Families are deeply affected by a member's diagnosis of cancer. Feelings can range from anger to despair to fear. Spouses fear losing their partners, parents fear losing their children, and children fear losing their parents.
Children can have an especially hard time when a parent or sibling is ill. Frequently, they aren't included in discussions, hearing only bits and pieces of conversations. They might be too young to understand what's going on. Kids might also jump to conclusions, assuming the worst. Sometimes, they even blame themselves. Therefore, it's critical to be open and honest with children. Some excellent resources are available with information about how to talk to children about cancer, including when and what to tell them. Also, there are resources such as websites, books, and videos made specifically for children.
To help families cope, many hospitals and cancer clinics hold special meetings with family groups, led by counselors or social workers. Spouses benefit from this kind of support by learning more about what their partners are experiencing and ways that they might be able to help. This type of group also offers spouses of people with cancer a chance to talk about their own feelings and fears.
If you're concerned about how to talk with family members or children about cancer, it's important to speak up and ask about what resources are available. Meeting other families who understand your illness, the effects of treatment, and the emotional ups and downs can go a very long way in helping you cope.