Your parent's cancer and roles in the family

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No matter how much you hoped it wouldn’t, life changed once your parent was diagnosed with cancer. Living with a parent who has cancer can affect your life in almost every way. Your routines and relationships will change. Relationships with your well parent and sisters and brothers might become more strained, or your family might be drawn closer together.

Roles in your family might change too. An older sister or brother might start becoming really bossy and protective, which can be frustrating. You might resent having to be the ‘strong one’ all the time, or having to step into a parent role and look after younger siblings and stuff like cooking and paying bills.

How much the changes affect you and how you deal with them will depend on your age, whether you have moved out of home and other responsibilities you’re juggling (like school, study or work).


Your relationship with your parent with cancer

You may find that it becomes difficult to be around your parent as their illness progresses. It can be scary to see them in pain or tired from treatment. The treatment may affect their energy levels or behaviour and they may find it harder to interact with you. You may feel particularly lonely or sad if your mum or dad is your only parent.

On the plus side, you may develop a better relationship with your mum or dad and come to appreciate things you may not have know about before. But you won’t suddenly agree on everything just because they have cancer!


Your relationship with your other parent

Like you, your other (healthy) parent is probably experiencing a whole range of difficult and confusing emotions. They will be worried about your mum or dad as well as stressing about you and your siblings, the bills, work and what will happen in the future. They might not be around as much and even when they are they may seem tired, distracted and always focused on other things.

This can be particularly difficult if your parents have separated or are divorced and don’t live together in the same house as you. It may take some adjusting to how your family deals with it and how cancer treatment schedules might impact your visitation schedules. Join or log in to the Canteen Community to read other young people’s advice on how they got through it.


Your relationships with your brother/s or sister/s

If you have brothers and/or sisters, they might be a really important source of support. They may be the only ones who really get how hard it is because they’re living it with you. But if you never got along well with your brother or sister, the stresses of cancer may not change that.


Everyone in your family will deal with stress and fear in different ways and you may need a truckload of patience to prevent you from losing your cool.


Get some help

If you are having a really hard time dealing with the changes at home, it’s important to talk about it with someone. Try a trusted friend, family member or teacher. A counsellor or social worker can give you lots of advice and help you find services to help at home. Chat to a Canteen counsellor online or by phone.

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