If you’ve received a diagnosis of cancer, your family will serve as the anchors of your support system. But should that include the younger members? Here are some helpful suggestions for sharing the news with grandchildren.
What Do I Tell Them?
• Before any decisions are made, consult with your children and their spouses. They have the ultimate responsibility of raising their kids, so they should have the ultimate approval over what they are told along with when and where.
• Formulate the content of your discussion based on the child’s point of view. Depending on age, he or she may not even know what cancer is, let alone have any frame of reference for it.
• Children are naturally self-centered, but not in a bad way. They simply don’t have the life experience to think outside of themselves. While they will be concerned for you, be prepared to assure them that their life will go on as normal.
Do I HAVE to Tell Them?
Children are more intuitive than most people think. If they sense that something’s wrong, lack of knowledge will frighten them more than the truth. It’s also better that they learn from you rather than from an outside source which may be misinformed.
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Change is difficult. Even change for the better can be unsettling and spark feelings of anxiety. But we must change to our adapting situations or we will lose control of our lives and our future. It is important to understand that as you begin moving beyond cancer treatment. This is why Issels® Integrative Immuno-Oncology uses individualized immunotherapy treatment protocols. How you respond to treatment and transition to a new normal depends largely on your diagnosis and predisposition.
The National Cancer Institute has a very helpful 36 page booklet to help anyone adjust to the effects of cancer treatment and the changes in lifestyle. It also has some very helpful information for caregivers who will need to prepare themselves for how their level of involvement will change.
Those TV shows that always solve the mystery by the episode conclusion and wrap up all loose ends are written that way for a reason. People want things to have a predictable and logical outcome. But as cancer survivor, you will not be able to resume your previous level of activity right away. Do not try to make up for lost time or take on too much. Keep the following tips in mind:
Be open and honest about your feelings and capabilities
Be realistic with the goals your set for yourself
Talk to your doctor about feelings of anxiety or depression
Schedule time for yourself to appreciate the life you have
Find ways that friends and family can help you and let them know they are appreciated
Contact Issels® for more information on your treatment options and how we help patients get the most out of life.
Naturally, you to want to protect your children from bad news. The instinct to shelter them may make you reluctant to tell them about your cancer; however, it is best that you do. It will be difficult to continue hiding it and children are often able to sense when something is wrong. They may be more worried if they feel that important news is being kept from them.
Explain the Illness
Find a time where you will not be interrupted or distracted. Younger children will not need as much detail as older ones; too much information may confuse and distress them. Phrase answers to questions so that each child will be able to understand. Children up to age eight may be given a short explanation. Tell them that cancer means a part of your body that is not doing what it is supposed to do. There are bad cells in your body that can spread, so they need to be kept from growing or to be removed.
Prepare for reactions such as the child thinking that they caused the cancer (“magical thinking”) or that it is contagious. You may have to explain that cancer cannot be transmitted to them or the other parent.
For older children, name the illness so that they do not misunderstand. They may need a more detailed explanation and may ask questions about your specific type of cancer. If they have more information, they are less likely to feel helpless.
Explain to the child that there are treatments available that can help and that it is much rarer for people to die from cancer than it used to be.