Caring for children with blood cancer: A guide for parents

In the intricate tapestry of life, the diagnosis of blood cancer in a child can shatter the most resilient hearts and it is a moment when time seems to stand still for parents while the world turns into a labyrinth of uncertainty and fear but amid this daunting journey, parents emerge as the unwavering pillars of strength. They become not just caregivers but also fierce advocates, gentle healers and constant companions of their children who bravely face the storm of blood cancer.

Caring for children with blood cancer: A guide for parents (Photo by Pexels)

This guide is a testament to the indomitable spirit of parents, who are thrust into a world of medical jargon, treatment options and complex emotions. It offers a lifeline for those navigating the uncharted waters of pediatric blood cancer where parents will find a wealth of information but more importantly, they will discover a wellspring of hope and a source of unwavering support.

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In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Vishesh Kasliwal, MBBS, DEM and Founder of Medyseva, shared, “Caring for a child with blood cancer is a multifaceted journey, marked by medical appointments, treatment regimens and the rollercoaster of emotions that come with it. In the crucible of blood cancer, parents become advocates for their children, tirelessly seeking the best care, understanding treatment options and being the voice of hope in the face of despair. Blood cancer is a dark thread but with love, knowledge and resilience, parents can weave their way toward hope, healing and a brighter tomorrow.”

Dr Tejinder Kataria, Chairperson Radiation Oncology and Cancer Center at Medanta – The Medicity, echoed, “Receiving a diagnosis of blood cancer in your child is undoubtedly one of the most challenging and emotional experiences a parent can face. It can be overwhelming but with the right information and support, you can navigate this difficult journey.” Providing a guide for parents caring for children with blood cancer, she offered insights into the condition and ways to provide the best possible care and support –

  • Understanding Blood Cancer: Blood cancer refers to a group of diseases that affect the blood, bone marrow, and lymphatic system. The three primary types of blood cancer are leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. Each type has its own unique characteristics, and treatment approaches may differ. It’s crucial to understand the specific diagnosis and treatment plan for your child.
  • Key Steps in Caring for a Child with Blood Cancer:

1. Medical Team: Build a strong relationship with your child’s medical team. Communicate openly and ask questions to gain a clear understanding of the diagnosis and treatment options.

2. Emotional Support: Be there for your child emotionally. Offer comfort, reassurance, and a listening ear. Encourage them to express their feelings and fears.

3. Treatment: Follow the treatment plan provided by the medical team diligently. This may include chemotherapy, radiation, bone marrow transplants, or other therapies. Monitor your child’s progress and side effects, and report any concerns to the medical team.

4. Nutrition and Hydration: Ensure your child receives a balanced diet to support their immune system. Hydration is also essential, as treatment can cause dehydration.

5. Infection Prevention: Blood cancer treatments can weaken the immune system. Practice good hygiene and take precautions to minimize infection risks.

6. School and Social Life: Collaborate with your child’s school to provide a supportive environment. Encourage social interactions and activities to maintain a sense of normalcy.

7. Emotional Well-being: Take care of your own emotional well-being as well. Seek support from friends, family, or support groups to help you cope with the stress and anxiety.

8. Follow-up Care: Continue regular follow-up appointments even after treatment ends. This ensures any potential issues are detected and addressed promptly.

She added, “Caring for a child with blood cancer is an immense challenge but it’s not one you have to face alone. By understanding the condition, being an advocate for your child’s health and seeking support, you can provide the best care and emotional support possible. Remember that you are not just a caregiver; you are a pillar of strength for your child during this difficult journey.”

Bringing his expertise to the same, Dr Sreenivass BJ, Medical Oncologist and Blood Cancer Specialist at HCG Cancer Hospital in Bangalore, said, “Chemotherapy is a cornerstone in the treatment of childhood cancer, offering hope and life-saving potential. However, we must also acknowledge the long-term side effects that can linger in the shadows. As a medical oncologist, I have seen the resilience of children battling cancer, but it is crucial to understand that chemotherapy, while targeting cancer cells, can have far-reaching consequences. These effects may not manifest until years after treatment, impacting the lives of survivors. Long-term side effects of childhood cancer chemotherapy encompass a wide spectrum, from cardiac complications and growth concerns to cognitive challenges and potential fertility issues. Children may also face an increased risk of developing secondary cancers, adding another layer of complexity to their journey.”

Asserting that vigilance is key, he advised, “Parents, caregivers and healthcare providers must remain alert to these potential long-term effects. Regular check-ups and screenings can aid in early detection, allowing for timely interventions and better management of these challenges. Nutrition is vital. A balanced diet is not just a source of sustenance but can also influence the success of treatments. Children are prone to potential side effects, such as fatigue, nausea, and infections. Parents should know early symptoms of infection such as when the child is sleeping all the time and not eating well apart from fever. Encouraging them to engage in activities they enjoy and providing access to counselling or support groups can make a world of difference. Parents should not hesitate to ask questions, seek second opinions, and ensure their child’s unique needs are met.”

Dr Sreenivass BJ concluded, “It is important to remember that while the journey may be arduous, childhood cancer survivors often emerge as resilient warriors, leading healthy and fulfilling lives. By fostering awareness, providing comprehensive care, and offering unwavering support, we can empower these young survivors to embark on a path towards a brighter and healthier future.”

This guide, crafted with love and expertise, is parents’ ally, offering insights, strategies and a roadmap to empower them on this arduous journey and is a testament to the unyielding bond between parents and their children, a bond that shines brightest in the darkest of times. It aims to act as a compass, offering clarity in the face of confusion and as a soothing balm, providing solace during the darkest hours by not only imparting knowledge about the blood cancer disease in children and its treatment but also underscores the importance of emotional well-being, nurturing resilience and building a community of support. Here’s a reminder that in the face of adversity, love is the most powerful medicine of all.

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