Parents of Children with Cancer have to face the unthinkable – a fight for their child’s life before that child has even had a chance to really live. Watching your child suffer the horrors of treatment in order to have a chance at life is something no parent should ever have to experience.
No matter what problems you think you may have faced; there is nothing as stressful or heartbreaking as having to deal with the fact that your little baby (they are always “your little baby” no matter how old they are) has a deadly disease and may die.
The diagnosis of cancer in a child or teenager can be a devastating blow to parents and other family members. Cancer creates an instant crisis in the family.
We here at the Little Fighters Cancer Trust are all too familiar with the immense amount of emotional, physical, psychological and financial stress that accompany a diagnosis of Childhood Cancer.
We have seen firsthand how some families manage to pull together and become stronger; unfortunately we have also see how families have buckled under the constant pressure and stress, especially the financial stress and shattered apart.
Today’s post will concentrate on giving some advice and support to the parents of Children with Cancer.
On even the most stressful days,
Magic is still sitting quietly in the corner,
Waiting to be noticed.
~ Dr. SunWolf ~
Keeping Relationships Strong
When there is a Child with Cancer in the household, relationships become strained and under pressure, and the stress of it all can cause couples to grow apart. This need not necessarily be so though – many marriages grow stronger during this time. Working to keep your marriage strong can also help your children.
Here is some sage advice that will help:
- Keep Lines of Communication Open: Talk about how you each deal best with stress. Make time to connect, even when time is limited.
- Make time for Each-other: Even a quick call, text message, or handwritten note to your spouse and other children can go a long way to making their day a good one.
- Respect Your Spouse’s Way of Coping: Couples often have different coping strategies. If your spouse or partner does not seem as distraught as you, it does not mean he or she is suffering any less than you are.
- Share the Burden: Both parents need time off, to just relax and de-stress a bit, and this can only be done if they take turns in looking after the sick child and let the other one get some sleep or read a book, go for a run or whatever.
Courage does not always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day
saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
~ Mary Anne Radmacher ~
Research shows that help from others strengthens and encourages your child and your family. Let others help during this difficult time. Sometimes you may feel that getting help is more of a bother as even though family and friends may want to assist, they might not know what you need. This problem is easily resolved though by letting them know exactly what help you require.
You may also want to:
- Find an easy way to update family and friends: Keeping everyone who is interested updated with everything can be stressful and you will not always have the time or strength for long phone calls or visits. Using a social media site to update people and organise help from people in your community can mean a short update whenever you can (this can also be cathartic)and a welcome relief from the constant enquiries.
- Join a Support Group: Joining a support group means being able to share and get advice from others who are or have been in the same position as you are so they understand! Some groups meet in person and others meet online – choose whichever suits you best. Many parents have said that they have benefited greatly from the experiences and information shared by other parents.
- Seek Professional Help: If you are not sleeping well or are depressed, talk with your primary care doctor or people on your child’s health care team. Ask them to recommend a mental health specialist such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, or social worker. This is not a sign of weakness, this is looking after yourself so that you can better cope with the stress of helping your child to overcome this devastating illness.
- Tell People How They Can Help: As mentioned previously, many people will want to help but have no idea what to do and are too shy to ask in case they upset or offend you in some way. Make it easier for them by making a list of things that you need done and which will help you and your family, such as cooking a meal that you can just heat up; cleaning or organising someone to help you with the housework; going to the shops; or driving your other children to and from school or extramural activities.
A field that has rested
Gives a bountiful crop.
~ Ovid ~
Make Time to Renew Your Mind and Body
Most parents put their own needs on the back burner when they have a Child with Cancer, but this is not the wisest move. It is important to take time for yourself so you have the energy to care for your child.
Pamper & De-stress Yourself by:
- Fill Waiting Time: There will be times that you will just be sitting waiting in your child’s room at home or in the hospital; when they may be sleeping but you still need to be nearby. Use this time to de-stress by picking a few activities that you enjoy and can do in your child’s room such as playing a game, reading a book or magazine, writing, or listening to music.
- Relax & Lower Stress Levels: A hobby that you enjoy can help you to relax and lower your stress levels – make time to practice your hobby, even if it is just for short periods. Some parents also find it good to take up something like a yoga or deep-breathing class at the hospital; others enjoy getting out into nature, walking a maze or going for a swim. Choose whichever method of relaxation suits you and make time for it at least 2-3 times per week.
- Stay Physically Active: Staying physically active will help to keep you calm and will also help you sleep better. If you walked or jogged, played a sport or went to the gym before, do not stop doing that – your body and mind need it! Even if you were a bit of a couch potato, going for a walk, working out to an exercise video or even just walking up and down stairs at the hospital or at home will help.
Remember, Being Strong does not mean that you have to do it all by yourself; sometimes Being Strong means knowing that you need help and having the Courage to ask for it – you will be surprised at how many people are just waiting for you to ask!
“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind,
Some come from ahead and some come from behind,
But I’ve bought a big bat; I’m all ready you see,
Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”
~ Dr. Seuss ~