June 23, 2013

My Child has Cancer: What Do I say?

Your child’s perception of what is happening to them, and how it is impacting the family MUST be grounded in truth and reality.

TRUST is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL [and] it MUST NOT BE BREACHED; if your child can’t trust with Information about their illness, then how can you expect them to trust is they ultimately succumb to the cancer? [Food for Thought]

Children have the amazing ability to think magically which often leads them to arrive at incorrect cause and effects relationships. For exemple, if a child is unkind to his/her sibling, his/her mom “the LOOK’, of a child told a ‘white lie’, then this child may begin to believe that he/she caused their cancer. Worse yet, this child may not be able to talk about their belief even though the ‘why’ question is swirling inside their heart.

Make certain from the beginning that there is NOTHING he/she did or didn’t do that CAUSED the cancer. Repeat this reassurance as the opportunity presents itself.

Mom, what is wrong with me?

Your answer depends on your knowledge of your child at diagnosis regarding the terms you choose to use and how much detail you do into in the initial conversation; however, your child must be told the truth. So, you respond by telling your child that he/she has a type of cancer called __________.

[Extremely important that the child know the proper name of their cancer]

Don’t jump in with too much information up front; simply answer question along the road and never too far in advance.

How are we going to get rid of it?

Your answer may be you will need to have surgery to take a piece of the cancer out so the doctor’s can name it. After your surgery you need to receive special cancer medications and/or radiation treatments.

Is my hair going to fall out?

If chemotherapy is part of the treatment plan, then yes. Remember your child will take in stride if you are able to take in stride, One of your most important roles you play is to support, yet no minimize your child’s experience. There is not right or wrong way to answer these question unless, of course, you hedge on the truth intent upon protecting your child from these harsh realities.

Will I be able to go to school?

Yes. Children affected by cancer are permitted to go back to school. In fact, many treatment centers have Back to School programs where a Child Life Specialist will come to you school as you re-enter the classroom so the kids can ask  questions to a member of their friend’s medical team rather than the child have to expend energy answer the same question over and over. There will certainly be days missed because of treatment, viral illness, or low blood counts, but, in general, the sooner they return, the better.

Milestones, Goals, and Celebrations: YES!

It’s commonplace for us as human beings to have goals set before us; these goals should be realistic, attainable, and measurable for the affected child, the parents, and any sibling[s]. 

Goals may include figuring out what medication combination your child needs to keep from getting sick to his/her stomach with treatment, being in school 3 full days [and] 2 half days on treatment days, exercising together as a family, or eating as a family around the table each evening. Maybe even a firm bedtime though that might be pushing it.

Jean Wolfe Powers recommends Vision Boards and I love this idea.

A Vision Board is essentially a collage of pictures of family and friends doing the things that they enJOY doing. For example, college football, world cup soccer, ballet, or cooking. This is also a great place for notes from a mom or dad who has to travel, from an older sibling who is away at school, or from classmates.

The GOAL is PRESENCE in the MOMENT, but also a vision for the future. 

Jean suggests that the family unit should make a Family Vision Board. On this board, you could place pictures of present blessings evidenced along the way, family vacations you’d like to take, or a get fit family plan at the local YMCA. The possibilities are limited only by your mind. Put things on the board that make you laugh and may seem completely ridiculous and somewhat trivial given the circumstance.

Personally [Stephanie], I think parents should make a board for themselves to ensure that their relationship is tended to along this path. Words of encouragement, affirmation, thank you notes, love letters, a post it sprayed with you perfume or cologne, and a date night.

Thanks to Jean Wolfe Powers, LMFT, for collaborating with me on this post. Jean has blogged here at myHeart before <<CLICK HERE>>. She is based in Ventura County, CA. For more information go to www.jeanwolfepowers.com. She also blogs at www.dialysisofhealing.wordpress.com  & you can follow her on twitter @JeanWolfePowers

PS CELEBRATE EVERYTHING & Take PICTURES. Your child will be so thankful that you did because this is a part of their history.

3 Comments

  1. Heather

    November 8, 2013 at 9:30 am — Reply

    I personally tend to agree with every little thing that ended up being authored in “My Child has Cancer: What Do I say?
    – My Heart Your Hands”. I am grateful for all of the actual information.
    Many thanks,Robt

  2. Stephanie Green

    January 13, 2014 at 11:44 am — Reply

    Out of the whole cancer experience with my son, I would say the hardest part for me was telling him and his 3 brothers. The most powerful words of wisdom I received were 1. They do not have all of the fears that you have because you’re an adult. Don’t put all your fears onto them. 2. Believe in the possibility that they will do great and get better. I couldn’t get myself to say “he’ll be fine” because in my heart I knew there was a chance for him not too…. But I could believe in the possibility!! Even 5% survival has to be someone! It kept me positive throughout

    • mhyh

      January 14, 2014 at 11:12 am — Reply

      Stephanie,

      Thank you so much for sharing your lived experience with us. The richest counsel comes from those who have been in the trenches.

      Simply
      Stephanie

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