Advice for Family and Friends

The diagnosis of a brain or spinal cord tumour in your child is one of the most confronting situations any parent will ever face. Each one of us handles this news and the treatment process in a different way. No particular reaction can be considered normal. Some parents want to share their tragic news with everyone immediately while others retreat and don’t want to talk to anyone at all.

The important thing is that you accept their reaction and be there if and when they need you. There is no room in these situations for you to be offended by their actions during this incredibly stressful time.

The following are just a few helpful tips for extended family and friends on how you can ease the stress on the affected family:

  • Have one central person to disseminate information to other friends and family via phone or email. It can be difficult for parents to explain the same information to numerous people.
  • The same person can coordinate assistance for the family. This may be in the way of providing meals, baby sitting and/or picking up siblings from school. Make a schedule for other friends to do things that will ease the burden on the family.
  • Don’t ask too many questions. Stay interested but wait for the family to tell you what is happening.
  • Be aware they may stop answering the phone. Don’t be offended and make sure you leave a message or a text of support. They will call you when they are ready.
  • Treatment is taxing on both the diagnosed child and the parent. You can offer to sit with the child while the parents take a break but do not be too pushy.
  • Be a shoulder to cry on or be ready with a coffee at all times.
  • Stay very positive. Positive energy is very helpful and essential in this situation.
  • Seek support if you are feeling overwhelmed or depressed. There are many organisations that support the extended family of children with cancer.

Every person handles the diagnosis and treatment of a child with a brain or spinal cord tumour in a different way. Be prepared for some mood swings, outbursts of emotion and withdrawal but also be prepared to witness the determination, will and strength of a family fighting to save their child. Although not immediately evident, your love and support is greatly appreciated.