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Helping young kids deal with chemo..advice?

Posts: 80
Joined: Nov 2006

We have 2 kids ages 10 and 8. To be honest, I am very scared about the whole chemo thing. My husband doesn't start until Dec. 13th. I am very concerned how the kids are going to deal with what may happen to my husband because of the chemo. Does anyone out there have younger kids? How did you help them understand and deal with a parent going through chemo? Thanks,

Posts: 64
Joined: Mar 2006

Hi Heather! Thats my name too. I have been on chemo for the past couple of months. I have two children ages 5 and 7. I found that it was more difficult explaining why I was sick than the chemo part. I told the kids that the medicine was going to kill the cancer but that it will make me not feel good for a couple of days. I was able to adjust my anti-throw up meds so I dont get sick like that anymore but the kids know that when I am hooked up to the "machine" that I am not able to play with them or tuck them in or help with homework. They really havent been too upset by my side effects from treatment so far. They seem to be accustomed to it now. My policy with my kids through this whole thing has been to talk talk talk about whats going on. I try to include them as much as I can and let them know what to expect. I tell them every time they ask why I have to go have the medicine that this medicine may make me not feel good for a couple of days but it is going to make me better. I hope this helps some!


Posts: 63
Joined: Nov 2004

Our girls were 8 and 6 at the time of my husband's diagnosis. We told them as much information as they wanted. We included lots of friends (family was not really an option) to help with keeping the schedule for the girls as normal as possible so they did not miss activities. Once everyone adjusted to the chemo schedule, the girls could look at the calendar and get an idea which week we might be able to go to the zoo with my husband and which weeks would be movies at home while he rested on the couch.

The Colon Cancer Alliance just started a weekly on-line chat for families raising young children through CRC. Email me at aclay@ccalliance.org for more details.

lfondots63's picture
Posts: 822
Joined: Jan 2006

Hi Heather,

I have 4 children and 3 of them are younger. Twins (boy and girl)12 and son 11. My oldest daughter is 18yrs. Like the others, I talked to them about it. I told them that the chemo was going to maybe make me sick and very tired. They did a lot to help around the house and take care of me at the time. I think helping me made them feel better too. I also snuggled with them tons to make sure they understood how much I loved them and I did need the TLC to make me feel better. HUGS are a great thing! Also remember that chemo effects everyone differently. I worked through my chemo and still did the shopping and housework. Maybe not as efficiently as usual but it did get done. The kids helped around the house too more during this time. So the long and short of it is not to keep them in the dark. I think that is more frightening to them then telling them he will not be feeling well from the medicine that will make him better. Take care!

Lisa F.

KathiM's picture
Posts: 8077
Joined: Aug 2005

I agree with all here. I don't have young children, but do have 2 special needs kids. I gauged my explanations based upon their 'real' ages (behavior). My older one was my caregiver, her task was to bring me things when I needed them. She knew I had cancer.
With the 'younger' one, I was honest to a point. Then, let HER participate (not really, of course) in the decision to have or not have chemo...that way, as I got sick, etc, she was reminded that it was part of our 'team' decision, and that she could support it, and not be worried.

Hugs, Kathi

Posts: 1961
Joined: Aug 2003

I agree with much of what has already been written. My boys were 10 and 12 when I was diagnosed. My husband and I decided right away on a policy of openness. We answered every question they raised, and tried to give them opportunities to voice their fears. We bought a few books on talking to children about cancer (I think I did an Amazon search), altho those tended to be focused on younger children. I kept them lying openly around the house so the kids could pick up or peek at whenever....We invited the boys to come up to the hospital when I was having treatment. One wanted to, the other didn't (during my recurrence treatment, this switched!). The boys were great. But I also loved it when they "forgot" (true example: "How come Mom always gets to lie down on the sofa?" Umm -- that's coz I'm in the middle of chemo, darling, and I get tired."Oh, yea..."). Kept it all "real" for me.

Posts: 135
Joined: Oct 2006

First I empathize with you as I've been where you are 21 yrs ago, when I had breast cancer stage 2. Now my kids are grown and my spouse has colon ca. I say this in hopes it will encourage you and to say that there are free videos out there for helping kids. Fox Chase Cancer Center in Phil puts one out called
"Talking About Your Cancer: A Parent's Guide to Helping Children Cope". distributes a free video ...for helping kids to cope with the issue. Hope this helps.

Posts: 135
Joined: Oct 2006

Sorry the ending in my previous message was confusing but I know you'll get the message....wonder if husbands chemo brain is filtering through with osmosis:)

Posts: 80
Joined: Nov 2006

Thanks to everyone for your input! I really appreciate it.

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