Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Family Matters: Talking To Adult Children About Cancer

Your relationship with your adult children may change now that you have cancer. You may:
  • Ask them to take on new duties, such as making health care decisions, paying bills, or taking care of the house.
  • Ask them to explain some of the information you've received from your doctor or to go with you to doctor's visits so they can also hear what the doctors are telling you.

  • Rely on them for emotional support. For instance, you may ask them to act as "go-betweens" with friends or other family members.
  • Want them to spend a lot of time with you. This can be hard, especially if they have jobs or young families of their own.
  • Find it hard to receive--rather than give--comfort and support from them.
  • Feel awkward when they help with your physical care, such as feeding or bathing.
As the adult daughter of a woman with ovarian cancer said,

"Mom was always the rock in the family. Whenever any of us had a problem, we could go to her for help. Now we had to help her. It was almost as though we were the parents and she was the child. To make it even harder, we had our own children to take care of and jobs to go to."

Talking With Your Adult Children

It is important to talk about cancer with your adult children, even if they get upset or worry about you. Include them when talking about your treatment. Let them know your thoughts and wishes. They should be prepared in case you don't recover from your cancer.

Even adult children worry that their parents will die. When they learn that you have cancer, adult children may realize how important you are to them. They may feel guilty if they haven't been close with you. They may feel bad if they cannot spend a lot of time with you because they live far away or have other duties. Some of these feelings may make it harder to talk to your adult children. If you have trouble talking with your adult children, ask your doctor or nurse to suggest a counselor you can all talk with.

Make the most of the time you have with your adult children. Talk about how much you mean to each other. Express all your feelings--not just love but also anxiety, sadness, and anger. Don't worry about saying the wrong thing. It's better to share your feelings rather than hide them.

One who conceals grief finds no remedy for it.
--Turkish Proverb

Cancer Risk for the Children of People Who Have Cancer

Now that you have cancer, your children may wonder about their chance of getting it as well. A higher risk for some types of cancer is passed from parent to child. However, this is not the case for every type. And everyone's body is different. If concerned, however, children should talk with a doctor about their risk of getting cancer.
Testing for certain genes can be a way to find out if a person is at higher risk of getting cancer. 

Although some genetic tests can be helpful, they don't always give people the kinds of answers they are seeking. Talk to your doctor if you or someone in your family wants to learn more about genetic changes that increase cancer risk.. He or she can refer you to a person who is specially trained in this area. These experts can help you think through your choices and answer your questions.

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