One thing you never want to hear from the doctor is a cancer diagnosis for your child. In that moment, you feel numb and refuse to believe reality. Feelings of guilt, fear, anger, and sadness cloud your emotions.
Initially, you will be in shock and disbelief, but soon accept the situation and prepare for their treatment. You might feel alone, stressed, or anxious in such a situation. But you have to remember that you aren’t alone in this fight.
A 2023 report suggests that approximately 9,910 American children under 15 years old will get a cancer diagnosis this year. That means the parents of those children will go through a similar situation to yours.
Needless to say, your life will change once the treatment starts. For instance, you must alternate between the hospital and your home quite frequently. After every treatment, your child will have a weak immune system and decreased energy levels.
Therefore, you must focus on caregiving options. You can buy easy-to-wear clothes, keep the house well-lit at night, and remove tripping hazards. There are other ways to care for them by focusing on nutrition, hygiene, sleep, etc.
In this blog, we will discuss such ways and help you cope with the diagnosis.
#1. Personal Hygiene
Infections are one of the biggest reasons that bring life-threatening complications to children undergoing cancer treatment. Hence, practice personal care and good hygiene to avoid exposure to bacteria and infection.
For instance, they should frequently wash their hands with warm water and soap. Make it your child’s habit to do that before eating and after using the bathroom.
Similarly, you or a nurse should help them take a warm bath daily. Also, encourage everyone interacting with your child to sanitize their hands before getting close. Doing so will ensure a lower infection risk.
#2. Proper Nutrition
Cancer treatments can alter your child’s appetite, leading to nutritional deficits. Of course, good nutrition is essential for your child during the challenges of cancer treatment.
They need additional calories and protein to recover faster and avoid treatment delays. Fresh meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables will help strengthen the child’s immunity.
Additionally, if they have a low appetite, you should offer smaller meals more frequently and keep finger foods handy. Remember to list foods to avoid and special feeding precautions from the doctor.
In some cases, the child might develop a sore mouth or throat, causing difficulty chewing and swallowing food. As a result, the healthcare team can suggest tube feeding.
#3. Sleep and Play
Reports suggest that children with cancer should sleep early and nap during the day. Of course, sleep is essential for the treatments to work and your child’s healthy development. Hence, you can create a comfortable sleep environment and a consistent bedtime routine. Moreover, keep extra sheets or plastic mattresses handy if your child wets the bed.
During cancer treatment, your child will also need an exercise source and ways to socialize with kids their age. Ideally, playing helps them explore, learn, and process emotions. Therefore, encourage them to engage in low-intense activities like hide and seek, board games, and playing with toys.
Who Cares for Your Child When They Are at the Hospital?
Your child will be under professional observation during cancer treatments. For instance, they will be in the safe hands of registered nurses (RNs) and doctors in the hospital’s oncology department.
However, only the Doctor of Nursing Practitioners (DNPs) with oncology nursing experience take care of your child daily. According to Wilkes University, DNP programs offer terminal degrees, allowing nurses to become highly trained for advanced practice. Reports suggest that DNP is essential to improving the quality of oncology care.
Nurses get their licenses from an offline or online DNP program, allowing them to offer the highest level of care. These programs are recommended to nurses to help improve the quality of care for cancer patients. The nurses will also educate you about the treatment process and assist you with your child’s healthcare needs.
How Can Parents Cope With Their Child’s Cancer Diagnosis?
Unfortunately, there is no blueprint for coping, handling, or approaching the situation you are currently in. However, the following tips might help you along the journey:
- Stay informed about the cancer’s progression, treatment, prognosis, and more
- Ask for financial assistance from insurance companies, family members, etc
- Acknowledge your feelings, get proper sleep, and do not compromise on nutrition
- Wear masks in crowded areas to avoid cross-contaminating your child with germs
- Understand your rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Find an emotional support network or group to help you through the process. It gets easier when you talk about the situation.
The Bottom Line
Reports suggest that children undergo radiation therapy, stem cell transplant, surgery, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy based on the cancer type. Irrespective of the type of treatment, your child can develop side effects from these treatments, like fatigue, flu-like symptoms, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, anemia, etc.
That is why you should provide emotional support by reassuring them and preparing them for treatments. Remember, cancer treatment can be a rollercoaster ride, and you must be prepared for any outcome.
The Editorial Team at Lake Oconee Health is made up of skilled health and wellness writers and experts, led by Daniel Casciato who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We aim to provide our readers with valuable insights and guidance to help them lead healthier and happier lives.