If your child is the patient, he or she will inevitably ask you questions about their cancer.
You may feel at a loss as to how to answer their questions in a way that is honest but also puts them at ease. The important thing is to not ignore their questions or tell them not to ‘think about it’. By directly addressing their questions in a gentle and straightforward manner, you will help reassure them and allay their fears.
Here are some questions your child may ask you about their cancer and some helpful ways you can answer them:
Q: Why do I have cancer?
A: No one knows why some people get cancer and others don’t, but what we do know for sure is that cancer is not your fault and it’s not because you’re a bad person. Cancer can happen to absolutely anyone. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re a boy or a girl, if you’re good or bad, or if you’re old or young.
Q: Will I get better?
A: We are fighting your disease with everything we have, and God willing you will get better. All the doctors and nurses at this hospital are doing everything they possibly can to help you get better.
Q: Will this happen to me? (Your child may ask this if they see other children at the hospital at various stages of treatment. For example, they may see some children losing their hair and wonder if the same thing will happen to them.)
A: It may or may not happen. Everyone responds to treatment differently and we won’t know for sure how you will respond until you reach that stage of treatment. And even if it does, you don’t have to face it alone. We will be right next to you, taking care of you every step of the way.
Q: Why do I have to still take this medicine? I don’t feel sick anymore. (Your child may ask this question when they get frustrated and feel that treatment is taking too long.)
A: We have to make sure that we find and get rid of all the bad cells in your body. The medicine doesn’t kill them all at once, so we have to keep giving you medicine until we’re sure that there aren’t any bad cells left.
Q: What do I tell my friends at school?
A: Tell them that you’re not feeling well at the moment and that it might take a while to get better. Also tell them that even though you’re ill, you’re not contagious. If you would like me to come and explain to your class of friends at school in more detail, I would be more than happy to do that. Or if you want to do that yourself, then I will come with you if you like and fully support you.
Q: If you were in my place, what would you do?
A: I would feel the same way you are feeling now, and I would hurt like you are hurting. I would take advantage of every opportunity to get better and I will not be afraid to ask for any help. I also think that you’re brave enough and strong enough to handle this.
Other ways to help children cope with their cancer more effectively:
Tell them their cancer is not a punishment
- Make sure your child knows that their cancer is not a punishment in any way.
Be honest and straightforward
- Tell them about what they might go through in terms of treatment and what the side effects might be
- If you don’t know how to answer a question, be truthful and admit that you don’t know instead of making something up.
Encourage your child to talk
- Regularly ask your child what they’re thinking or if there’s anything they are afraid of or worried about
- Encourage your child to express him or herself and reassure them that it’s okay to cry and that there is no shame in admitting that they’re scared.
Encourage your child to play
- Let them express themselves by drawing, writing, acting, singing, or playing.
Keep them connected to their friends and the outside world
- Make sure your child stays in contact with his or her friends.
- Make sure that your child stays connected to school.