Childhood cancer: how to deal with this reality

Long-term recovery is possible in more than two thirds of children with cancer. Here are a few tips in dealing with this ordeal.

A cancer diagnosis in a child has a bombshell effect on a family. Some parents feel so powerless and overwhelmed by events that they say they are paralyzed by the situation. It is common to go through a whole range of emotions: anger, sadness, anxiety and guilt. There are several resources available to help you get through this ordeal. 

How can you accept the unacceptable?

The grave illness of a child is difficult physically and psychologically for both the child, and of course, for the family. Therefore, family members should not hesitate to reach out for help to get through this period as smoothly as possible. The first thing to do in this type of situation, is undoubtedly to seek comfort from loved ones. Take the time to express what you are going through. You can also connect with support groups to exchange with other parents going through similar situations. 

Psychologists and social workers can also be of valuable assistance. The two have different approaches, but they can help the child and the parents to preserve their energy and motivation throughout treatment. They can provide support and tools to reduce anxiety and sadness, and promote acceptance. Some of them work more with children or people with cancer, and have developed an expertise in these fields. Inquire about the resources available in your community (for your child, for you, or for other family members).

How to prepare for appointments with the treating team

  • Don’t go to appointments alone. You will be provided with a lot of information and the appointment will likely be emotionally charged. Therefore, it will be easier to understand and retain information with two people present.
  • Take notes during appointments with the doctor or other members of the treating team (i.e., nurse, pharmacist).
  • Prepare your appointments by writing down ahead of time what you have noticed about your child’s health. Additionally, write down the questions you’d like to ask the treating team.
  • If you don’t understand everything that has been explained during an appointment, ask that the information be repeated or that it be presented a different way. Certain elements are important for a successful treatment. Don’t hesitate to ask all of your questions to ensure its success.
  • Speak to the care team about your fears and concerns. They can reassure you and give you useful information.
  • Remember that as parents, you know your child best. Report any changes to their health, however minor.

Drugs and treatments: your pharmacist can help

Your child will undoubtedly have treatments or drugs to take. The pharmacist will provide information on how they should be taken. They will indicate the primary side effects to watch out for. If you have questions about the drugs, ask your pharmacist. Afterwards, if you have forgotten some information or if you are unable to follow the pharmacist’s instructions, it is preferable to check back with them. Make sure you have the complete list of medications that your child is taking or must take, as well as their weight. Don’t give any medication (whether or not it is prescribed) or natural product without first speaking to your pharmacist.

Eat well to get well

Chemotherapy treatments can affect appetite, leave a bad taste in the mouth or cause nausea and vomiting. Nutritional advice can help to limit some of this unpleasantness. A healthy diet is necessary to get the nutrients and the energy needed for the recovery process.

Don’t hesitate to ask for help to prepare meals. Accompanying your child to their treatments is demanding and you may find it difficult to prepare healthy balanced meals. The advice of a nutritionist can also be beneficial to make the best food choices.

Physical exercise during treatments

Physical exercise, even during treatments, can be beneficial for your child. Ask the oncologist or pediatrician to help you choose the physical exercise your child can do, according to their health. They may recommend seeing a kinesiologist, who specializes in movement and physical exercise.

It is difficult to accept that a child has cancer. That said, it is possible to get through this ordeal by being better informed and having access to resources. Don’t hesitate to accept help from others. Speak to your pharmacist if you have any questions about medication. They will be able to guide you and direct you to the resources in your community.

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Childhood cancer: how to deal with this reality

It is a known fact that cancer is not discriminatory. When it involves our own child, the mere mention of the word makes our head spin. When it becomes a reality that must be faced, it’s normal to be plagued by questions and concerns. When this occurs, it is crucial to get support and to turn to the best available resources.
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