As parents, the majority of our days are consumed with going to work, staying home with the kids (just trying to keep them alive), breaking up disputes, cleaning, entertaining, and the like. It can get a bit mundane, to say the least. Sometimes, though, life throws you a curveball and you wish for the days that you could go through life somewhat robotic in nature.
Seven years ago my husband was diagnosed with a chronic form of leukemia at the age of 35. Our boys were four and seven at the time. I won’t go into our whole journey here. We were lucky to ultimately be part of a clinical trial at Ohio State. The medication worked and he is nearly cancer free now (insert loud cheers and huge sighs of relief).
When you are a parent, especially of children that are still living in your household, a difficult health diagnosis brings a host of trouble with it whether it’s something like cancer or even an autoimmune disease. Our situation was actually quite mild, but the initial shock was devastating.
I want to share a few ideas from my own experience for both the diagnosed and those who know someone who has been.
For those who have received a diagnosis:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
We needed people to watch our kids at times. One of the best things we did was find a young man in our church to spend time once a month with our oldest son when my husband’s energy was quite low. You might need help with housekeeping or yard work.
Fight with all of your might against the guilty feelings.
Your children are more resilient than you realize. Their experience will teach them compassion if you guide them. Caregiving can be a difficult job, but your family does it because they love you deeply.
Seek advice on how to communicate your diagnosis to your children.
They perceive more than you realize. Hiding information from them can be dangerous, yet you have to be careful how much you share. It is a delicate balance based on the maturity of your children and the severity of your health issues.
For those supporting a friend or family member:
Offer to watch the kids for doctor appointments or help with the house.
If you simply say, “How can I help?” the person may not volunteer a way. Say, “I would like to come over and help you with your laundry. When would be a good time, or is there something else I could do that would be more helpful?”
Encourage, encourage, encourage.
Send notes. Pray, and let them know you’re praying. Keep track of when they have appointments and send a text on the day letting them know you are thinking of them. Small gifts or gift cards can be so helpful. Don’t hesitate to ask how things are going.
Be cautious when suggesting a treatment.
Ask first if they are interested in hearing about something you may be aware of, then if they are open, share it with no expectation that they will follow through. We were always open to ideas, but some people are not, and that’s okay.
The only way to get through a health crisis is in community with others. We are so grateful for our Bloomington friends and family that came alongside us on my husband’s journey. You can be the light during someone else’s darkness!