Feelings

Having a child diagnosed with cancer will affect you as parents or carers, and the people close to you.

Understandably, you may feel worried and stressed as you come to terms with the diagnosis and what it means for your child to go through treatment. You may worry that your child will suffer and that your family life is going to be completely disrupted. At first, you may worry that your child is going to die.

When you’re first told the diagnosis, you may feel numb, confused, or unable to hear or remember information about your child’s diagnosis or treatment. You may also feel overwhelmed by painful and powerful emotions. These reactions are normal – remember the doctors and nurses are there to help you at this time.

Some of the feelings and emotions you may have are described briefly below. Your feelings are likely to change over time and you may not experience all the emotions described here.

This is one of the most common feelings experienced when first faced with a cancer diagnosis.

This is a completely normal reaction which can in the short term cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms such as lack of sleep, lack of appetite, nausea and anxiety.

You may feel scared, anxious, and panicky about what’s going to happen and what the future holds.

Understandably, parents often want to deny that such a terrible thing could happen to their child. At times, you may feel the fear is almost too much to bear.

It’s natural to feel sad or depressed at times.

Every parent wants their child to be healthy, happy and carefree. Cancer and its treatment can have a big impact on you and your child’s life. At times, you may have feelings of hopelessness. You may find it difficult to eat or sleep, or feel as though you have no energy for the things you need to do each day.

Parents often say that they feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. These painful and unpleasant feelings can’t be avoided, and you’re likely to have them at various times during your child’s illness. It’s important to have support to help you through these times.

It’s very common for a parent to feel guilty if their child has cancer.

It’s very common for a parent to feel guilty if their child has cancer. Some people wonder if it was something they did or didn’t do that caused the cancer, or they feel that it’s a punishment for something they did in the past. Sometimes, parents blame themselves for not noticing their child’s symptoms quickly enough. 

Many parents will have strong feelings of guilt, but it’s important to remember that you’re not responsible for causing your child’s cancer.

It’s normal to feel angry at times.

You may feel angry with the hospital staff for putting your child through tests and treatment. You may feel angry that you have to cope with such uncertainty, and the unfamiliar world of hospitals, doctors and nurses. Some people even find that they’re angry with their child, as it’s their illness that is causing so many problems for the family. This can be distressing but it’s also normal. 

Parents can feel angry at each other, especially if they have different ways of coping with their child’s illness. For example, one parent might want to talk about it a lot and the other might just want to get on with normal life as much as possible. 

You may also feel angry with family or friends who make thoughtless remarks or are too busy to give you support. Or you might feel frustrated with people who avoid you because they don’t know what to say.

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