Childhood Cancer Awareness

Goals

To determine how parents cope if their child is diagnosed with cancer and if there are organizations that they reach out to for support.

Early Findings

REACTION TO THE NEW SITUATION
  • Some reactions parents have when hearing their child is diagnosed with cancer are shock, disbelief and denial, fear, anxiety, guilt, sadness, depression, anger, and overwhelm.
  • There are high levels of anxiety among parents of children with cancer. According to a study done in this area, 42% of mothers and 35% of fathers of these children had an anxiety disorder and 31% of mothers and 35% of father showed symptoms of depression.
  • The study highlights that educated fathers show lower levels of depression than illiterate fathers.
  • The study further concludes that "effective interventions are essential to improve the mental health of parents of children with cancer. These interventions may include mental health screening, psychological counseling, and training programs to cope with the problems caused by the child's disease."

STRATEGIES FOR PARENTS COPING WITH THEIR CHILD'S CANCER DIAGNOSIS
  • Some strategies the American Cancer Society recommends to cope with the diagnosis include making use of support from social workers, counselors, nurses, psychologists, and doctors; leaning on family members or friends; applying strategies that reduce anxiety or tension; finding strength in religious beliefs or spiritual practices and talking to spiritual leaders; and other strategies focused on physical and mental health as well as educating oneself on the disease and actively participating in making decisions.
  • The National Cancer Institute recommends parents work to keep their relationship strong by talking about how to deal with stress, recognizing that everyone deals differently with stress, and keeping the marriage strong.
  • The National Cancer Institute further recommends getting support by finding an easy way to update family and friends on the situation, telling people how they can help, joining a support group or seeking professional help. They furthermore recommend parents take the time to tend to their mental and physical health by taking yoga or deep breathing classes, spending time outdoors, exercising and other methods that help the parents relax.
  • According to Fatherly, parents who are raising children diagnosed with cancer can feel lonely as a result of their "heightened state (when a child has a terminal illness, every moment becomes precious)" and are stressed because they are dealing with tasks that are new to them. This is why they need a robust support network.
  • Quotes from parents in the article mention that their support consists of family and hospital staff that have supported them throughout their journey.
  • After receiving the diagnosis, family schedules change and socializing is limited because of the child's weak immune system. Parents need to accept that the definition of normal in their family has changed. But within this new normal, parents should keep as many things as possible the same and find balance for their family.
  • As a parent comments, "For our family to maintain a new normal, we keep doing the same things as before — just maybe in a different way, like going to the park instead of the cinema or Walmart," and "Taking the kids to visit friends and bringing hand sanitizer everywhere is very important. We would go to parties, church, and parks and socialize as much as possible, always trying to find happiness in life."

ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING FAMILIES AFFECTED BY CANCER

SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
  • After the initial hour of research, the state parents are in after learning their child is diagnosed with cancer has been mentioned.
  • Strategies recommended by experts on coping with the new situation have been mentioned as well as quotes from parents in the actual situation.
  • Some organizations that support families dealing with childhood cancer have been listed.

Proposed next steps:

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