Childhood Cancer

The last day of treatment usually includes a physical examination, blood work, an MRI scan, and a discussion with the neuro-oncologist. The doctor should review the treatment that was given, outline the schedule for MRI scans and blood tests for the future, and sensitively discuss the potential for long-term side effects. One group of parents presented the following suggestions for the last day of treatment to doctors at a major children’s hospital:

  • Schedule enough time to have a conversation
  • Bring a sense of closure to the active phase of treatment
  • Express happiness that all has gone well
  • Be realistic but hopeful about the future
  • Praise the child for handling a very difficult time in her life with grace (or courage, or whatever word is appropriate)
  • Praise the parents for all of their hard work
  • Allow time for the parents to give the doctor feedback and thanks
  • Give a certificate of accomplishment to the child
  • Be aware that families are relieved but fearful of the future

The nurses at our clinic really made a big deal on the last day of treatment. They brought out a cake and balloons, and sang “Going off Chemo” to the tune of “Happy Birthday to You.” They made Gina a banner and bought her a present. I sat in a corner and cried, because I was scared to death of the future. A nurse came over, hugged me, and said, “This must be so hard; we’re taking away your security blanket.” She was exactly right.