When Your Parent is Diagnosed with Cancer

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Tips to helping you on the journey when your parent is diagnosed with cancer. Things to do and research to make during this difficult time.

When your Parent Is Diagnosed with Cancer

There is no way to be prepared for a cancer diagnosis, and learning your parent has this crippling disease is indescribably heart-wrenching. Feelings of fear and anxiety are normal, and although it will take you time to adjust to this shocking news, there are ways that you can help yourself, your loved ones, and most importantly, your parent, through this difficult time.

Do Your Research

You’re going to want to be involved every step of the way to offer the support you can, and there’s no better way to do so than becoming educated on your parent’s cancer type, treatment options, and the side effects that may accompany said treatment. Don’t rely on just one source of information; read all of the research you can, get involved in online cancer message boards like with other individuals who have gone or are going through the same thing and can provide invaluable advice, talk to his or her doctors. You can find a bevy of supportive communities that will provide you with both comfort and education. Remaining informed will help you talk to his or her doctors and remain abreast of the situation throughout treatment.

Practice Open Communication

Fear and anger about the situation can make open communication difficult, but it’s important to utilize your time to talk. This can help you understand their needs, and vice versa, then set expectations for treatment and the process. Your parent likely is dealing with a host of emotions themselves, and you can act as a shoulder to lean on when times get tougher. Ask how they’re doing; it might seem obvious, but just this simple question can help you understand how they’re feeling and what you can do to make them more comfortable. Open communication doesn’t mean always focusing on the illness itself. Cherish the time you have with your parent, and ask questions about their life. Record special stories, listen to their favorite memories, and use your time with them wisely.

Financing the Treatment

If your parent doesn’t have great medical coverage, you may find yourself scrambling to come up with ways to make payments for expensive treatments. Be sure to ask your parent about any insurance plans they may have. Whether it be life insurance or health insurance through their current or previous employer, you may find valuable financing options. If your parent is older, they may have a senior life insurance policy that covers medical bills or other expenses related to end of life care. If your search for coverage comes up with nothing, you may need to consider crowdfunding. Websites like CrowdRise allow you to create memorial campaigns that you can share on Facebook with family and friends. People can then donate anonymously or not; in tough times, your loved ones are your best source of support, whether that be financially or otherwise.

Take Care of Yourself

You’ll likely want to invest all of your energy into caring for your parent, but it’s important that you take care of yourself as well. Being constantly surrounded by stress can have adverse effects on your health and psyche, and it’s important to remember that you won’t be able to provide the support and comfort he or she needs if you’re sick yourself. Keep up with an active exercise routine; regular exercise promotes endorphins and helps lower stress levels. Talk to your spouse, friends, or other loved ones when you just need to vent or have a good cry. This is a hard time for you as well, so it’s important to create your own support system when the going gets tough.

Plan for the Tough Stuff

We don’t like to think about it, but there is something to be said about getting prepared and making provisions in case the worst happens and the cancer isn’t ultimately treatable. Although it can be painful and difficult to bring up these conversations, they are necessary. This way, you can make sure your parent’s wishes are followed, and you can make plans to handle the costly funeral expenses. Planning ahead can make things easier on both you and your parent, and though the conversation may be tough, you’ll be glad you did it.



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  • Reply Sue E

    Unfortunately, I know about this first hand!! Two of my youngest girls were teenagers when I found out that I had cancer and they saw me suffer horribly for 2 painful years before they found it!
    My youngest daughter took it really hard! She and I are really close – she’s my baby.
    I feel so bad because I didn’t know that she was dealing with the pain by partying with her friends and drinking! My world was spinning so fast, because the Drs had to act fast because it took them 2 years to find the tumor on my spine!! I had to have surgery & they couldn’t get it all. So I had chemo, radiation, and all the stuff I had to go through to get a bag of my own stem cells to freeze so they can put it back in my body – well let’s just say I went through more, even spending a month at Rush after the stem cell transplant, but the point I was trying to make is, I wasn’t there for my baby girl! It broke my heart and of course, my husband wouldn’t tell me everything, because he didn’t want me to worry! He wanted me to fight and make it through this. Well after she got arrested twice for DUIs, the judge ordered her counseling and suspended her license until she went through the program he set up for her! I am happy to report that she is a married woman now with 3 children, but I still feel guilty! A mom should be there for her kids! I thank Hod that He was with her when I wasn’t!! I thank God again for my three oldest daughters for helping with her and my hubby!! Who had to work, make sure Sammy was OK and who was with me through this ordeal!! It helps to have his support! I wish I could’ve read the article above and more about the feelings my family was going through!! If they would have caught this when I first told them about it, I would have had more time to deal with everything! As it was, I was trying to deal with my diagnosis! If you aren’t able to watch your child and their reactions, have a family member or a friend help! My pastor and the church helped with a lot too! The sad thing is my oncologist is keeping a close eye on my IGG, IGA, IGM, proteins because they are starting to spike again and at least this time, I can be more prepared than the first time around!!

    November 21, 2016 at 11:49 am
  • Reply Amber Ludwig

    So important, because honestly all of us will be touched by cancer at some point in our life. Its very sad and so difficult!! I do my best to be supportive and positive because in my head if I was the person suffering Im willing to bet the negativity takes over sometimes!

    November 21, 2016 at 10:15 am
  • Reply Kristin C

    Great info. I still remember the shock of finding out that my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Fortunately seven years later, she’s doing great.

    November 19, 2016 at 4:13 pm
  • Reply Deborah D

    Both my parents were diagnosed with cancer, both are doing well now.

    November 19, 2016 at 3:48 pm
  • Reply Tara Kosing

    Very good information .. my deepest sympathies for everyone going through this , my mil beat it twice.

    November 19, 2016 at 1:03 pm
  • Reply Margie

    This is very good and helpful information for those going through this ordeal.

    November 19, 2016 at 12:22 pm
  • Reply Melissa A.

    My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 2) 7 years ago. She is alive and well today!

    November 19, 2016 at 11:23 am
  • Reply Teresa C

    My dad and mom have both been diagnosed with cancer. It was a difficult process to be apart of.

    November 18, 2016 at 9:42 pm
  • Reply Terri Quick

    My father died from cancer when I was 13 years old 🙁

    November 18, 2016 at 7:02 pm
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