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The day you discover your child has
cancer, your whole life changes. No matter what the
outcome may be, you are now living on an emotional
When my son was first diagnosed, he was scared and
angry, and he was embarrassed to lose his hair. The fact
remained that although he was now a cancer patient, he
was still a 14 year old teenager with all the typical
emotions, feelings and concerns. For me, becoming a
caregiver and being a single mother at the same time,
meant I had to find new skills to cope with this
dreadful disease. I have included some of them here:
Trust - Choose a doctor, who is not only qualified, but
one who is able to speak comfortably with you and your
child. Make sure she takes the time to answer your
questions and those of your child.
Communication - Be open and honest with your child and,
as much as possible, include him in discussions
concerning the treatment. Listen with your heart.
Understanding - Know that your child may take out most
of her anger towards you, after all, you are the one who
will continue to love her no matter what. Be firm, but
Support - Find a support group for parents where you can
discuss your fears and concerns. It is very hard for
family and friends to really understand what you are
going through. Talk to the psychologist at the hospital
and vent your anger.
Knowledge - You will be asked to make many decisions
during the course of treatment. Read and learn as much
as you can about your child's type of illness. The more
you understand, the better prepared you will be to cope.
Humor - As hard as it may seem, keep a good sense of
humor. Do fun things with your child and laugh. Remember
he stills wants to be treated as the person you knew
before he became ill.
Friends & Family - Don't expect them to know how to
react or what to say. Be specific in seeking their
support, such as baby-sitting, carpooling, a cooked
Siblings - Remember their lives have changed too. They
are also scared, and they may resent the lack of
attention. Do spend quality time with them and listen to
their fears. An excellent organization I came in contact
with was Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation.
They put out a quarterly newsletter as well as a youth
newsletter, encouraging kids to tell their stories and
seek pen pals. For more information, or to request a
free subscription, call (800) 366-2223.
Chai Lifeline is another organization that gives support
to families with children who have a life threatening
disease. They can be reached at (212) 255-1160 or (305)
Although my son did not survive his battle with cancer,
I hope, through my experience, to be able to help other
parents cope with being a caregiver.