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When Someone You Love Has Cancer
A Guide to Help Kids Cope
By Alaric Lewis, R. W. Alley
Abbey PressCopyright © 2005 Alaric Lewis
All rights reserved.
What Is Cancer?
Your body is like a machine, made up of many parts that make up bigger parts, that make up still bigger parts. The smallest part is called a cell, and a cell is so small you can't even see it with your eyes—you would need a microscope. But cells grouped together make tissues. And tissues working together make organs. And organs make us able to breathe and eat and pump blood and fight against sickness.
Sometimes something bad happens to the cells, and these sick cells group together. When they do, it can cause harm to tissues and organs in the body, making a person sick. This is called cancer.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions
There are many types of cancer, and each can harm different parts of the body. You might want to know exactly what is happening in the body of someone you love.
Ask a relative or teacher to explain what part of your loved one's body is hurting. They can help you look up things in an encyclopedia or on the Internet. There are pictures and facts there about the tissues or organs harmed by the cancer. They can help you understand the difference between a healthy body (like yours) and a sick one.
Scary Words Are Not Always So Scary
Sometimes you may hear people say big words that you don't understand. These words can sound very scary, like: biopsy, chemotherapy, remission.
Have someone help you understand these words (and any other words you might hear). When you know what they mean, you'll see they're not so scary after all. For example, biopsy means "exploring to see what might be wrong." Chemotherapy means "cleaning the inside of the body to try and help the sick cells." And remission means the best thing of all: "the person is better now."
It's Not Your Fault
It's natural to want to know why something happens. You might be wondering why Grandpa Pete has cancer. Doctors know that some things (like smoking cigarettes) can cause cancer. But there is still much they don't know, and they can never answer the "why" for sure.
If we don't know why, sometimes we may wonder if we did something to make this happen. We might think no one is telling us "why" because it is somehow our fault.
But people get sick, and that's just the way things are sometimes. Know that you did nothing to bring this on.
It's OK to Cry
When someone has cancer, it can be very sad for everyone. No one likes to see someone they love hurting. And when you know he or she is hurting, it can make you hurt also. This causes sadness for everyone: for the person who is sick, for family members, and for you.
It's OK to be sad, and it's OK to cry. Crying doesn't mean you're not strong. It's just a way for your body to show you are sad. Everyone cries: boys and girls, men and women. And it's OK for you, too, if you feel like it.
It's OK to Be Mad
When someone in your family has cancer, life can be even busier than usual. Along with all your normal activities like school and soccer and Scouts, time also has to be made for your loved one's needs. There will be extra trips to the hospital for check-ups and chemotherapy. Sometimes, this means that you might not get to do what you like to do. And this could make you mad.
It's OK to be mad, especially when things are hard to understand. When you get to do something fun again, you'll be less mad.
Excerpted from When Someone You Love Has Cancer by Alaric Lewis, R. W. Alley. Copyright © 2005 Alaric Lewis. Excerpted by permission of Abbey Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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