- Cancer Information
- Family and friends
- Talking to kids about cancer
- Talking: Treatment
- Answering key questions about treatment
Answering key questions about treatment
Here are some possible answers to challenging questions that your kids might ask you about your cancer treatment.
Q: Is it going to hurt?
Many children – and adults – worry about cancer pain. Cancer doesn’t always cause pain, and if it does, the pain can be relieved or reduced.
A: “Cancer doesn’t always hurt, but if I have pain, the doctors will give me medicine to help make it go away.”
Q: Why do you look so sick when the doctors are meant to be fixing you?
Often people who have cancer look perfectly well when diagnosed. It’s only when they have treatment and the side effects kick in that they start to look sick. This can be hard to understand.
A: “The doctors are using strong medicine to kill the cancer, but the medicine affects good cells as well as cancer cells. Some days I will feel and look sick, but this doesn’t mean the cancer is getting worse. I will start to feel better when treatment finishes.”
Q: Will your hair come back?
Hair loss can be upsetting for you and your children, so it can help if the family knows what to expect and what you might do about it.
A: “The doctor says I may lose my hair because of the chemotherapy. It will come back but probably will look a bit different, especially at first. I can wear wigs, scarves or hats until it grows back.”
Q: Does radiation therapy make you radioactive?
A common fear among children is that they can become radioactive by touching you after radiation therapy. With most types of radiation therapy, this is not possible. Your doctor will tell you if you need to take any precautions.
A: “Radiation therapy is like an x-ray. It doesn’t hurt. It’s safe to touch me.”
Q: Why do you need to rest so much?
Children often can’t understand the exhaustion you may feel after treatment. They may resent you not doing as much with them.
A: “The operation/treatment I’m having has made me tired and I need to rest a lot so my body can recover and get better. Why don’t we make a plan for where we’ll go or what we’ll do on a day I have more energy? Perhaps today we can do something quiet together like watch a movie.”
I turned my yuck chemo days into “treat” time for the kids and me. We’d pick out some movies the day before chemo. After school, the kids would come into my room and we’d watch the videos. I didn’t take much in and often dozed, but at least we were all together. It made the times very special and something positive in the midst of all the awful treatment.
Anna, mother of two children aged 9 and 13
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
We thank the reviewers of this book: Professor Kate White, Chair of Nursing, The University of Sydney, NSW; Sarah Ellis, Psychologist, Behavioural Sciences Unit, Kids with Cancer Foundation, Sydney Children’s Hospital, NSW; Kate Fernandez, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA; Chandra Franken, Program Manager – NSW & ACT, Starlight Children’s Foundation, NSW; John Friedsam, General Manager of Divisions, CanTeen, NSW; Keely Gordon-King, Cancer Counselling Psychologist, Cancer Council Queensland; Stephanie Konings, Research Officer, CanTeen, NSW; Sally and Rosie Morgan, Consumers; Dr Pandora Patterson, General Manager, Research and Youth Cancer Services, Canteen, and Adjunct Associate Professor, Cancer Nursing Research Unit, The University of Sydney, NSW and Visiting Professor, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Coventry University, UK; Suzanne Rumi, Consumer; Michael Sieders, Primary School Program Manager, Camp Quality.
We would also like to thank the health professionals, consumers, organisations and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title, and we are grateful to the parents and young people whose real-life stories have added to the richness and relevance of this book.
We thank and acknowledge Dr Paula K. Rauch, MD, Founding Director, Marjorie E. Korff PACT (Parenting At a Challenging Time) Program and Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, whose research and writing on helping parents talk to their children about cancer was used as source material for this book and has been adapted in several sections: pages 8 -11, Different views of cancer; page 24, Answering key questions: Are you going to die?; pages 26 -27, Involving the school or preschool; pages 30 -31, Prepare for hospital and treatment centre visits; and page 37, Encouraging family time. We also thank the American Cancer Society for permission to use and adapt material on pages 8 -11 from its book Cancer in Our Family: Helping children cope with a parent’s illness (2013); Macmillan Cancer Support for permission to use its book Talking to Children and Teenagers When an Adult Has Cancer (2013) as a source of information; Jessica Watt, Oncology Social Worker, Children’s Hospital Westmead, for her contribution on page 18, When another child has cancer; Diane McGeachy, Hobart Counselling Centre, for contributing material for page 38, Spending one-on-one time; and Dr Ranjana Srivastava, and The Guardian for permission to adapt €œHow do you tell your children you have cancer? €_x009d_, on pages 21 and 47 – full story is available at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/29/how-do-you-tell-your-children-you-have-cancer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.