Coping and support

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Here are some suggestions to help you guide your family through cancer treatment:

  • Bring a favorite toy or book to office or clinic visits, to keep your child occupied while waiting.
  • Stay with your child during a test or treatment, if possible. Use words that he or she will understand to describe what will happen.
  • Include time for play in your child's schedule. Play can be a useful outlet in the hospital. Major hospitals usually have a playroom for children undergoing treatment. Often playroom staff members are part of the treatment team and have training in child development, recreation, psychology or social work. If your child must remain in his or her room, a recreational therapist or child-life worker may be available to make a bedside visit.
  • Monitor your child's energy level outside of the hospital. If he or she feels well enough, gently encourage participation in regular activities. At times your child will seem tired or listless, particularly after chemotherapy or radiation, so make time for adequate rest, too.
  • Keep a daily record of your child's condition at home — body temperature, energy level, sleeping patterns, drugs administered and any side effects. Share this information with your child's doctor.
  • Plan a normal diet unless your child's doctor suggests otherwise. Prepare favorite foods when possible. If your child is undergoing chemotherapy, his or her appetite may dwindle. Make sure fluid intake increases to counter the decrease in solid food intake.
  • Encourage good oral hygiene for your child. A mouth rinse can be helpful for sores or areas that are bleeding. Use lip balm or petroleum jelly to soothe cracked lips. Ideally, your child should have necessary dental care before treatment begins. Afterward check with your child's doctor before scheduling visits to the dentist.
  • Check with the doctor before any vaccinations, because cancer treatment affects the immune system. With a suppressed immune system, some types of vaccines could cause an infection.
  • Be prepared to talk with your other children about the illness. Tell them about changes they might see in their sibling, such as hair loss and flagging energy.
  • Ask for support from clinic or hospital staff members. Seek out organizations for parents of children with cancer. Parents that have already been through this can provide encouragement and hope, as well as practical advice, such as what foods a nauseated child may find palatable. Ask your child's doctor about local support groups.
Sep. 02, 2011