When Your Child Has Been Diagnosed With Cancer by Dr. Jonathan Psenka, NMD
Hearing that your child has cancer is something that no parent ever wants to hear. The ensuing shock, emotions, and barrage of information are often so overwhelming that parents don’t know how to react or what to do.
While there certainly isn’t any accepted how-to guide for navigating a child’s cancer diagnosis, parents may find it useful to have some suggestions on how to cope during this challenging time. Below is a short list of ideas and suggestions from a wholistic physician’s perspective that parents can use to help cope with their child’s diagnosis. Importantly, parents need to know that they are not alone. There are many people and resources that exist to help parents during this difficult time. It’s normal to have extreme emotions at a time like this; feelings of anger, anxiety, fear, guilt, and sadness are all expected. While receiving proper care for one’s child is the priority, it is very important that parents find some time to address their feelings. This may mean finding a friend, family member, or religious/spiritual leader to talk with. It may be finding a place to scream or cry. It may be talking to a counselor at the hospital, or it may even be a treadmill at the gym. Whatever it is, just make sure and do it; deal with the emotions in any positive way that works. Once these initial emotions have been addressed then parents will be better prepared to start learning about their child’s cancer and cancer treatments.
For people thrust into the world of cancer medicine, the amount of information can seem overwhelming. It may seem like doctors are speaking a completely new language and often parents feel like they are being asked to make decisions without really understanding the information. It is ok to ask your child’s physician(s) questions, or to ask them to slow down, or go over things one more time. At times it may be easier to talk with a family doctor or other trusted health care professional so that parents can hear the information from a familiar face with whom they already have an established relationship. Remember the only bad question is the one that wasn’t asked.
It is also perfectly acceptable to ask about getting a second opinion. Many often delay inquiring about this, or don’t do it all, over worry about offending a doctor. This should not ever be a concern. Most doctors appreciate another doctor’s opinions and ideas. After all, good medical care is about giving the best care to the patient, it’s not about a doctor’s ego. Additionally, if communication is difficult, or if it’s hard to get questions answered, then getting a second opinion is all the more important.
It is also worth mentioning that internet searches are a double-edged sword. While good information can be found on the internet, there is also bad information, heresay, and unfortunately, even snake-oil salesmen to be found there. These things can cause confusion and considerable anxiety for many patients. It’s beneficial to limit computer time devoted to cancer research. And certainly, make sure to ask a trusted and knowledgeable health professional before starting new medications, supplements, or treatments that were discovered online.
It is important to realize that caring for a child with cancer is often more like a marathon than a sprint. Parents need to try and take care of themselves in addition to their child to not cause their own health to decline. This includes trying to eat a healthy and regular diet and even staying well-hydrated. These may seem like over-obvious suggestions, but many people routinely experience adverse effects from hypoglycemia or symptoms such as headaches from not drinking enough water. This is especially true when under stress, which is exactly the time when extra nutrition is crucial.
Take the time to deal with feelings of stress anytime possible. Everyone has some degree of stress, and anyone with a family member fighting cancer has more. High levels of stress can often cause insomnia, and insomnia can make everything more difficult. Finding just a few minutes every day to address stress levels can be very helpful. Activities like meditation, guided imagery, and breathing exercises can be anywhere and don’t require any special equipment. If insomnia is a problem, make sure to address this with the help of a trusted health care provider. There are many effective and healthy sleep aids available that promote a good night’s rest. Hopefully these ideas will help parents better handle the emotions and needs surrounding a child’s cancer diagnosis. Remember, you are not alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.
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