Children’s questions don’t necessarily stop once treatment finishes. This is a period of adjustment for the whole family, and open and honest communication is as important as ever. The suggestions below may help you answer some of the questions that come up.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s okay to explain that you will need to find out. You can ask your treatment team, call Cancer Council 13 11 20, or read more about life after cancer treatment.
Answering key questions
Consider our examples of answers below and think about how you might respond if your child asks you these questions once cancer treatment has finished.
Q. Will the cancer come back?
You probably wish you could tell your children that everything will be fine now, but the uncertainty of cancer lasts long after treatment is over. As well as giving a positive message, this may be a chance to listen to your child’s concerns about “What if?” Allowing a child to talk about their fears and concerns is important in helping them cope.
A. “The treatment is over and we all hope that will be the end of it. We hope that the cancer won’t come back, but the doctors will keep a careful eye on me. I will need to have check-ups every now and then. If the cancer does come back, we’ll let you know.”
Q. Why are you still tired?
Cancer survivors often feel tired for many months after treatment. This can be hard for kids who want their energetic mum or dad back.
A. “I’m feeling a lot better, but the doctor said it might take many months, even a year, to get all my energy back.”
“The treatment was worth it because now I’m better and the cancer has gone away, but it took a lot out of me and now my body needs time to recover. This is normal for people in my situation.”
Q. Can’t we get back to normal now?
You may need to take some time to process the ways that cancer has affected you, but this will probably be difficult for children, particularly younger ones, to understand. It may be helpful to explain that not everything will be the same as it was before, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Your new normal could actually offer some benefits.
Many people who’ve had cancer can see positive outcomes from the experience, and it may help to highlight these to the kids.
A. “Things will start to get more like normal as I feel better, but there may be some changes to the way we do things, like … [the way we eat/how much I go to work/how much time we spend together as a family]. Maybe we can also find some new hobbies to do together.”
“We’ve all been through a lot and I know it’s been hard for you too. Things might not get back to exactly how they were before I got sick, but together we can find a new way that works for all of us.”