Coping with Your Child’s Cancer Diagnosis

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Hearing your child has cancer is difficult. The first weeks after hearing about their life-threatening illness blur together as you adjust to your new responsibilities. Cancer is a lot to manage. Many parents feel overwhelmed. Below is some general information for coping with your child’s cancer diagnosis in the first weeks.

What Most Parents Feel after Their Child’s Cancer Diagnosis

The most important thing about coping with your child’s cancer diagnosis is remembering that you are entitled to your feelings. There are no right or wrong ways to feel after this life-changing health news. You likely feel numb and in disbelief for a while. Many people cry for a period of time. Others start focusing on treatments and plans. No matter your reaction, it is normal. Feelings you may go through after your child’s diagnosis include:

  • Disbelief and denial
  • Depression and anger
  • Shock and overwhelm
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Guilt and sadness

Coping with Your Feelings and Stress

Lean on the treatment team for help coping with your feelings and stress. Your child’s treatment team includes social workers, psychologists, nurses and doctors. Each of these people refer patients and family members to helpful professionals or resources available for support. Other people you can lean on and places to find strength include:

  • Family members or friends
  • Exercise, hobbies, music or writing in a journal
  • Religious beliefs, spiritual practices and clergy
  • Self-care, through proper diet, rest and relaxation
  • Management of your child’s treatment
  • Venting by screaming, shouting or crying in a safe place to express your anger
  • Other parents of children with cancer
  • Admitting you have no blame in your child’s diagnosis

Learning about Your Child’s Cancer Treatment

Understanding your child’s cancer treatment plan gives you power and strength. While you try to manage your feelings, start planning for your child’s and your family’s future. Take in all of the information you are provided by treatment professionals.

You likely feel overwhelmed at first. But soon you learn the language of cancer, treatment methods, expectations and other aspects of treatment. You can then help others in your family understand your child’s journey.

Creating a New, Temporary Way of Life

Almost immediately after finding out about your child’s cancer, your family’s routine becomes jumbled. At first you feel you live in someone else’s reality. But some of the best things you can do for yourself, your child and other members of the family involve keep life as normal as possible. Try to maintain predictable routines. Ways you can keep your family’s life as stable as possible during cancer treatment include:

  • Use Family Medical Leave or other benefits your employer offers to your family’s best advantage
  • Accept help from others in ways that actually help you maintain a normal daily routine
  • Talk to the treatment team about expectations for your child’s schooling, return to school or how your child can continue their schooling during treatment
  • Get to know the treatment schedule, how long appointments take and other “flow” of your days and weeks after diagnosis
  • Gain understanding of your child’s medications and how they should be scheduled to fit your family’s routine
  • Provide encouragement for your child in sustainable ways, meaning you should avoid giving big gifts you cannot continue matching over the length of treatment
  • Keep a website or social media profile tracking your child’s progress and journey to easily keep family members and friends updated