Living with cancer is no picnic, but it also doesn’t have to be sad and lonely and depressing all the time. This is especially important when it comes to children living with cancer. It is important that children be able to live their lives as normal as cancer allows. No matter whether the diagnoses say they will only live a month or they may live for years. Children are children and they need to experience certain things to have a good life regardless of their disease.
So, how can you as the parent or friend help make their lives wonderful?
1. Give them lots of love and compassion. Knowing that there are people that truly love them and will stick with them through anything, is medicine in itself. It helps them feel good and appreciated. It helps to encourage positivity and also to talk about what they are feeling and what their fears are.
2. Allow them to be a kid. The methods you can use for this will depend on whether your child is in hospital or home. Allow your child to play with toys and other children in the hospital or neighbourhood. Let them take part in programs like art therapy and let them play video games or watch television. If possible, take them to the park to play and go on walks with the dog. Play catch and just allow them to have fun and be kids. The seriousness of the cancer and level of mobility may put some restrictions on this, but if you really try, you will find ways to allow your child a full childhood.
3. Just be there. Many people say that you can call them whenever you need them. More often than not, when you call, they don’t come through. One of the best ways to help a child with cancer enjoy life, is to have those friends and family to support them. Visit them and have long discussions. Watch a movie together. Bring their favorite sweets. Play board games on their hospital bed, etc. Follow through if you said you would be there.
4. Allow them to say how they feel. This may be difficult with children that are very young, but older children and teenagers should be allowed to express how they feel. They should also be allowed a say in decisions to be made about their treatment and condition. Even if you as the parent do not agree with what they want, you need to listen and take into account what they want. This will not be easy, but it is important that they feel like they have some control over what happens to them
5. Always encourage and support. There will be good days and bad days and sometimes it will be really tough, but always be supportive and keep encouraging therapy and social activities and playing. This will help prevent a collapse into depression or complete isolation.