Physical responses

Many parents become physically ill in the weeks following diagnosis. This is not surprising, given that most parents stop eating or grab only fast food, normal sleep patterns are a thing of the past, and staying in the hospital may expose them to illnesses. Every waking moment is filled with excruciating emotional stress, which makes the physical stress so much more potent.

The second week in the hospital I developed a ferocious sore throat, runny nose, and bad cough. Her counts were on the way down, and they ordered me out of the hospital until I was well. It was agony.

That first week, every time my son threw up, so did I. I also had almost uncontrollable diarrhea. Every new stressful event in the hospital just dissolved my gut; I could feel it happening. Thank God this faded away after a few weeks.

Parental illness is a very common event. To prevent this, it is helpful to try to eat nutritious meals, get a break from your child's bedside to take a walk outdoors, and find time to sleep. Take care not to overuse drugs, tobacco, or alcohol in an attempt to control anxiety or cope with grief. Whereas physical illnesses usually end or improve after a period of adjustment, emotional effects continue throughout treatment.

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