Chapter 1, Diagnosis, provides an extensive list of feelings that parents may experience after the diagnosis of leukemia in their child. It is important to remember that children, both siblings and the ill child, are also overwhelmed by strong feelings, and they generally have fewer coping skills than adults. At varying times and to varying degrees, children and teens may feel fearful, angry, resentful, powerless, violated, lonely, weird, inferior, incompetent, or betrayed.
Children have to learn strategies to deal with these strong feelings to prevent "acting out" behaviors (behavioral problems) or "acting in" behaviors (depression, withdrawal). Good communication is the first step toward helping your family identify how child behavior and family functioning is being impacted and how family members may work with each other and with professionals to restore order and a nurturing climate.
The emotional impact may be most pronounced during the teenage years. This is a time when appearance is particularly important. When adolescents look different from their peers, they may have feelings of sadness, anger, bewilderment, helplessness, and fear. Depression is common during and after treatment. Children and teens may go through a period of grieving. It is crucial that children and teens receive support and counseling when needed.
I had cancer when I was 15. I tried so hard as a freshman in college to put it all behind me and get on with my life. It just didn't work. Next to treatment, that was the worst year of my life. It showed me that if I didn't deal with it consciously, I was going to deal with it subconsciously. I had nightmares every night. I'd wake up feeling that I had needles in my arms. I decided to start taking better care of myself in a different kind of way. I do something fun every day. I try to see the positive side of situations. I read more and write a lot. I unplug from the cancer community whenever I feel overwhelmed. I try to explore my feelings with my counselor rather than shove them in the back corner. Once I started dealing with these feelings, things really improved.
Its sometimes hard for children, and especially teens, to share the news about their cancer with friends. Each must work out a strategy that fits their circumstances.
I'm going to talk about how you know who your real friends are. I was only 7 and in the first grade when I found out about my cancer. I don't remember how long I waited to tell my friends, but I knew in my heart that it had to be soon. Well, first I told my closest friend at the time, and she said, "No matter what you have, we will always be BF4E!"(BF4E means Best Friends 4 Ever!) I was on the playground at school, and I asked the rest of my friends would our friendship change if one of us were to get cancer? And they said "No." So I told them that I had it and just like that I lost five to six good friends.
The next day at school no one would come near me (only my best friend would play with me). I asked her why and she said, "The kids you told yesterday went and told a lot of kids that if they played with you (meaning me) that they would get cancer, too." So it took me a long time to find a way to make them understand that you can't get it from playing with someone who has it. A few months later my mom came to my class and explained to my class about what I had. That day at lunch all my friends that would not play with me the day before were playing with me.
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