Children from 6 to 9 years old

Hi!

If your mum or dad has cancer, it can be that you feel angry or sad. That is really normal. Other children who have a mum or dad with cancer feel like that too.

Maybe your have some questions or would like to know more. Or maybe you just don’t want to know anything about it. Sometimes it helps to talk about it. You can do that here in this chat forum. Of course you can also make a drawing about it.

And if after all you do want to know about cancer and everything that comes with it, have a look through this site. Who knows, maybe you can use this site for giving a talk at school. Why not have a look?

What is cancer?

If you want to know how cancer grows, first you have to know that your whole body is made up of cells. They´re like the bricks of a house. The more bricks, the bigger the house. It is like that with the human body too, there are cells and little cells everywhere.

Cells

Because cells can divide – one cell becomes two, two become four, four become eight and so on – every day there are a lot more of them. Fortunately every day a lot of them die too, because otherwise you would have too many.

In cancer something goes wrong with those cells. One of the cells breaks up and gets ill. The poorly, bad cells divide and divide and keep on growing. Such a bad cell is called a cancer cell. They gather together, push the healthy cells away, can even grow right through everything and can wander around the body. Something has to be done to stop those  cancer cells!

Cancer is a really terrible disease. Even so you often can´t tell from the outside that your mum or dad is that ill. That can sometimes be hard.

Many many questions

Do you have any questions? See if your question is here or send us an email. We will try to get back to you as soon as possible.

Why my mummy or daddy?

Nobody can answer this question. But just like it is not your fault, it is not your dad’s or mum’s fault either. Getting cancer is just bad luck, sheer bad luck.

Is it my fault?

That´s another question that can go through your head. Maybe one day you were very cross with your mum or dad, or said something bad or your mum or dad tripped over your bike. Of course that´s upsetting, but nobody gets cancer from that. That’s why cancer is NOT your fault!

Will my mum or dad die now?

Some people die because of cancer, but there are also people who get better. You shouldn’t forget that there are a lot of different sorts of cancer. Would you like to know how cancer is treated? Have a look at operations, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and other treatments.

Where does the word cancer come from?

Cancer comes from the Latin word “cancer” that means crab or lobster. A tumour or cancerous tumour is usually not round, but looks like a little ball with little bits sticking out. When they discovered cancer and saw a little ball like that with bits sticking out it reminded them of a crab or a lobster.

Did cancer exist before?

Cancer has existed for a long time. Two and a half thousand years ago they already tried to find out about the disease and in Egypt when they did excavations they found mummies of people who had died of cancer. Cancer is really a very old illness.

Can you catch cancer?

Some children think that cancer is catching, but that is NOT true. So you can give mum or dad a kiss or a hug just like usual! And oh, don´t forget to tell that to your friends, because sometimes they also think that cancer is catching.

Can children also get cancer?

Yes, but children don´t get cancer as often as, for instance, grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, and mothers. If you stand 1000 people in a row who have cancer, then 994 of them are grown-ups and only 6 are children.

Can animals also get cancer?

Yes, animals can also get cancer. Just like the human body, an animal´s body is made up of cells. These cells can also get ill.

What is a tumour?

A tumour is another word for a clump of sick cells. Some people talk about a lump or a swelling. Beware: not every lump or swelling is cancer. Some lumps or bulges are good (benign). When we talk about cancer we mean a bad (malignant) lump or swelling.

What is a metastasis?

Sick cells can wander throughout the body. On the spot where the cancer cells end up a new tumour can grow. That is what we call metastasis or the cancer spreads.

How many sorts of cancer are there?

There are over a 100 different sorts of cancer. Every sort has another name. There is breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, a brain tumor, blood cancer (leukemia), and so on.

Tests

To find out what exactly is going on or to see if the treatment is helping, your mum or dad has to go to hospital for some tests. Here are some of those tests.

Blood tests

In a blood test your mum or dad’s blood is looked at. Usually the doctor can see a lot there. It does mean that your mum or dad often has to be pricked with a needle!

X-rays

If every you have broken an arm or a leg, you know what an X-ray is. You can see bones on it and alo some other things. Sometimes fathers or mothers with cancer also have to have an X-ray taken. The doctor can see then what it looks like on the inside.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound is an examination with sonar waves. The doctor smears a little bit of gel on, for instance, your mum or dad’s tummy and moves a little handheld probe over it. The doctor can see on the tv-screen if something is the matter.

PET-scan

A lot of pictures of your mum or dad’s insides are taken quickly after each other using something that looks like a big drum. Your mum or dad has to lie on a table that very slowly moves through the drum.

MRI

This is just like a scan, but it´s not an X-ray, but with a magnet. The MRI can make a lot of noise. Because the examination takes rather a long time, your mum or dad can bring some music along to listen to.

Biopsy

The first thing a doctor nearly always does is to take away a little piece (a biopsy) from the tumour which is then examined in the laboratory under a microscope. In this way the doctor can see exactly what sort of cancer it is.

Treatment

Because there are so many different sorts of cancer, there are also different sorts of treatment. The doctor always looks for a treatment with the best possible chance of a cure and with the fewest bad side effects.

Doctors all over the world are looking for better and new ways to treat cancer. Who knows one day they will be able to cure all people and nobody will get cancer anymore.

Operations

Operations

During an operation the tumour, or a big a part as possible, will be removed by the doctor. First your mum or dad is made to go to sleep. This is called anesthesia. Sometimes removing the cancer cells is not enough, so the doctor will remove more, the whole breast, for instance, or a leg or a piece of bowel. Of course, that is not nice at all. People who will have an operation often have to stay in hospital for a while. When they come home, they can be weak from the operation. It might be that your mum or dad cannot do certain things for a while, like lifting heavy things or going upstairs.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

Perhaps the doctor will decide to give your mum or dad chemotherapy. Those are medicines that attack the cancer cells. They make the cancer cells unable to divide and destroy them. The annoying part of it is that those medicines also attack healthy cells. Cells in the tummy, for instance, that make your mum or dad feel like being sick, or the hair roots that make your mum or dad become bald. Luckily after some time that will go away. Some mums and dads will be tired for a long time after they have had chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy can be given through an intravenous drip, in pills or as an injection. Mostly your mum or dad will get the medicines in hospital, but sometime it is as pills and they can be taken at home.

A drip, or intravenous drip, is a plastic bag with a thin tube that hangs on a tall pole and a needle goes from the tube into your mum or dad’s arm. Usually there is a box with a sort of counter hanging from the pole too. That shows exactly how many drips of medicine per minute may go through.

Sometimes cancer cells give wrong signals to their surroundings. For instance, they tell other cells that they have to grow or that blood vessels need to be made, so that the cancer cells can carry on eating. There are special medicines that can make sure that those wrong signals aren´t sent. That is called targeted treatment. Would you like to know more about chemotherapy? Please ask for the book Chemo-Kasper, if you do. The book is about a boy with cancer but it is also good to read it if your mum or dad has cancer. If the hospital does not know who Chemo-Kasper is, go to www.vokk.nl

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy

Cancer cells can be destroyed by irradiation. That is called radiotherapy and is done with a big machine that sends invisible beams aimed very precisely at the cancerous tumour. It is very precise work because the healthy cells have to be spared as much as possible. That is why the doctor calculates in advance how much radiation is needed and where it should end up. Because that has to be on the same spot all the time, lines are drawn on your mum or dad’s body.

So that as many healthy cells as possible are saved, every irradiation only lasts a couple of minutes, but it is given for many days in a row. Sometimes your mum or dad has to go to hospital every day for a whole month.

Other treatments

Hormone therapy

Some substances the body makes itself, for instance, hormones, make cancer cells grow faster. Of course, that is not good. That is why your mum or dad sometimes gets a treatment that gets rid of the hormones. This hormone therapy is usually made up of medicines.

Immunotherapy

Another weird word. Immunotherapy is medicines that make sure that your mum or dad’s body can defend itself better against cancer cell attacks. They try to make the body stronger, so that the cancer cells have less chance to grow.

Stem cell transplantation

If a whole lot of chemotherapy or radiotherapy is needed, stem cells can be damaged. To make sure that there can be new blood cells, there is a treatment called stem cell transplantation. Stem cells are a sort of mother cells from which –once they are grown – various new blood cells can come. Stem cells are in the bone marrow, that is on the inside of the bones. First of all, your mum or dad will have an injection to make the stem cells move from the bone marrow to the blood. Then the stem cells are taken out of the blood and kept. After that your mum or dad will get an awful lot of chemo or radiation and then in the end their cells will be put back again. If everything goes according to plan, the stem cells will grow into healthy blood cells after a while. While this whole treatment is going on, your mum or dad will sometimes have to be in a separate room and you cannot go to visit them. That can last a couple of weeks.

Changes

If your mum or dad has cancer, usually a lot will change.
That takes some getting used to.

Often going to hospital
Somebody who has cancer often has to go to hospital. For tests, to talk to the doctor, for chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Sometimes that hospital is nearby, sometimes it isn’t. Would you like to see where your mum or dad goes? Just ask if you can go along. Have a good look around you and ask if there is something you don’t understand.

Staying the night and/or staying at school for lunch
Sometimes your mum or dad are able to go to hospital during your school hours. But often that´s just not possible. So you have to stay at school at lunchtime more or go to afterschool club. It can also be that your mum or dad has to stay in hospital for a couple of nights. That can mean that you stay the night at a friend’s or that your granny and grandad come to stay.

Being upset
Most mums and dads are upset for a while if they have cancer. They are confused and sad. Usually they won’t say so, but you can notice it. Sometimes it helps if you comfort them or give them a hug. But also say if you feel sad or confused too. That helps too!

Cancer cells in the head
Mums or dads with a brain tumour or cancer cells in their head can sometimes get very angry all of a sudden, say things you don’t understand at all or they suddenly don’t remember your name. That’s very sad. Is there somebody who can help you with this? An aunt or an uncle, for instance, or a neighbour or your granny or grandad? Also look at ‘What helps’ or maybe you have a better idea and you can email us.

Lying on the sofa
Cancer makes you tired. You yourself, but also your mum or dad. From all that running to hospital, from the medicines, from the radiotherapy, from all the worrying thoughts. That’s why a mum or dad with cancer will lie on the sofa more often than a healthy mother or father. Usually it goes away after a bit, but it can also be that your mum or dad will be tired for a long time.

Do fun things together
During the treatment your mum or dad will not be able to come to school or sports matches with you. That doesn’t mean that nothing is possible. If you tidy up your own room, make your own bed, or clear the table, mum or dad can have a little rest and maybe you can still do some fun things together

What does it do to you?

Being scared, angry and sad because your mum or dad has cancer is really normal. Let’s see what other children say.

Feeling alone
Some children feel very alone. It feels like you are the only one with a mum or dad with cancer. Maybe it helps a little if you know that it’s not true. That’s why we made this website. Especially for all those children who have a mother or father with cancer.

Not being able to sleep
That’s a big problem. It does make you very tired, doesn’t it? Have you ever tried thinking of something nice? Close your eyes, get into a rocket or onto a (flying) horse and fly to a beautiful spot in the woods or to the beach in your head. Feel the warm sand between your toes, the warm water, are you there yet?

Tummyache and headache
Sometimes you´re so tired or so anxious that you get tummyache or a headache. That’s quite normal. Don’t go and think that you are ill too, but try to do nothing every now and then. Just curl up with a comic on the sofa. Email us if you have any other ideas.

Fingers in your ears
All that going on about cancer! Maybe you don’t want to hear anything about it. Of course, that’s fine too, but sometimes that´s hard. Important things have to be talked about. But it can also feel like it’s only about cancer, that everybody starts talking about it and that the phone rings the whole day. Try to work a way out with your mum or dad.

Be happy, don´t give up and be strong
That’s by far the most important thing of all. Write a postcard, make a drawing, be strong, don´t give up hope. Is your birthday party not going ahead? Next month it might. Can´t you go on  holiday now? Let´s hope next year you will!

School

Class assembly

Try to talk about it in your class now and then, because then other children will know what it’s like at home. Tell them cancer is not catching, that being bald or wearing a wig is part of it, that Chemo-Kasper is fighting really hard against the cancer cells. Ask your teacher to help you.

Stop thinking about it for a minute
Maybe you don’t think about it at school. That’s nice, because you can be busy doing other things. Maybe it´s at school that you can´t stop thinking about it. Then your head is just too full and there´s no room left for maths or spelling. Tell your teacher and think of how to make it better together.

Teacher doesn’t want to think about it
That can also happen. Some people actually find it scary to talk about cancer. Think of a plan together with your mum or dad and tell your teacher about this website.

Swearing

They sometimes say that swearing doesn’t hurt, but that isn’t true. Do you also get mad if “kanker”(cancer) is used as a swear word? Try not to, but do say you don’t want to hear it. Say that it’s stupid. Go to your teacher. Don’t start kicking or hitting, but do something about it!

Giving a talk
Have you ever thought about giving a talk about cancer? You know an awful lot about it by now. Make a list of things you want to tell. Go and find leaflets and pictures. Ask the nurses in hospital for a drip bag, plasters, a sick bowl and bandages. Use this site. It’s going to be a super talk for sure!

Friends, children in the neighbourhood
Make sure that your friends know what is going on. Ask them if they want to help you when you’re feeling down. And more than anything else, go and do lots of nice things together!

What helps?

  • Talk about it
  • Write about it
  • Draw about it
  • Hit a cushion hard
  • Cycle against the wind
  • Cry

Do you know any other things that can help or do you have something to say too? Just click on the bulletin board.

Praten over kanker

Vind jij ook dat praten kan helpen? Kijk dan eens naar dit filmpje gemaakt door een student van de Dutch Filmers Academy.

The future

Getting better

Fortunately, many parents get better again. The cancer stays away and the unpleasant time of hospital, treatments and being sad is over.

Some parents have been changed by the cancer and the treatments. They are missing a breast, have a scar or a stoma. Others have to do exercises every day to get stronger again. Sometimes you don’t notice anything on the outside, but there is still a lot of worry going on. Then your father or mother goes for a walk, cycle, work in the garden or make sculptures. Or they go and talk to someone. Because that helps. But of course you know that too.

Of course, your father or mother still has to go to the hospital every now and then to see if everything continues to go well. But that too diminishes after a while. The cancer becomes a memory. Maybe you’ll think about it again later, maybe you won’t. Everything is good.

Not getting better anymore

If mom or dad doesn’t get better
If it is not possible to get rid of the cancer, there are often medications that ensure that the cancer cells remain silent for a while. And when those medicines no longer work, there are sometimes new medicines available. So the cancer cells may remain there, but not grow or change. So your mom or dad can live for a very long time!

The cancer cells must of course be closely monitored. So your mom or dad will have to go to the hospital every now and then. And maybe your mom or dad is no longer in great shape. Being tired and sad is also part of it because it is quite strange to know that those cancer cells do not go away.

Dying

When mom or dad dies
Sometimes a person is so sick that the doctor thinks he or she will die soon. You will feel angry, sad and scared. You may have all kinds of questions, such as when your mom or dad will die and how that will happen. Talk about it with your parents or the doctor.

It’s nice to keep doing things. You can make a wish jar or an idea box with notes of things you would like to do together, such as baking cookies or reading in the big bed. Maybe you can take a selfie or video as a memory.

Coloring pages

Do you want to surprise your dad, mom, grandpa, grandma or someone else with a beautiful coloring page? Then download them below by clicking on the coloring page you like.

Have fun! You can always send photos of the possible to us!

[click on an image to download]

[click on an image to download]

Bulletin board

Do you also want your drawing on the notice board? Send it to us! You can also download Coloring Pages.

[click on an image to enlarge]

[click on an image to enlarge]

Shop

Not yet available in English.

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