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A Family Experience of a Child Being Diagnosed With Cancer

Nowadays, the problem of childhood cancer is becoming more and more complicated. In 2004, one in 900 young people aged from twenty to thirty four was a survivor of childhood cancer (Clarke, 2005). This means that a growing number of families have to go through some of the most complicated and overstressed periods in their lives when they face the difficulty of taking care of a child diagnosed with cancer. In the following paper, a family experience of a child ill with cancer will be discussed. Overall, a closer look at the situation helps identify the following areas where parents should strive to do their best to help their child: medical care including taking of all the necessary drugs by the child, maintaining child’s hygiene, assisting the child in coping with side-effects of treatments; and emotional care including supporting the child during this stressful period of his or her life, and ensuring the child that he or she is loved and highly valued despite the effects of the disease.

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Family members of a child being diagnosed with cancer have to go through a long and complicated road that regrettably, not always leads to success. It is no wonder why ‘learning that one’s child has a life-threatening disease is now included as a qualifying event for post-traumatic stress disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders’ (Clarke, 2005, p. 15). This long road begins in hospitals where parents should suffer from much stress related to both their children’s condition, and to the need of regular communication with medical stuff. As the course of treatment continues, such people may experience visiting different hospitals, situated in different places that are often far away from their homes. The communication with different medical specialists is set out as a special source of stress for parents of a child diagnosed with cancer (Clarke, 2005). Unfortunately, there are many cases when medical staffs have different opinions about what an affected child might need, and these opinions often appear to be mistaken (Clarke, 2005). Such situations are the source of the greatest sort of stress that parents may experience during the whole period of their child’s disease because they will have to put a lot of efforts into finding out the real truth about their children’s condition and the treatment they need in such condition that is hidden in so many corridors of different hospitals. Clarke mentions many sayings by parents who had to go through the incompetence of medical workers. Here is some of the typical comments:

And I couldn’t believe the ramifications and the number of nurses who came in to say… no, she needs it. They were all over me. There was no way. Do you know how long it has taken me to get her to sleep through the night… And you think I am going to let you wake her up with a needle… Are you out of your mind? I said you come back right after breakfast and I will deal with it then… I actually suggested to the nurses that they do nursing reviews. They laughed at me. I said, I am a customer…(Clarke, 2005, p. 24).

Sadly, but the sayings of this kind identify a real problem, that is one of the most stressful during parents’ experience of caring about their cancer affected child, the problem of not having enough knowledge by doctors and other medical staffs that makes their professional power illegitimate.

The initial stage of the disease, when a child is not diagnosed yet, is the most stressful phase which is explained by the fact that parents should go through all the pains of uncertainty that appears to be the most hurtful feeling during the whole course of treatment (Beder, 2006). In addition, during this stage, the little patient has to stay in the hospital and be separated from his loving parent which is both the great stress for the child and for the parents. Especially little children, who are not able to understand what is happening to them, are affected by the stress of separation. An older child is also subjected to a great stress during the initial stage because he/she is able to understand that he/she is seriously ill that results into many pains and even a possibility of a death (Beder, 2006). Such children ask themselves, ‘Why me? How much will it hurt? Will I die? (Beder, 2006, p. 72).

During the treatment stage, a child may spend much time in the hospital as well (being there during the phases of complication or during the treatment procedures). Now, the stress of family separation is still significant. In addition, there are other sources of stress causing severe emotional strain both for parents and for a child. Among them are the child’s pains, the consequences of treatment procedures such as infirmity, adynamia, and anaemia, and the other possible complications including the loss of hair, burns acquired during radiation treatment, and having scars after operative treatment (Beder, 2006). The other treatment-related side effects are “nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, muscle pain” (Beder, 2006, p. 72). Besides, children experience stress because they are limited from peer communication on the reason of their immune problem caused by the low content of white blood cells resulting from treatment.

Finally, during the post treatment stage, the main sources of distress for a child and a family are the consequences of the disease both physical and emotional. The child who went through cancer will never be the same. This means that he or she may still have significant physical limitations preventing him or her from engaging in the activities that are typical for healthy children. In addition, cancer may significantly affect the appearance of a child which also limits his or her chances in life because the modern-day society primary evaluates people judging on how attractive they are. Besides, such children may be poorly treated by their peers who may laugh at them on the reason of their looks. One more source of great distress is the acknowledgment of the fact that the disease may return. All of these factors cause a lot of pain for a child diagnosed with cancer and his or her family.

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In conclusion, a family experience of a child diagnosed with cancer is full of pain and distress. During different stages of the disease including diagnostics, treatment, and post treatment, both children and their parents have to suffer from different problems such as experiencing family separation, living with severe pains, coping with the side effects of the disease, dealing with medical staffs, and isolation from the surrounding world.


Beder, J. (2006). Hospital social work: The interface of medicine and caring. New York: Routledge.

Clarke, J. (2005). Whose Power/Authority/Knowledge? Social Work in Health Care, 40(2), 13-35.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'A Family Experience of a Child Being Diagnosed With Cancer'. 8 January.

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