When Mom or Dad Gets Sick

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“Kids and Cancer.”

The question always arises when a parent is diagnosed with cancer or some other degenerative disease;  what do I/we tell the children?

I can speak first hand on the subject, as a bone cancer survivor.  When I was diagnosed, I had a five year old daughter in kindergarten and a newborn who was birthed approximately a month before my diagnosis.  In my scenario, my children were young, and it makes things a lot different than if you were to have teens or tweens.  The baby obviously was oblivious to the whole situation, so life went on as normal for him.  The five year old on the other hand, was as acutely aware of the situation as the baby was oblivious.  She knew there was something wrong with her daddy, but really didn’t understand what cancer was or what was happening in daddy’s life; and why should she!

We found that even through the tough times, keeping a spirit of optimism up when in front of young children can do wonders for their and your morale.  I remember being in the hospital doing a round of chemotherapy, and my daughter dancing in with coloring in hand as happy as a lark to see her daddy.  Daddy was looking pretty rough during this period, with no hair and a skeletal figure.  It didn’t phase the little one.

My take home message on illness and young children would be to try to keep things as normal as possible around the house while all of this is going on.  I think children of cancer parents tend to grow up faster and assume more duties and responsibilities than perhaps other children might.  Our daughter spent a lot of time, for example, with the newborn baby, helping feed and change him.

Cancer and other degenerative diseases can have a terrible affect on a family if you let it.  Do you best to keep the norm and keep fighting on!