Guilt is a common and normal reaction to childhood leukemia. Parents feel that they have failed to protect their child, and blame themselves. It is especially difficult because the cause of their childs cancer cannot be explained. There are questions: How could we have prevented this? What did we do wrong? How did we miss the signs? Why didn't we bring her to the doctor sooner? Why didn't we insist that the doctor do blood work? Did he inherit this from me? Why didn't we live in a safer place? Maybe I shouldn't have let him drink the well water. Was it because of the fumes from painting the house? Why? Why? Why? It may be difficult to accept, but parents need to understand that it is very unlikely that they did anything to cause their childs illness. Years of research have so far revealed little about what causes childhood leukemia or how to prevent it (see Chapter 2). Nancy Roach describes some of these feelings in her booklet The Last Day of April:
Almost as soon as Erin's illness was diagnosed, our self-recrimination began. What had we done to cause this illness? Was I careful enough during pregnancy? We knew radiation was a possible contributor; where had we taken Erin that she might have been exposed? I wondered about the toxic glue used in my advertising work or the silk screen ink used in my artwork. Bob questioned the fumes from some wood preservatives used in a project. We analyzed everything—food, fumes, and TV.
Fortunately, most of the guilt feelings were relieved by knowledge and by meeting other parents whose leukemic children had been exposed to an entirely different environment.
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Although nobody gets a parenting manual or bible in the delivery room, it is our duty as parents to try to make our kids as well rounded, happy and confident as possible. It is a lot easier to bring up great kids than it is to try and fix problems caused by bad parenting, when our kids have become adults. Our children are all individuals - they are not our property but people in their own right.