Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer

Physical responses

Many parents become physically ill in the weeks following their child’s diagnosis. This is not surprising, given that most parents stop eating or grab only fast food, have trouble sleeping, and are exposed to all sorts of illnesses while staying in the hospital. Every waking moment is filled with excruciating emotional stress, which makes the physical stress much more potent and weakens the body’s immune response.

The second week in the hospital I developed a ferocious sore throat, runny nose, and bad cough. Her counts were on the way down, and they ordered me out of the hospital until I was well. It was agony.

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That first week, every time my son threw up, so did I. I also had almost uncontrollable diarrhea. Every new stressful event in the hospital just dissolved my gut; I could feel it happening. Thank God this faded away after a few weeks.

To help prevent illness, try to eat nutritious meals, get a break from your child’s bedside to take a walk outdoors, and find time to sleep. Care needs to be taken not to overuse drugs or alcohol in an attempt to control anxiety or cope with grief. Although physical illnesses usually end or improve after a period of adjustment, emotional stress often continues throughout treatment.