Having your child diagnosed with cancer is shocking, devastating, and probably the most painful reality for any parent to accept. Your whole world rips apart, and you begin to fear the worst. What’s more, you have an idea where this could lead, and you are too scared to ask.
It is a normal reaction for parents to receive their child’s cancer diagnosis with shock. A parent may feel anxious, experience a lack of appetite, and even suffer from a lack of sleep. For a few days, he or she will be in denial. How could this happen to my child?
Denial is a necessary stage of grieving, which protects you from dealing with the overwhelming event all at once. However, denial becomes unhealthy, when it makes a parent live in a false reality, which delays the child from getting needed medical treatment.
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After denial comes anger, you become angry about the situation, once you face the reality of your child’s cancer diagnosis. In the anger and sadness, you begin to question why things had to happen that way, and you try to search for answers to your questions.
Often times, parents search for something they may have done that contributed to cancer in their child. However, you need to understand that it is not your fault, and that you did not do anything to cause your child to develop cancer.
When parents know for sure that their child is combating cancer, they may sink into depression and have difficulty focusing on simple everyday activities. Parents may also have a constant fear that someone else in the family will also get cancer. In such moments, a parent may need to seek professional healthcare assistance.
While most parents find strength in religious beliefs or spiritual practices, a parent can also find strength in therapeutic exercises, like writing down his or her feelings about his or her child’s condition. As time goes by, you will be able to look back and see that you are moving forward even though it may not feel like it.
Additionally, you can learn about cancer treatments, to be more informed about the type of cancer your child has, and the expected length of treatment. According to the American Cancer Society, parents can cope and begin to plan for the future, by understanding the plan for treatment, and the possible impact the treatment could have on their child’s daily life. Likewise, a parent can request the medical team to focus on instructing what he or she needs to know to care for his or her child at home.
Afterward, you may have to change your priorities and create a new normal. That means that your family will have to develop new routines around your child’s treatment, while leaving some of the things such as dinnertime, to remain the same. Know that creating new habits will require time for your family to adjust.
Joining a support group in your area can help you meet other families who are going through a similar experience. Their experience will help you learn, that their emotions also go up and down a lot during the days and weeks following the diagnosis. In that way, you will understand your own feelings better, even as your emotions continue to change over time.
Also, do not be afraid to ask for help with picking your children up from school or getting groceries. Receiving support from your family members and friends makes them feel like they are contributing positively to the situation.
Look after yourself by eating and sleeping well, working out if possible, and taking regular breaks to deal with any health problems. Continue seeing your friends and being part of social activities, to help keep up with your usual interests as often as you can, and if your energy allows you. Take a break from cancer and its treatment occasionally.
Finally, share what you have learned, through your experience with your child’s treatment, and help other families cope with their situations. Hazel’s mother, in the movie, The Fault in Our Stars, deals with pain in different ways. First, she hangs around Hazel, caring for all her daughter’s needs, but also studies secretly to become a social worker, so that in the future, she can help other families in similar crises.