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A Practical Guide for Parents Supporting Children with Cancer


As a parent, it is very difficult emotionally and financially to have your child diagnosed with cancer. Most parents run into shock and denial for quite some time. It is normal to go through a myriad of emotions.

According to statistics by the Kenya Network of Cancer Organization, 15% of cancer patients admitted at Kenyatta National Hospital are children. This shows that you are not alone and so you should not despair.

In the midst of all these mixed emotions, your child still needs you as well.

So, how best can you help support your child?

1. Talk to your child about their condition

However hard it seems, you must tell your kids what’s going on. Kids are very sharp and sense when things are not okay. As a parent, all we want is to protect our little ones, but there is only so much we can do in some circumstances. Kids are strong too in their way.

If your child is older, it will be easier to explain to them what the condition is and what they should expect. Cancer treatment can be long and painful and so, preparing them psychologically and emotionally goes a long way in making it easier for them. Make them understand that all the medicines given and the procedures they will undergo are all meant to make them feel better. Also, allow them to stay connected with their friends through their phones.

For very young kids below 5 years, who cannot understand much, make them be a part of the treatment and healing process. Allow them to socialize with the doctors and other health professionals to drive away the fear. Allow them to touch the medical supplies and equipment. Answer their questions in the simplest way to make them understand.

Bring home closer to them by bringing them their toys and other personal items that they are attached to. Tag their siblings along for visits and allow them to bond.

However, you have to equip yourself with knowledge on the type of cancer your child has so that you know what to tell him/her. You can get lots of information here.

2. Be strong and create time for yourself

As a parent, this will probably be the most trying time in your life, but you’ve got to be strong amidst all the fear, anxiety and worry. This will make your kid feel relaxed too.

Take time off to attend to your other kids as well as to other errands. Life doesn’t have to stop for every other family member. Your kid is under the best care, so, it’s okay to leave them with your spouse, a close relative or an elder sibling.

Take a break, go home and sleep. You need it!

3. Communicate with your close family and friends

Needless to say, technology has made remarkable steps in delivering means of instant communication with friends and family all at once. You can create a website, a social media page, a blog or instant messaging platforms. Appoint a person who can be sharing information and updating them every so often so that you can concentrate on your child.

During this period, you need your close family and friends to support you in every way because it is impossible to do it all by yourself. Their presence is very reassuring. Also, be very open and honest with them on how you want to be helped.

Do not shy away.

If it’s donations, help with the other kids, babysitting, bringing cooked food, whatever it is say it.

4. Seek financial support

Cancer treatment in Kenya is very expensive especially in private hospitals. If you have a medical insurance cover, talk to your insurance provider. Get to know what they will cover and what they will not so that you can organize for the difference.

Most Kenyan health insurers put a limit on what they will cover when it comes to cancer and other terminal illnesses. Fortunately, NHIF now pays for treatment and tests. So, if you have an NHIF cover, you can follow up on payments.

If you do not have a health insurance (as with more than 50% of Kenyans), you will have to start sourcing for funds from friends, family and well wishers. You can use social media which has become quite effective in fundraising for medical appeals, you can use the mainstream media, you can place an appeal on the newspapers, TV and Radio stations, or organize a fundraising.

Whichever way you plan to seek financial support, you have to start early as Cancer can be draining to the pockets, especially if you will have to take your child outside the country for more specialized treatment.

If your workplace has special arrangements for health care support to their staff, talk to your HR to see how much they can help with.

5. Seek Emotional Support

The only people who will truly understand what you are going through are the people who’ve walked the journey before you. And so, these are the best people to seek emotional support from. There are a number of cancer support groups around the country that you and your child can join. You can find ongoing support meetings at Kenya Network of Cancer Organizations.

Also, share with your spouse and kids about what each of you feels. Everyone in the family is definitely affected and sharing is a way of getting over the initial shock and negative feelings.

6. Build a strong bond with your child’s health professionals

Your child’s doctors, nurses, social workers and all professional health workers are going to be your new friends in this journey. You will depend entirely on them to treat your child and explain everything to you. Create a relationship with them and make them feel at ease with you.

You can assist your child to be friendly and free with them. That emotional attachment goes a long way in making them go out of their way for your child and giving their best.

7. Celebrate the treatment milestones with your child

Cancer treatment can be full of pain and emotionally draining to your child. Hug them after each treatment and celebrate each step of the treatment with them. You can take them out for an ice cream after a chemo session. Better still; ask them what they want as a gift for taking that bold step.

8. Celebrate their special days

If your child’s school graduation finds them in hospital, bring a cake and a few of the family members and friends and celebrate together. Talk to your doctors beforehand though. Celebrating their special days makes them feel loved and special, regardless of their sickness.

Do you have a child with cancer? Kindly, let us know how you and your child are managing this difficult period.