Answering key questions about diagnosis

Following are possible answers to challenging questions that your children may ask you about your cancer diagnosis:

Q: Are you going to die?

This is the question that most parents fear, but often it doesn’t mean what you think. For example, younger children may really mean “Who is going to look after me?” Older children may be wondering, “Can we still go away during the school holidays?”

Try to explore the question by asking, “Do you have something in particular you’re worried about?” or “What were you thinking about?” You can explain that treatments are improving constantly. If your child knows someone who has died, let them know that there are many different types of cancer and everyone responds differently.

A: “We don’t expect that to happen, but I will probably be sick for a while. Sometimes it makes me sad, and I wonder if you get sad too.”


Q: Was it my fault?

Some children may ask you directly if they caused the cancer, while others worry in silence, so it’s best to discuss the issue.

A: “It’s no-one’s fault I have cancer. Scientists don’t know exactly why some people get cancer, but they do know that it isn’t anything you did or said that made me sick.”

“You did not cause this cancer. There is nothing you could have said or done that would cause someone to have this illness.”


Q: Can I catch cancer?

A common misconception for many children (and some adults) is that cancer can spread from person to person (contagious). This belief may be reinforced because when patients have chemotherapy they need to avoid contact with people who are sick. This is to protect the person with cancer from picking up infections, not to protect everyone else.

A: “You can’t catch cancer like you can catch a cold by being around someone who has it, so it’s okay to hug or kiss me even though I’m sick.”

“Cancer can spread through the body of a person with cancer, but it can’t spread to another person.”


Q: Who will look after me?

When family routines change, it’s important for children to know how it will affect their lives: who will look after them, who will pick them up from school, and how roles will change. Try to give them as much detail as possible about changes so they know what to expect. For older children, it’s worth asking them what arrangements they’d prefer.

A: “We will try to keep things as normal as possible, but sometimes I may have to ask Dad/Mum/Grandpa to help out.”


Q: Do I have to tell other people about it?

Your children may not know who to tell about the cancer or what to say. They may not want to say anything at all. It helps to explore their feelings about talking to others.

If you’re planning to inform teachers, or the school counsellor or principal, talk to your kids first. Teenagers and even younger children may be reluctant for the school to know, so explain the benefits of telling the school and then chat about the best way to approach the discussion. Ask if your teenagers want to be involved in talking to key teachers or the principal with you – this way they are part of the agreement made with the school.

A: “You can tell your friends if you want to, but you don’t have to. People we know may talk about the diagnosis, so your friends might hear even if you don’t tell them. Many people find it helps to talk about the things that are on their mind.”

“Do you worry about how your friends will react or treat you?”

“I need to let your teachers know so they understand what’s happening at home. We can talk about who to tell and how much we should say.”


Q: Is there anything I can do to help?

Answering this question can be a delicate balance. Letting kids know that they can help may make them feel useful, but it’s important that they don’t feel overwhelmed with responsibility. Some parents may feel hurt if their children don’t ask how they can help, but it’s common for children not to think to offer.

A: “Yes, there are lots of things you can do to help. We will work out what those things can be, and what will make things easier for everyone. Is there something in particular you would like to do?”

“Some help around the house would be good, but it’s important that you keep up with your schoolwork and you have some time for fun and for seeing your friends.”

Thinking the worst

“When I was 14, Dad developed a bad cough. I remember sitting in my older sister’s lounge room on a Sunday afternoon. Dad was coughing. I knew they were going to tell us something because they were sitting down.

Dad just told us straight: “I have cancer.” Mum tried to sugar-coat it and said there were things they could do, but I was thinking the worst. It’s the great fear – death and dying – and I just thought, “He’s going to die.” I wanted to run. I wanted to do something. I thought if I could just do something, that would change it. I joined CanTeen the next day.

Right from the start, Dad said, “I might be the one with cancer, but you are going to be affected by it, so we will make decisions as a family. We’re going to fight this – one in, all in.”

Izzy, 15-year-old whose father had cancer


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The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
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Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
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Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in December 2018
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