For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought scary realizations to the forefront. We now know that our whole world can change overnight, and that our health is something we can’t take for granted. But for childhood cancer parents, these realizations hit when their child was diagnosed with cancer. And knowing that their child is in the high-risk category for the disease has triggered many of the same anxious feelings that their first cancer diagnosis did.
In partnership with Momcology, we asked a group of cancer caregivers what they are doing to manage the stress and anxiety surrounding COVID-19 and how the skills they’ve had to develop as cancer parents prepared them for this moment. Their responses are below.
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened many of the worries and fears we already have about your children getting sick. For cancer parents, the worry is always there that their child will get the flu, the common cold or another virus that sends them to the hospital. For many, that worry has been heightened – now more than ever, they depend on those around them to play a part in keeping their child safe.
“I think it has magnified the precarious situation our children are in. We depend on others to help keep our children safe on a normal day, and now more than ever we are depending on the population to do everything they can to minimize the threat to our kids. It is very hard to have your child’s safety in the hands of others.” – Sarah
“The hardest part is that more than ever, my child’s safety depends on others (nothing new) but it’s hard seeing others not take as many precautions as I am. I am trying hard to remember I can’t control other people’s actions but I can control who we have contact with.” – Vanya
“I’m just concerned about my family’s health in general. Everyone is to stay home except the fragile ones who can’t because we still have to go to the doctor appointments and the hospital… into the heart of this. We have been rolling along on this brain cancer train for four and a half years and we are in a rough patch. Knowing that they are cancelling most appointments but amping up my son’s makes me realize just how big this brain tumor beast is.” - Andrea
Coping with PTSD
PTSD triggers are common. Feeling like you don’t have control, waiting for potentially life-altering news and wanting so badly to know what’s next – these are all familiar feelings to those whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. Many cancer parents have developed strategies for dealing with these feelings already, and are adjusting those strategies to our new situation.
“PTSD has been crazy for me. I feel like I’m back to the days when I was trying to get people to see how fragile our kids are and getting them to care about the dangers we face every day.” – Sue
“For me it has brought up the loss of control and not knowing what will happen next. Also, all the ups and downs of news reports reminds me of scanxiety and waiting on lab results.” – Julie
“It’s hard to imagine the impact of something when you have no point of reference. It is the thinking ‘Not me, it won’t happen to me.’ We know from experience that yes, it can happen to us.” -Vanya
Finding Gratitude and Building Resilience
Because cancer parents are no strangers to uncertainty and health scares, they’ve developed ways of coping and are now directing those skills at this new crisis. They’re recognizing the similarities between how a cancer diagnosis and a global pandemic affects their families, but also taking advantage of the little things that they can do now that they couldn’t do then. Cancer has given them a new perspective on what is truly important and what we can let go of, and a resilience that is even more important now.
“Last time we were isolated like this, I had a very sick child. My focus was on him. Though still in treatment, my son is doing good. So this time around, I am enjoying spending time with both my kids. We taught my oldest to ride his bike ... the attention was on him and I could see how he loved it! And I am finally having time to do little projects around the house ... but most of all I am loving sitting out and watch my boys play!” - Vanya
“At first it took me right back to being in the hospital and the apartment during diagnosis and frontline treatment. Luckily, that didn’t last long when I realized I can still drive around my sweet little town and wave to friends and step out and talk to my neighbors. Trying to remind myself it’s a much better situation.” - Jeane
“The biggest challenge was adding schooling in. I’m getting better at it, but we still aren’t making 100% of the assignments. My main focus is supporting my kids and not passing stress onto them. I learned that I have to take care of myself and I won't put too much pressure on myself to do the impossible!” - Whitney
Momcology, in partnership with Children’s Cancer Research Fund, is working to create meaningful content that raises awareness about what families face while going through childhood cancer. By combining CCRF’s authentic storytelling capabilities with the many voices and experiences from within the Momcology network, we are eager to provide a new platform to amplify caregivers’ voices to the public to both accelerate research and raise awareness. Visit Momcology to learn more and join their community.
Your story of childhood cancer is powerful – it can raise awareness for what is needed in the world of childhood cancer research and even encouraging fundraising for vital research projects. See how your story can make an impact by filling out our Share Your Story form.