and everyone you know, no matter how painful it sounds. Your child, now more than ever, will be totally dependent upon you and will place a trust in you to keep he/she aware of everything that is happening to them (and to each of you). Should your child ask difficult questions (and they will), it is important you be honest with them. Be prepared to discuss death whether this is the prognosis or not. Children fear death until you gently allow them to accept the term (death). DO NOT deceive your child. You will soon discover your little bundle of joy has the heart, stamina and fortitude of a lion! Their concern becomes not of their fears or pain, but how mommy and daddy are weathering this battle.
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    Understand your love and support is more critical now than ever before. A child will be less fearful if you are with them each step of the process in making them well. You, as the parent, have the right to accompany your child. You are paying the costs. There will be times when you inform a physician, surgeon, whomever, you intend to be at your child's side unless surgery is involved and even then, up until the time of being wheeled to the O.R.. Should you be divorced, do not attempt to shut the stepparents out of the support group. Regardless of how you may feel toward one another, your child may not feel the same and will need all of you now.
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    Listen to your child. Children, from infants to young adults, will attempt to hide their pain in the presence of loving parents. Learn to listen to what they are not saying and learn to observe their mannerism's when you suspect they are not feeling up to par. Regardless of what you may think, should your child say they are in pain, they are in pain!
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    Create a will, despite how much painful it is. All persons from teenagers through adults should complete a will. Teenagers should specify who will receive radios, stereo equipment, clothing, sentimental items and any other real property. The contents of the will should be discussed with each person who will receive items. Each recipient will know, and will not be able to dispute, the content and wishes of the will.
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    Believe. Believe it or not, the most important thing to do is believe they will be okay. If you show hope, your daughter/son will too. A positive attitude truly reflects and cleanses your body. Take this information from a past child cancer survivor.


  • A lot of hospitals are nearby a Ronald McDonald house. These are especially helpful for getting a good nights rest, a hot meal, love and support of other hospital families, and even day care for other younger children who are not easy to keep at a hospital all day. Plus, All Ronald McDonald houses are non-profit organizations. Which means you can stay free for as long as your child or family member is in hospital care. They are extremely helpful and highly recommended.
  • Raise funds for childhood cancer research.
  • Be there for your child. As scary as this experience is for you. Its only ten thousand times harder for them.
  • Start a file folder for every paper involved with this illness. Some receipts can be deducted. Hang on to names and phone numbers in case you need to get in touch with someone who may be of help. Hold on to instructions which can relieve distressing symptoms.
  • Give your child healthy food / fruit juices every day.
  • Measure your child's temperature if he seems unusually lethargic and sleepy.
  • Think of ways people can be able to help you. Friends will offer their help.
  • Get enough rest and/or assistance if you have too much to handle.
  • Do not spank your child or let anyone else spank him during the chemo treatment period. His platelets counts might be low and this will lead to internal bleeding which can be life threatening.
  • Be thankful for the little things, the good things.
  • Outside of the cancer itself, forget about what's wrong and hold onto what's right.
  • Keep a daily journal for your child. Include in the journal the types of medicine your child is allergic to, the dates of chemo treatments and surgeries, the amount and type of food he eats, the number of times he goes to potty and if he throws up.
  • Never give up the fight no matter how tired you are.
  • Stay joyful and happy and keep yourself healthy. You can only take care of your child if you take care of yourself first.
  • If you are religious, do not get mad at God. He is not the one to be mad at for what has happened. Life goes its ways and you can't be mad at him for anything.
  • Do not have a victim mentality. Instead, have a victor mentality.
  • Pray for the doctors and nurses who are taking care of your child. Ask God to give them wisdom.
  • Stay calm when your child is screaming or protesting during port access or IV poke.
  • Pray to God with your child every night before he sleeps. Pray and believe that God will heal him.
  • Show appreciation to your child's oncologist (if he is really good) by giving him a present.
  • Keep your child away from other sick people.
  • Check your child for any rashes around his port, his bottom or any part of his body.
  • Allow your child's friends to visit them while they are in in the hospital, it helps them feel better.
  • Do not cry in front of your child.
  • Even if your child is an adult, or almost an adult, you are still their parent. They still count on you to be there for them during this stressful time. It still matters to them that you care.


  • Family problems can arise from the sudden emotional disaster. You need to sit down with the family as a whole and have a meeting about what the family members can all do to help, what sacrifices you are going to have to make, with your spouse about attitudes and the love between you, etc. Especially young children need to be told exactly what about everything.
  • There will be many times when you question everything and everyone. You will most certainly question yourself, your wife/husband, relatives and God. You will lash out at everyone in attempting to find the answer, WHY an innocent child?
  • Your oncologist will fill out a family history questionnaire concerning each of your family's health backgrounds. Should your spouse's side of the family have cancer in their background, your first impulse is to place blame on your in-laws. DON'T do it! You accomplish nothing more than to immediately place a strain upon your marriage or relationship, as well as shake your child's confidence. Should cancer play a part in your own family history, realize that none of it was anyone's fault. Cancer does no discriminate and nothing anyone did or didn't do was responsible for what happened then, and what happened then is not always the reason for what is happening now. Your immediate and long term goal is your child. Your child desperately needs all of you now.

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Categories: Cancer | Childhood Health