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How are Children Affected by Parental Cancer?

Updated: Jun 22

I was writing a tweet about the soul destroying effect hair loss has on a woman when going through grueling cancer treatment, and decided to look through my book Naked in the Wind for a quote I could use. I found one which was written by one of our support (Taxotears support group for women suffering permanent alopecia from chemotherapy) group members. Suddenly I thought 'what about the children'. What psychological harm does it have on them seeing either parent suddenly look ill, and more importantly what mental health help is out there for them?



Maybe in older children the roles are suddenly reversed. The child suddenly becomes the carer. How on earth does a single parent family cope? Not everyone has friends or family members that can pitch in. What support is on offer?


International Journal of Cancer research & Treatment - written by Binay Shah, Jeffery Armly & Erin Swieter

Multiple studies demonstrate that children in particular have a higher risk of emotional and behavioral problems. The disruption of schedules and daily routine, shifting of household roles, financial stress and the physical and emotional availability of either parent all contributes to these emotional and behavioral problems. These problems, if overlooked or untreated, can persist into adulthood.



How do you Tell your Children?


Having to tell your children you have cancer has to be up there with one of the hardest things ever that a parent has to do! Everyone find their own way of doing this and some parents refuse to use the 'C' word, trying to shield the child or trying to make it easier for themselves. Studies have shown that to be open and honest with your child is the best way as it helps make the child feel more secure.

There's some great tips on how to broach the subject here https://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/coping/talking-about-cancer/talking-to-children/advice-on-talking-to-children-about-cancer.html

In 'real life' there seems to be a big black hole where the physiological help should be for patients let alone families.

At what point are they offered help from the experts?


Are they left to deal with it on their own?

Do schools get involved?

Maybe the fallout is first noticed my teachers?

While doing research on this topic I found this helpful article https://www.healthwellfoundation.org/story/effects-of-parental-cancer-on-children-and-adolescents/


When 'mum' loses her hair it then becomes real. Suddenly the physical signs of illness are showing.

The quote I found in my book talks about permanent hair loss due to the chemotherapy drugs #taxotere #Docetaxel and was written by 'K' from the UK.

"How do you tell your 17 year old daughter that you have breast cancer? I remember every moment of that conversation and her immediate response 'will you lose your hair?' I told her it would grow back. two years later it is still not back. My daughter still gets upset seeing my bald head as it is a constant reminder that her mum had cancer."


How did you handle this subject?


How did your child/children cope? Did they receive any support from outside the family? I would love to hear your thoughts.




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© 2018 by S.A. Ledlie