Having a child diagnosed with cancer is one of the most difficult and heartbreaking challenges a family will ever endure. A child’s prognosis is often dependent upon early diagnosis and a well-informed treatment plan. Following are three steps that a family should take after their child has been diagnosed with cancer.
1- Get Support for the Family
Having a child diagnosed with cancer is life-changing, not only for the child but for the family as well. It is crucial to have a strong support system to help out during this challenging time. Caretakers should reach out to friends, other family members, and resources within the community in order to ensure that they are surrounded by a supportive group of people who can understand what they are going through.
Another important facet of this support system is to enlist the help of family and friends who can help take care of errands, household chores, and childcare duties while parents are taking the sick child to doctor appointments and treatment centers. Many times when a child is diagnosed with cancer much of the resulting stress stems from worry about who will help take care of the daily tasks and responsibilities that must still be attended to. By reaching out proactively and seeking community support, the family will be better equipped to help their child as they undergo treatment.
2- Ensure the Diagnosis is Accurate
It’s crucially important to ensure the cancer diagnosis is accurate by having second opinions and by having diagnosis tests performed to ensure the diagnosis is correct. Receiving an inaccurate diagnosis can severely impact the course of treatment as well as the likelihood of a favorable outcome for the child. Parents should consider pursuing a second opinion in order to confirm the type of cancer their child is diagnosed with because the longer it takes to start the correct treatment protocol, it lowers the chances of receiving the most effective course of treatment and the best chances of remission.
3- Explain the Cancer Diagnosis to the Child
Many parents struggle with the task of explaining a cancer diagnosis to their child. In this situation, it’s always wise to seek help from a trained social worker or counselor in order to explain their situation in a way that they can comprehend, without causing undue fear or stress. While a cancer diagnosis is extremely scary, a young child may not need to know all the details of their specific diagnosis or prognosis. Then again, a parent knows their child best, and will know what is and is not too much information for their child to process.
Younger children may be satisfied with basic answers to their questions, while older children and teenagers will often yearn for as much information as possible. Children are often more perceptive than they are given credit for and can pick up on subtle cues that something is wrong. When explaining a cancer diagnosis to a child it is important to stick with the facts, try to remain optimistic, and provide clear answers when possible.