If someone in your family has cancer, you may wonder how your parents feel. There's no one answer to this question. Just like everyone else, parents may feel many different things when they have cancer themselves or when another member of their family does. They may be worried, scared, tired, or a little confused by all the decisions they need to make and all the changes that cancer can bring. Along with this, parents want to be strong so they can help everyone else, and they want to keep the family together during this time. They may feel that they don't have enough energy to do all the things they would like to do or share all they'd like to with other family members. This section tells some things parents have said about how they feel.
A parent who has cancer may worry that by being sick they are upsetting the family's life.
"I feel bad because now that I'm sick my husband tries to be with me a lot. I think my children's feelings are hurt but they won't say so. I just wish we could talk about it as a family."
Or parents may know that being sick means that they can't do some things with their children that other parents do. They may wish they could, and they feel guilty.
"I feel like I'm letting my son down, like I'm not being a real father because I can't run around with him the way other fathers do."
When this happens, parents find they need to look for something they can do with their children that they'll all enjoy.
A parent whose husband or wife has cancer often needs to learn to do new things for their family and may be concerned about how well they'll do.
"Now that my wife is sick, I need to be both mother and father while she's in the hospital. I'm afraid I don't do as good a job at some things as she does. The other day, our youngest son said 'Mommy never scrambled eggs like that.' I don't blame him, I'd rather eat her cooking, too. I asked her how she scrambles eggs and now at least breakfast tastes a little better."
Parents don't expect their children to pretend that everything is all right or tastes great when it doesn't. Even if they get mad for a while, most parents would rather hear what other family members feel than not know when others are upset.
Parents may know when they've been treating a child with cancer differently than they treat the others or when they've been short-tempered. They may feel like they can't help it but still wish it didn't happen.
"After I spend a day in the pediatrics clinic with Lisa, I'm so drained when I get home that I yell at my other kids over little things. Then they get upset, and I get more upset because I know that I shouldn't have done that."
Some parents worry that their children are upset, and even though they want to help their children, they don't know what to do. Sometimes this is because young people don't want to talk to their parents about cancer. They may be afraid that their parents will worry or won't understand. In fact, most parents worry more if they feel you are upset, but they don't know why, or you won't discuss it with them.
"Since I've been sick, my kids have changed. I know something is bothering them, but when I ask what it is, they say it's nothing I just wish they would talk about it. I want to help them."
Often, one thing young people can do to help is to talk about how they feel and give their parents a chance to say how they feel, too.
Parents say that they want their children to know that the family is there to help even when one of its members has cancer. Your family life may change when someone has cancer. The important thing, however, is that you're a family, and families solve problems together. If you need some extra help, talk with the doctor, nurse, or social worker. And remember: Even if life is a little different, you're still a family, and your family is still there for you.
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