Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer

The surgery

The surgical technique used to remove your child’s tumor depends on several factors, including the type and location of the tumor, your child’s general medical condition, and the type of procedure needed. However, some principles apply to all operations requiring a general anesthetic. Children are usually given anesthesia through a breathing mask, an intravenous injection, or both. A breathing tube is placed in the trachea (windpipe) and connected to a ventilator that will breathe for the child every few seconds. Your child will be anesthetized before the breathing tube is inserted.

During the operation, your child will be connected to many different monitors to ensure there is an adequate supply of oxygen in the blood and that fluids are maintained at proper levels. Blood pressure, heart rate, and other functions are also carefully monitored.

The surgery was handled very well. Paige was prepared and treated with kindness, so she wasn’t too scared. We were informed of her progress while surgery was taking place, and the surgeon explained the outcome as soon as he could.

Once your child awakens from the anesthesia, clear liquids are given first and solid foods are offered after the surgeon feels it is safe. Some children are not able to drink and/or eat for several days, depending on the surgery. These children are given nutrition through an intravenous line or through a nasogastric tube (NG) tube through the nose to the stomach.

Michelle had a number of major surgeries and more minor ones than I can remember. She hated waking up to a liquid diet of Popsicles®, Jell-O®, and juice. One day she pleaded with the doctor to have something else. The doctor replied, “If you can think of anything else that’s clear, you can have it.” Michelle thought and thought, and she finally came up with jelly, no seeds. So on her next liquid diet tray were little packets of clear grape jelly.

Some children with abdominal tumors undergo surgeries that are complex and last for several hours. Parents and siblings can become exhausted while waiting, and it is helpful to have a calm, comforting friend or family member sit with you. Bring or ask someone to deliver a supply of healthy snacks and water. Stretch and take short walks while you wait. Many surgeons will arrange for you to be contacted every hour or so with updates, either on your cell phone or by hospital pager, so you don’t have to remain in one place for the duration of the surgery.

Tala was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumor at 9 months old, and after 6 weeks of chemotherapy to shrink the tumors, she had surgery to remove as much of them as possible. Tala’s surgery was the longest day of my life. We went to the pediatric ICU because she would have to stay there a few days after surgery. They came for her at 7 a.m. and gave us a little pager to give us updates throughout the day. They said it would take 6 to 8 hours but it took almost 10 hours. The doctor had a hard time removing one of the tumors. They said not to be alarmed when she comes back, that she would be filled with tubes and wires, but it’s still such a shock to see.

After that, Tala slept for 3 days in the PICU. It was hard to see her like that, but you just have to get through it. You just want her to be alive and grow with you and you’ll do anything it takes to see her through that. She did very well, and she continues to do very well.

Most children do not experience serious complications after surgery. Many children are awake and hungry by the evening of surgery and are out of bed and walking the next day. The risk of complications in children is usually lower than in adults, because children recover from postoperative symptoms and weakness at a much faster rate than adults.

My son was anxious to start moving about a few hours after he had his surgery to remove his tumor. He really amazed me. His mobility was limited for a few days, but he didn’t let the operation stop him from trying to do most activities.


I think one of the hardest things about Sean’s abdominal surgery was forcing him to follow the doctor’s orders and be up and about. He would cry when we would try to make him walk. I felt like such a bad mom, even though I knew it would help him heal faster.