Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer

Notifying the family

Notifying relatives is one of the first painful jobs for the parents of a child newly diagnosed with cancer. Depending on the family dynamic, the family may be a refuge or a source of additional stress.

I called my mother and asked her to tell everyone on my side of the family. My husband called his sister and asked her to tell everyone. We asked that they not call us for a few days because we needed a little time to feel less fragile and didn’t want to cry in front of Christine too much.

Family members often react in surprising ways, with unexpected help coming from some people and a disappointing lack of support from others. Parents must be prepared for these unexpected responses and try not to take them personally. Usually, the other person is struggling to process this difficult news in his or her own way and may be trying to spare the parent from more stress by not asking too many questions.

My dad had always been my rock, but when I told him about my son’s illness, he basically didn’t say anything and he never came to the hospital. I was furious with him. It took me a long time to realize that he needed me to be strong for him, too. He was just devastated by the thought that his only grandchild might be taken from him and that there was nothing he could do to stop it.