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Your Child Is Diagnosed with Cancer, What Next? Role of Caretakers in Pediatric Oncology

By Dr. Krutika Goel in Paediatric (Ped) Oncology

Oct 06 , 2023 | 2 min read

Having a child or a loved one diagnosed with cancer is a life-changing and emotionally isolating event. There is an influx of new information and terminologies every day, yet you are expected to absorb it all instantly. September is observed as childhood cancer awareness month internationally. The theme this year is: "through their hands", as an endeavour to recognize the hard work and travails faced by the immediate caretakers of the child.

Who Is the Caretaker of a Child?

The parents, grandparents, family members, oncology nurses and paediatric oncology specialists can comprise the caretakers of children. Childhood cancer comes with its unique challenges distinctive to the caretakers. In the process, it is essential to recognize the determination and the spirit of the child going through the ailment. It takes tremendous willpower from their end to endure the process, too.

As a Caregiver of a Child with Cancer, What Can You Do?

  1. Ask your doctor for an exclusive meeting where you are prepared with a questionnaire. What must this questionnaire contain?
    • What is the nature of your child's disease?
    • What is the stage of the disease?
    • What are the treatment options available to you? Chemotherapy/ radiation therapy/ surgery/ targeted therapy/ immunotherapy or a combination of these.
    • What are the implications of the treatment for your child regarding short-term and long-term side effects (effect on fertility, immunity, susceptibility to infections)?
    • Are you expecting an adjustment/loss of school days?
    • To what extent do you need to garner the support of your family members?
    • What precautions do you need to take at home?
    • Are there any special nutritional considerations?
  2. Empower yourself with information about your diagnosis in a language you understand.
  3. Ask for the support of a psychologist/counsellor in the institute you seek care from.
  4. Understand and give yourself the grace to identify that you are in an unusually stressful situation. It's alright not to have all the answers.
  5. Outsource the duties you juggle daily to people you can trust them with. You do not have to do it all.
  6. Engage in art and play therapy - for yourself and your child. Science has proven that your brain has the capacity to retain the "feel-good feeling" with the "feel-good activity" you used to like. Pick up a long-lost hobby and dedicate some of your day to it.
  7. Join support groups - Contrary to what you may believe, you are not alone. Connect with families of children going through the same challenge as you.
  8. Appreciate the fact that a cure is possible - The medical community is intensifying its efforts towards improving outcomes of children with cancer. Visualize your family's future as cancer-free because the wheels are already in motion.

Check out - Cancers in Children: What Can You Do to Prevent Them?

Managing childhood cancers requires immense commitment, courage, resilience and grit. In this challenging journey, your treating oncology team supports you with their knowledge and compassion to cure your child and give them a bright future and a normal, healthy life.