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)?
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.