Three things to know if your child is diagnosed with cancer
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, parents and caregivers often experience a range of emotions, including shock, fear, anger and guilt. As a hematologist and oncologist with the Chicagoland Children's Health Alliance, I partner with my peers to develop the appropriate treatment plan for each child under our care. We make it our goal to support families through the many challenges they face from diagnosis to treatment and beyond.
If your child has been diagnosed with cancer, I want you to know these three things:
1.) It is not your fault. Read that statement as many times as it takes to know it is the truth. You couldn't have done anything to prevent this. So many parents in the world of pediatric cancer blame themselves for their child's diagnosis. They're often concerned they did something to cause their child's cancer. I promise you this -- you didn't eat or drink something during pregnancy, feed them the wrong food as an infant or toddler or expose them to wrong chemicals or pollutants that led to this moment in time.
Let go of the thoughts in your head that try to convince you things would be different if you noticed the signs sooner. As a clinician, I want you to know the point at which a child is diagnosed doesn't significantly impact their outcome. There is a larger emphasis on the biology of the disease itself as well as your child's biology. When you find yourself fixating on those "what ifs," remember what's important -- we have a diagnosis for your child, and now we can begin providing them the treatment they need.
2.) You can't -- and shouldn't -- face this alone. Finding the right support to help you navigate your child's diagnosis and treatment is critical. Having a child with cancer is one of the most stressful things in the entire world, and it truly impacts the entire family. Offering every family member support is incredibly important to me and to our program. You are not alone. Our care team, including mental health providers and social workers, partner with you to make sure patients, parents and siblings receive appropriate mental health services.
We also know having a child with cancer can cause financial strain. We're committed to working with you to ensure that impact is minimized as much as possible.
3.) You've come to the right place for your child's care. We are experts at understanding the biology and genetics of cancer. As a result, we're able to cure nearly 85% of children who develop cancer under the age of 21. Our multidisciplinary team across Chicago and its suburbs collaborates to develop the best treatment plans for the patients we serve. Whether you're in Park Ridge, Oak Lawn, Hyde Park or somewhere in between, our team works tirelessly to coordinate the right treatment for your child.
• Dr. Tara Henderson is the chief of pediatric cancer and blood diseases at Chicagoland Children's Health Alliance, the partnership between Advocate Children's Hospital, Pediatrics at NorthShore University HealthSystem and UChicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital. Today's column was contributed by Advocate Children's Hospital. For more information, visit www.advocatechildrenshealth.com.