Moving on

"You can get back to normal now!" After your child finishes treatment, well-meaning friends might say, "Now you can get back to normal!"

"Normal" after a diagnosis of cancer can be very different from the way it was before and you may feel that things will never be "normal" again. Be assured that it is "normal" to feel this way!

Recognising the need to find a routine again, pick up the pieces and resume activities that were affected or put on hold by the cancer diagnosis is one thing but making it happen can be quite another because in many ways life will not be quite the same and here are some issues that may arise for you.

Health and safety of your child

It is instinctive for parents to be protective and cautious. Learn to let your child go and return to their life as well. Finding the right balance may require some experimentation on both sides and if you need advice, follow up with your hospital care team or Kenzie's Gift.

Talking to other parents of cancer survivors

Meeting with others who know how it is and have shared a similar experience can be very beneficial. You can gather tips, ideas and strategies that could be helpful in your own situation.

Perceived abandonment by medical team When your child was first diagnosed, the medical team assembled and cared for your child and you. You may still have follow up consultations with certain members of the team but the intense medical support ended when treatment finished. While it's a relief to have all of that behind you and your family, you may feel lost, nervous, alone, a tight-rope walker without a net below and believe that now, more than ever, you need their support. However, you might hesitate because your survivorship concerns and needs seem less than those of parents with children undergoing treatment. The hospital Social Worker and Kenzie's Gift can be very helpful at this time. Relationships within the family

When treatment is over, you may recognise the need to re-establish "ground rules" for your children, including the one who has experienced cancer. No doubt it has been a challenge to maintain discipline and family "rules" and routines while your child has been unwell and re-instating certain boundaries and behavioural expectations can be just as difficult afterwards.

It is natural to want to shower the sick child with extra attention and to relax some of those standards you held previously. As a result, your other children have felt neglected (and you may feel guilty) so they will need to be supported too as the family settles back into routines. Not an easy way forward for any parent, especially when you are still so emotionally and physically exhausted and worried about the child who is just emerging from treatment.

There is nothing wrong with getting some help at this stage. Support organisations like Kenzie's Gift can assist you and your hospital Social Worker can help too. Talking to other parents who have experienced a similar situation can be of value.

Remember that the setting of ground rules and disciplines after treatment is finished sends a clear message to the child who was diagnosed with cancer that you fully expect him or her to live a long and happy life. Open communication within the family is important. Arrange regular family meetings for as long as needed, to discuss the impact cancer has had and to help family members return to their old roles.

Relationships outside of the family

A diagnosis of cancer places the family under considerable stress but also affects the relationships you have with those outside, for example extended family, friends, and colleagues. You may have noticed that some extended family members hung tough at the start and then dropped away as the journey went on. Colleagues and friends who were attentive at the beginning may now behave as if everything is OK your child is back at school, obviously well, end of story! Not so for you.

You and your immediate family are working hard to get back on track with the 'new normal'. People outside do not always understand that this process can go on for some time and is not over for you. The lack of comprehension can be interpreted as they don't care and so some distance or resentment in relationships may occur. Give friends and family time to adjust and explain to them that their support is still needed and appreciated.

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