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Cancer - when someone you love has cancer

cancer; die; dying; feelings; emotions; guilty; lonely; angry; afraid; scared; positive;


It's okay to have feelings

When someone you love gets sick, life can feel strange. When that sickness is cancer, it can mean that life will be different for a little while, or sometimes a longer time.

You may feel:

  • Afraid and scared - You may think that the person will die or that maybe you might 'catch' cancer.
    • There are different kinds of cancer and many ways to treat it nowadays.
    • Having cancer doesn't always mean that the person will die - many people do get better.
    • You can't 'catch' cancer from anyone because it is not that kind of disease.
  • Angry - Someone you love has got cancer, and it's not fair.
    • You may also feel angry that your life has changed.
    • Maybe you even feel angry that the sick person is getting all the attention, and no one seems to have time for you.
      cancer - feelings
  • Guilty - You may worry that you were not very kind to that person at some time.
    • Someone getting cancer is not anyone's fault. Nothing that you said or did could have caused the cancer.
    • Feeling guilty will not help the one you love, but you could talk to someone you trust about your feelings if you are feeling really bad.
  • Lonely - Maybe your family is not getting out much any more.
    • Maybe the family just wants to be together, and you can't go over to friends' places or have them over with you.
    • Maybe friends seem to be avoiding you or leaving you out of things. This could be because they just don't know what to say to you.

Feeling mixed up inside is normal for people who are living through the long illness of someone they love.

  • Talk to trusted adults and friends about how you are feeling.
  • You are not alone. There are other kids who are in the same situation as you.
  • Maybe you could talk to a counsellor or your doctor too.

How you can help

Feelings don't just go away, even if you try to ignore them. Talking about your feelings can help you to cope, make you feel better and give you the strength to be kind, loving and supportive to the person who is sick.

  • cancer - stay positiveBe positive. Be cheerful and happy with the person who is sick. You can say how sorry you are that he is sick, but don't go on about it. Try to help him stay positive too.
  • Be open with the sick person. Don't try to hide your feelings. It's okay to feel upset or angry.
  • Keep emotions under control. Crying with the family sometimes can help all of you, but being upset and angry with everyone else can make others feel uncomfortable. Friends may not know what to do or say, and they may just avoid you because of this.
  • Encourage the person to do what the doctor has said she should do.
    • Help her to meditate, exercise or stick to a special diet by joining in with her.
  • Help her to stay in touch with friends she wants to see and find ways of keeping anyone she doesn't want to see away without being rude.
    • This might mean helping send letters or emails to school or work, taking schoolwork into school for her, or borrowing books, videos or tapes.
  • Help her to do the things she can do - like maybe taking her for a drink at the café if she is in the hospital.
    • Watching videos, or going to the movies with a group of her friends could be fun. You might go shopping, go walking, sit on the beach, or sit in a park.
  • Listen to what the person wants to say and encourage him to talk.
    • Everyone needs to talk. Even if what that person is saying seems to upset him and you, it is still good for him to feel that he is able to talk to someone who will listen.
  • cancer - take care of yourselfTake care of yourself. Try to keep your life as normal as possible.
    • Keep up with the things you like to do - exercise, hang out with friends, and take time for yourself.
    • If you are sad all the time, then hanging round the sick person all the time will not be good for either of you. Enjoy your time together and build good memories.

What some kids say

  • "When my mum told me that she had cancer I was really scared. She had to have a lot of visits to hospital. It took a long time but she is better now."
  • "My mum and dad told me that mum had cancer and I felt really bad. Mum and I made a book about her life. We went on a holiday together, all the family, and we took a lot of photos to put in her book. Mum died and a lot of people came to the funeral. Everyone was glad that they had known her because my mum was special and I will always remember her. I was lucky to have such a good mum, even though I was only 12 when she died."
  • cancer - think positive"My granddad has skin cancer. He keeps having to have bits cut off his face and his ears. He always tells me that I need to wear a hat in the sun and not to sunbathe like he did when he was young. I wear sunscreen too all the time, even when it is not very sunny. I don't want to have skin cancer."
  • "I was born with a giant hairy naevus on my right shoulder. I have had 8 operations since I was 4. Each time they would take a bit out, reducing the risk of cancer. Unfortunately my shoulder got melanoma. I had a treatment to get rid of the naevus. Then I had a balloon type of thing put on my shoulder. I had to have it injected regularly so that the skin would grow over the place again. My last operation was when I was 9, to tidy up the scar. Now I am 11. My tip is to spend time with the ones you love. I went overseas and was given a puppy after all my operations were over but you don't have to do that. Just spend some quality time with your family and friends." - Bethany.

Dr Kate says:

Dr KateDoctors and scientists have invented lots of medicines to make people better. Sometimes, whatever treatment they use, a person cannot be made better and that person dies. It is very sad when families have to go through the illness and death of a loved one, but sharing such a sad time can make families stronger and more caring about each other.

'Now what' is a website developed for CanTeen, the Australian Organisation for Young People Living with Cancer by a team of people including CanTeen staff and young people whose lives have been affected by cancer.


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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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