2625 Mercy Lane, Belize City (501) 223-0922 /(501) 610-5293

Cancer: Helping Your Family Help You

How will my family react to the news that I have cancer?

Keep in mind that there is no "right way" for you and your family to feel about your diagnosis. One of the best ways for families to deal with their feelings is to share them with each other.

Should I tell my children that I have cancer?

  • Many parents don't want to burden their child or children with worries and fears and pain about their sickness.
  • The youngest children can sense when something is wrong. If they don't know the truth, they may imagine that things are even worse than they are.
  • Children, especially very young children tend to see themselves as the center of the world, and they may think that they have done something that is causing problems in the family.
  • How much you tell depends upon your child's age and maturity, and how much you feel he or she can handle.

How do I tell my children that I have cancer?

  • Prepare to offer your child or children a lot of reassurance. Children's questions and concerns will probably center on how their lives might change.
  • Assure them that someone will be looking out for them, whether it's you or a relative or friend.
  • Try to stay upbeat, but also be realistic and honest with your child or children.
  • It's okay to tell your child that you don't know exactly what's going to happen and promise to keep him or her informed if anything changes.

How can I help my children cope with their feelings?

  • If your child fears that he or she has somehow caused your illness, you might ask your doctor to talk with your child and give a short, simple explanation of your diagnosis.
  • Try to keep your child's routine as normal as possible. Your child needs your attention now more than ever, so continue to spend time together as a family.
  • Set boundaries and enforce rules just as you always have. Ask your child how he or she is handling your illness.
  • If you feel that your child is not coping well, seek help from a counselor or a member of the clergy.

How can my family members help me?

  • Asking your family members for help during this time benefits you and them.
  • Members of your family want to give you their support, but aren't always sure how. Assign specific tasks to each individual. If a friend or family member says, "Tell me how I can help," have an answer ready.
  • Remember, by accepting others' help, you'll have more time to focus on getting better.

What legal issues do I need to discuss with my family?

  • An advance directive is a legal document that describes the kind of treatment you would want depending on how sick you are. Advance directives usually tell your doctor that you don't want certain types of life-saving treatment. However, they can also say that you want a certain treatment no matter how ill you are.
  • A Power of Attorney names a trusted individual who will make health care decisions for you if you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
  • Do not resuscitate (DNR) order is another kind of advance directive. A DNR is a request not to be given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing.