by Linda Bewley, outreach coordinator
“You have cancer,” are three words that will turn your world upside down. The moment that diagnosis is given your life changes. Will I live or die? What sort of treatment will I have to have? How sick will I be? How will I care for my family These are just some of the questions that instantly come to mind.
It is a time of huge change, uncertainty and fear. For most of us, sitting down to talk to our kids is not the first thing we think of when we receive this diagnosis. And, when we do think of it, the idea of sitting with our children and trying to make sense out of a disease that we do not understand and are petrified of is intimidating. We are scared—do we dare show this fear to our children who look at us as invincible?
We often assume, incorrectly, that children are too young or too self-absorbed (in the case of tweens and teens) to be overly affected by this diagnosis. WRONG! Children always know—maybe not all, but they do know something has happened and they are immediately affected. Being honest at this time can be painful for you, but telling them from the beginning will allow them to become part of your team.
Speaking from experience, these little people need to be considered right from the get-go. Children are very tuned in to family issues even if they do not make it apparent. They need to be included in this life altering crisis, because it does affect them directly. If they are not, the consequences will come out, usually in a negative way. By letting them become part of your team, they can feel useful by participating in age appropriate actions.
My daughter (6) had her friends help her make a huge welcome home sign and she made me get well cards on a regular basis (which I still have today). My son (10) helped do chores around the house when I was just too tired. Both children suffered from fear at first because I tried to protect them from this family crisis. Once I was honest with them, all of us were able to function as a team and reestablish the bond of trust that had been broken. Let your children be there for you as you are for them.
Communication is the key, no matter what the age. Children have the right to know what is going on. That knowledge is their right and also their greatest need. Always be open and honest and encourage them to ask questions. Trying to protect your children from the unpleasant truths will only make them distrustful. The most important thing at this time is for them to trust the two most important people in their lives—the parent that is sick and the parent that is there to continue to care for them.
Following is a list of books that might prove helpful if you find yourself in this situation:
Can I Still Kiss you? By Neil Russell; How to Help Children Through a Parent’s Serious Illness, by Kathleen McCue; Mira’s Month, by Deborah Weinstein-Stern; Vanishing Cookies, by Dr. Michelle B. Goodman; internet article entitled “Teen Views: How to Cope with a Sick Parent”, by Virginia Allen
Great post on LIVESTRONG’s blog by president elect of the Association of Oncology Social Workers. She addresses the question: Who needs an OSW, anyway?
Read it HERE.
by Gail Hamm, program director
Cancer Services’ Client Advocates often hear this lament from a new client: “I wish I had heard about you sooner!” Of course we think we are doing everything the get the word out…news releases, Facebook, Twitter, Friends for Lunch, the Cancer Services’ website, brochures and folders at treatment centers, community presentations, etc. But these messages are not enough. We need your help to bring people to Cancer Services sooner.
People are amazed by all the items in our warehouse. Whether a camisole for a client about to have a mastectomy, gauze bandages for a wound, a hospital bed to allow a patient to sleep in an elevated position…all the services at Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana are here to make the lives of people with cancer and their families better.
In addition, clients in any stage of their cancer find that support groups are very helpful. Both clients and caregivers benefit from being able to talk with others to find out what to expect before, during and after treatment.
Most people believe that they have plenty of support from family, friends and their faith community. But Cancer Services is unique. Where else, in one place, can you find no-charge 1-on-1 emotional support from advocates, financial assistance, information about community and national resources, medical equipment and supplies, library, wig salon, massage, exercise, support groups and educational workshops?
So tell your friends and neighbors. Spread the word. Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana is the first place to go to after a diagnosis of cancer!
Cancer Survivor, Mother and local business owner Kim Richards invited our Development Director Amber Recker on her Mom2Mom radio show to talk about how cancer affects the entire family and the services offered here to help. Listen HERE.