Coping when your child has cancer

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Finding support and support groups

Some people need help to cope with the diagnosis of cancer. This may include the child with cancer and the family or friends who are also affected by a cancer diagnosis. External support groups and systems are available to all individuals coping with cancer.

It can be comforting to spend time with others who have gone through some of the same things you are going through. It is sometimes easier to talk to them about things that you don’t feel you can share with anyone else. Someone who also has had cancer or has been a parent of a child with cancer can:

  • understand how you feel
  • help lift your spirits or calm your anxieties
  • offer companionship and the chance to discuss many concerns and feelings
  • talk about what to expect
  • tell you how they coped
  • decrease your sense of isolation, fear and loneliness
  • help you learn ways to enjoy each day
  • offer information and practical tips
  • help you explore alternative ways of dealing with difficult issues
  • help you find resources that will further help deal with a childhood cancer diagnosis
  • offer a place where you are able to speak openly and release emotions without the fear of straining other close relationships

Types of support programs

Support is available in a variety of settings and in a number of ways. Don’t forget that everyone’s situation is different. Talk to the healthcare team about support programs and the kind of information that is shared in these programs to see if they would be helpful to you.

One-to-one support offered by telephone or in person

Telephone peer support can be very helpful for people with cancer living in rural communities. A telephone support program is available no matter where a person lives in Canada. Not everyone finds it easy to talk in a group setting. One-to-one support may be the best option for them.

Find out more about the Canadian Cancer Society’s peer support group.

Group-based support

Some groups are open to everyone. Others are just for the childhood cancer survivors or their parents, siblings or other family members. Some groups talk about all aspects of cancer. Others focus on specific topics such as self-esteem or grieving.

Support groups may be available starting from the time the child is first diagnosed. They are often led by professional counsellors, social workers, nurses or trained volunteers.

Therapy groups (often led by mental health professionals) can help with learning certain coping skills, such as managing fears or dealing with communication problems.

Professionals are also available for family counselling. Often the problems associated with childhood cancer affect everyone in the family unit. Family counselling may help absorb the shock of childhood cancer and help deal with the stresses related to it.

Online support on the web

Some support groups take place online – for example, chat rooms or online discussion groups. People often like online support groups because they can take part in them any time of the day or night. They are also good for people who cannot travel to meetings.

Find out more about the Canadian Cancer Society’s online community.

Camps

A number of different camps across Canada are set up specifically for children with cancer and their siblings. Sometimes there are also camps for the whole family to attend together. The camps often include a number of activities such as swimming, hiking, boating and arts and crafts that allow children to feel more normal and be with others who have had similar experiences.

How to find support programs

You can find out about support programs through:

  • social workers
  • psychologists
  • the hospital or treatment centre
  • non-profit organizations

The Canadian Cancer Society’s Cancer Information Service can help you find programs and services offered by the Society and other organizations in your community.

The Childhood Cancer Canada Foundation provides support for children living with cancer and their families.

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