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Photo credit: K. Lundblad

Photo credit: K. Lundblad

Being a parent on a good day can be challenging. Being a parent and living with cancer can be a whole different story…

Hearing the words you have cancer is scary, and often shocking. There are so many questions: what is my stage/prognosis; what treatments will I need; will I be able to work/do my daily tasks; will I survive. When you are a parent there are even more questions: do I tell my children, and if I do, what will their questions be; how are their lives going to be affected; how do I create normalcy during this difficult time; will they be scared; will they think I’m going to die? These are just some of the added questions and concerns that parents face in the wake of a cancer diagnosis.

Being a parent comes with a lot of responsibility. Taking care of our children and protecting them are top priorities. For a parent living with cancer, these everyday responsibilities are often an added stress and worry.

Children cope better when they are told that their parent has a cancer diagnosis. Kids know when something is wrong, and when they don’t know what it is, they often assume the worst. It is important to talk to your children, in age appropriate ways, about your diagnosis. Prepare them for what to expect (treatments and possible side effects such as hair loss, fatigue, nausea), and let them know that cancer is not contagious and that they did nothing to cause your cancer. These are common concerns that children have and often difficult for them to verbalize. (See links below on how to talk to your children.)

Asking for help is difficult for most of us, and when facing a serious illness, help becomes an essential part of taking (good) care of yourself. Now add children to the mix, and help becomes a must. Reaching out to people for support can be hard, but your children will do better emotionally when their routines and schedules can stay intact.

You do not have to go through this experience alone. There are many resources available to parents living with cancer. Check below for a list of resources.

I look forward to hearing your experiences as a parent living with cancer. What has been helpful? What has not been helpful? What do you wish you had known? Has cancer changed you as a parent (how or how not)?

Warmly,
Stephanie

 

Articles On How To Talk To Your Children About Your Cancer

Resources For Parents Living With Cancer


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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Photo by: K. Lundblad

Photo by: K. Lundblad

As an oncology social worker, I feel fortunate that I love my work and that I’m always learning. During my breast cancer support group this week, a group member shared a different perspective that shifted my thinking on a particular topic.

Our group discussion turned to well-meaning things people say (a.k.a. sayings which are often annoying and/or off-putting). One group member shared that she doesn’t like when people say to her “you’re so strong” or “you’re so brave” or “I don’t think I could go through this experience as well as you are”… or all of the above!

In my groups, this topic has come up countless times. Typically everyone (including me) agrees that these sayings sound patronizing and that they are often said to make the other person feel better… but then another group member shared that she feels differently. She shared that when someone says these words to her, she hears validation. She also hears that she is strong and brave, and that she is handling her situation really well under very difficult circumstances. This member also shared that she hears comments that don’t feel good… but that these comments, being discussed in the group, feel supportive and good to her.

The group and I really appreciated hearing her perspective. She enabled us to see that these comments can be supportive and validating, and not just unwanted sympathy as many of us assume.

How do you feel when someone says to you, you’re so strong; you’re so brave; I don’t think I could go through this experience as well?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and to talking more here.

Warmly,
Stephanie


Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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Photo Credit: K. Lundblad

Photo Credit: K. Lundblad

I was in the waiting room of my dentist’s office, and I happened to see an issue of People Magazine (October 2014). The cover story was titled: “A Terminal Cancer Patient’s Controversial Choice – My Decision to Die.”

On the cover was a picture of a healthy looking young woman. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. The woman at the forefront of this controversial decision is 29-year-old Brittany Maynard. She was diagnosed with a very aggressive malignant brain tumor; her doctors gave her six months to live. After hearing the grim prognosis, Brittany and her family went into overdrive looking for something, anything that could possibly change her situation or help her in some way.

While Brittany was searching for treatments, she discovered articles on death with dignity. Currently, there are five states in the U.S. that have passed “right-to-die” laws. These laws allow people who have a terminal illness to participate actively in their death with prescribed medication from a physician. Brittany believed that it was important for her to have (some) control over her death. She did not want to go through the horrific process of losing her mental and bodily functions, which was imminent. She also wanted to protect her family from what she knew would be an intense continual decline.

After making this big decision she and her family moved to Oregon (a right-to-die state) from California. On November 1, 2014, in the comfort of her home, Brittany died with her family and friends by her side…just the way she wanted.

What thoughts come to mind?

Is this something you have ever thought about…why or why not?

This is a sensitive end-of-life topic and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, however you feel about this issue.

Warmly,

Stephanie

Stephanie Stern, LCSW-C is an oncology social worker and the moderator of The MetaCancer Foundation’s Mosaic Online Support Community.

The MetaCancer Foundation provides information and resources focused on the unique psychological and emotional aspects of living with metastatic cancer. Mosaic is a free online support service for people living with metastatic cancer and their loved ones.

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