By Nyaka Mwanza
Leukemia, a type of blood cancer, is the most common cancer that affects children and teenagers. Thankfully, most kids and teens treated for leukemia achieve full remission – some childhood leukemias have a remission rate as high as 90 percent.
Leukemia is life changing. From the medical to the emotional to the social repercussions the impact can hit a kid hard. Whatever factors shape your child’s leukemia journey, from prediagnosis to post remission, they will need lots of support.
Anger, fear, sadness; the emotions your child may experience when dealing with leukemia are widely varied. It’s normal to have myriad, evolving emotions related to diagnosis, treatment, and the way leukemia will likely disrupt their “normal” lives. It’s when these feelings become extreme or your child struggles to cope with them that they can disrupt aspects of their development and functioning. Speak to your treatment team about psychosocial support available to your child, either through the hospital where they receive treatment or other resources. Such programs might include:
- ● Art therapy
- ● Horticulture (gardening) therapy
- ● Music therapy
- ● Pet therapy Family Support
● Individual counselling
● Group counselling
● Psychiatric services
● Peer-to-peer support groups
The ripple effect of leukemia’s impact – the fear, the stress, the uncertainty – affects every member of the household, not just the child with the diagnosis. Think of every member of your family as part of your child’s leukemia support system. It can be helpful to have the support of people who have been through a loved one with pediatric leukemia. Support groups and other resources and other resources exist for caregivers and siblings of someone with pediatric leukemia, both online and in person.
It’s recommended that, as much as their condition allows, children with leukemia regularly attend school. This can help them maintain their routine and sense of normalcy. It can help them keep up academically with their classmates and keep them connected to their friends.
Engage school administration, teachers, social workers early:
- To ensure your child’s school has the academic and other resources to accommodate any additional supports your child may need.
- To make a plan that can adjust to your child’s health and treatment demands.
- To Identify types of in- and out-of-school support your child may need from the school.
- To help educate them and the school community about leukemia. Sometimes leukemia will get in the way of school attendance.
- Symptoms of leukemia in children, such as fatigue, frequent infections, and pain can make attendance, focus, and participation at school difficult.
- Some treatments and their side effects treatments and their side effects, such as chemotherapy, can be debilitating.
- Treatments, like immunotherapy or bone marrow transplant, can temporarily make your child susceptible to infections and require them to stay away from others.
- Depending where you live, you may have to travel far or relocate to get your child the specialized care they need to manage their leukemia.
The need for support is ongoing – even after your child is in remission. Support from a mental health professional and connecting with support groups for survivors of childhood cancer can help you and your child manage the emotions of life in cancer remission.
Nyaka Mwanza is a freelance writer for MyHealthTeams. She completed a B.A. in Communications: Visual Media from American University and undertook post-baccalaureate studies in Health/Behavioral Communications and Marketing at Johns Hopkins University. Nyaka is a Zambian-born, E.U. citizen who was raised in sub-Saharan Africa and Jacksonville, N.C. However, she has called Washington, D.C., home for most of her life. For much of her career, Nyaka has worked with large global health nonprofits focused on improving health outcomes for women and children. Nyaka believes words hold immense power, and her job is to meet the reader where they are, when they’re there.