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 Cancer

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Coping Skills

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 roller coaster.
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 be loving.

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 meal, etc.

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) 956-9990.

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.
 

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