Talking about cancer

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Cancer can be a tough topic to talk about. You may have lots of questions but you’re not sure how to ask your parent. Your parent may not be ready to talk, or may not think they should talk to you about it. Perhaps they want to talk but think you may not be ready to listen or talk to them.

Sitting around with your family talking and sharing your innermost thoughts is not easy! Not all families talk openly and honestly about things that are happening or their feelings. But dealing with your mum’s or dad’s cancer is going to be easier for everyone if you find ways to communicate.

Things to think about

  • There is no right or wrong way to talk about cancer.

  • Let your parent know that you want to know what is going on.

  • Your parent might not want to talk about their cancer because they don’t want to worry you.

  • Maybe your mum or dad doesn’t have all the information yet. Let them know that you would like them to share the information when they get it, whether it’s good or bad.

  • It may be easier for you to talk to someone else in your family or even someone outside the family. Think about people who you trust and feel comfortable with.


Talking tips

When you do get to talk to your mum or dad about their cancer:

  • It may help to think about what you want to ask and what you want to say before you start.

  • It may be really hard to start with and there may be lots of silent moments. That’s okay.

  • Try not to freak if you or your parent gets upset – this is not any easy thing to be talking about. Just take a moment (for them or you) and try to continue.

  • Talking can be easier if you are doing something else at the same time – like driving somewhere or cooking dinner.

  • Try not to worry about it too much – this is new, and possibly very scary for both of you and it may take time to work out how to talk to each other openly and honestly.

  • Some people find it helpful to have another person with them, like a trusted friend or family member (like an Aunt or Uncle) to help through difficult conversations.

Read stories and chat with other young people who’ve been through this with their parents in the Canteen Community.

If talking is too hard

Sometimes talking is too hard but you still want your mum or dad to know how you are feeling. You could send them a text or email, write a letter or find a card that says what you may be feeling.


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