If your father or mother has cancer, you can be really rather sad or angry about it. Perhaps you have questions about it. Maybe you want to know what cancer is and how it’s treated. Or maybe you’d like to know if other children are afraid too, or feel angry or sad. You will find a lot of answers on this site. Of course there are also tips. Are you watching?

What is cancer?

Your body consists of millions of cells. These cells can divide – one cell becomes two, two becomes four and so on. So many new ones are added every day. Fortunately, cells die every day, otherwise you would get way too many. So there is a kind of balance.

In cancer, something goes wrong with those cells. One of the cells becomes sick. The diseased cell continues to divide and the new diseased cells continue to grow. They huddle together and push healthy cells aside. They can grow straight through tissues and organs and roam through the body. So something has to be done about it.

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 father or mother?

Jane: “Sometimes I think: why does it have to be my mother?” Nobody can answer this question. Getting cancer is just bad luck, sheer bad luck.

Will my father or mother die now?

Some people die from cancer, but there are also people who get better. Don´t forget that there are a lot of different sorts of cancer and that often something can be done about it. Would you like to know how cancer is treated? Have a look at operations, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy.

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.
How many sorts of cancer are there?

There are more than a 100 different sorts of cancer. Every sort has its own name. There is breast cancer, bowel cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, a brain tumor, blood cancer (leukaemia), and so on.

What is a tumour?

A tumour is another word for cancer. It is 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 swellings are harmless. When we talk about cancer, we mean a malignant (that is, ill) cells.

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.

What is a metastasis (spreading)?

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 when the cancer spreads.

Is cancer hereditary?

Cancer can run in the family and we know now that a few sorts can be hereditary. It can happen, but it doesn’t have to. And what´s more, if the cancer is hereditary, it still does not mean that you will get it later too. You can decide yourself whether you’d like to be tested for it– when you are older.

Can you prevent cancer?

No, there are no means yet to prevent cancer. But you can try to keep the chance as small as possible by living as healthily as possible. By applying plenty of sunscreen, getting a vaccination against the HPV virus and not smoking or vaping, for example. And of course by eating fruit and vegetables every day and exercising a lot.

Is cancer contagious?

Cancer is NOT contagious. So you can just shake hands or give mother or father a kiss. And oh yes, also tell your friends because they sometimes also think that cancer is contagious.

Yoran: “My father has lung cancer and every time he had to cough I was afraid that I would get it too. Fortunately, I recently heard that that is not possible at all. The doctor thought it was a good thing that I had asked that question!”

Do children get cancer too?

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

Can animals get cancer too?

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 and divide really fast.

Can I do anything to help?

Maybe you can do a chore, unload the dishwasher, set the table or clean up your room yourself. Drawing a picture or writing a poem also helps, of course. Or just give your father or mother a hug.


To find out what exactly is going on or to see if the treatment is helping, your mother or father will have to go to hospital for some tests. Here are some of those tests.


To see where the cancer is and how big the tumor is, x-rays are sometimes taken. In his photo you can see the inside of the body.


Tissues and organs can be clearly seen on an ultrasound. An ultrasound is an examination with sound waves. The doctor applies a little gel to your father or mother’s body and moves over it with a transmitter. The doctor can see where the cancer cells are on a TV screen.

Blood tests

Cancer cells release substances that can be seen in the blood. It is also checked whether there are any abnormalities in the red and white blood cells and in the platelets. This means that your father or mother will have to be injected often.


Cancer cells use a lot of energy and need sugar to grow. A PET/CT scan can detect the sugar and allow the doctor to see the cancer cells. Your father or mother will be injected with a drug that makes the sugar and therefore the cancer cells more visible. After the injection, your father or mother has to wait a while and will lie on a table that slides through a kind of large drum. The device takes a lot of pictures of the tumor and the tissue around it.


To see exactly where the cancer cells are located, an MRI is sometimes also necessary. Sound waves and a large, strong magnet create signals in the body that are converted into photos by a computer. An MRI machine is a kind of tube that makes a lot of noise and through which your father or mother slides on a movable bed. Because the examination takes quite a long time, your father or mother can bring along some music.


The doctor almost always needs to take away a little bit of tissue from the tumour (that´s called a biopsy). That biopsy is then examined in the laboratory under a microscope. In this way the doctor can see exactly what sort of cancer it is.


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 as possible.

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 the people and nobody will get cancer anymore



During an operation the tumour, or as 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 anaesthesia. 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 have an operation often have to stay in hospital for a while. When they come home, they can be weak from the operation. Your mum or dad might not be able do certain things for a while, like lifting heavy things or going upstairs.



Perhaps the doctor will decide to give your mum or dad chemotherapy, also called chemo. These are medicines that attack the cancer cells. They are also called cytostatics (pronounced: sito statics). They make the cancer cells unable to divide and destroy them.

The annoying part of it is that these 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 so that your mum or dad becomes bald. Luckily after some time the vomiting will go away and the hair will grow back. 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 be given the medicines in hospital, but sometimes they are pills and 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 a vein in your mum or dad’s arm. Usually there is a box with a counter on the pole too. That shows exactly how many drips of medicine are allowed to go through per minute.

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 if your mum or dad has cancer. If the hospital doesn’t know who Chemo-Kasper is, go to www.vokk.nl 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.

Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy

Some substances the body makes itself, like hormones, make cancer cells grow faster. Of course, that´s not the idea. That is why your mum or dad is sometimes given a treatment to stop the hormones.

This hormone therapy is usually made up of medicines. Most mums and dads get hot flashes from it. Then they get hot very quickly. After a few minutes it goes again. Sometimes hormone therapy is also known as endocrine therapy.



Immunotherapy means that your mum or dad is given 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.



Cancer cells can also be destroyed by radiation. This happens in the radiotherapy department. Invisible beams are emitted from a large device and are aimed very precisely at the tumor. It is a very precise job because healthy cells must be spared as much as possible. The doctor calculates how much radiation is needed and where it should be delivered. Because it always has to be in the same place, dots or stripes are drawn on your father or mother’s body. If your father or mother is exposed to radiation on the head, a mask will be made. When everything is ready, the radiation can begin. Sometimes it only lasts a few minutes, but then it lasts for many days in a row. Your father or mother may have to go to the hospital every day for four weeks. Most fathers and mothers become tired from radiation and red or sore skin is also common.

Ask if you can come along to see what those devices look like. Maybe you can take a photo or make a video of it.

Proton therapy

Proton therapy

Sometimes protons are used during radiation therapy. The video explains what they are and how it works.


Stemcell transplant

If the cancer is in the blood cells, some fathers or mothers receive a stem cell transplant. Stem cells are a type of mother cell from which different types of new cells can arise. The stem cells are extracted from the blood of your father, mother or a donor using a special device and stored in a freezer. This is followed by an extra high dose of chemotherapy and/or radiation so that the cancer cells in your father or mother’s body are combated very fiercely. The stem cells are then given back. After a while they grow into healthy blood cells.

During this entire treatment, the risk of infections is high and your father or mother may sometimes have to lie separately in a room. You are not allowed to visit. That could take a few weeks. Once home, your father or mother must adhere to all kinds of health rules and take a lot of medication.

Targeted treatment

Targeted treatment

Cancer cells sometimes send wrong messages. Then they signal, for example, that blood vessels need to be created so that the tumor receives more nutrients and can continue to grow. Targeted therapy slows down those incorrect messages. The treatment consists of medications. Sometimes these medications cause your father or mother to have dry skin, cracks or blisters in the hands and feet, or very sensitive fingertips.


If your mum or dad has cancer, usually a lot changes. 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 anything you don’t understand.

Staying the night and/or staying at school for lunch
Sometimes your mum or dad can manage to go to hospital during your school time. But often that´s just not possible. So you might have to stay at school at lunchtime more often or go to afterschool club. It can also happen 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!

Looking different
Some mums or dad will look different because of their treatment or their illness. That’s very often the case in mums or dads whose heads or necks are operated on. Usually that is temporary, but sometimes it´s forever. In general you will get used to it. There are also mums and dad who become very thin because of their illness. That can look a bit scary. Try not to notice it too much.

Cancer cells in the head
Mums or dads with a brain tumour or cancer cells in their head can sometimes behave differently. They might get very angry all of a sudden, say things you don’t understand at all or they could all at once not remember your name. That’s really 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 back and forth 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 turn out that your mum or dad is tired for a long time.

Doing fun things together
During the treatment your mum or dad will not be able to go 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, your mum or dad can have a little rest and maybe you can still do some fun things together.

What does it do to you?

eing scared, angry and sad because your mum or dad has cancer is really normal. Let’s see what other kids have to say.


Letteke: “I often have stomach ache and am often awake for a long time. My mother says it’s because I’m scared.”

Pim: “Sometimes I don’t want to go to school. Then I’m afraid that something will happen at home, that my father will become even sicker, for example, and that I won’t be there.”

Yannick:  “I’m afraid my mother is going to die.”

Sarah: “I sometimes dream that I walk through the house alone and can no longer find mom and dad. Then I wake up crying.”


Tim: “I understand it, but I hate that I always have to be calm.”

Bas: “Yesterday I punched someone. They called me a cancer kid. I had had it completely.”

Ella: “Sometimes I’m just angry with my sister. But of course he can’t do anything about it.”


Jurriaan: “When daddy had to cry, I had to cry too.”

Sarah: “I am sad quite often, but I don’t want my mother to see that. She already has enough on her mind. When I cry, I do it with a friend.”

Leon: “Crying is something for girls… I usually just play football. That helps.”

Netteke: “She used to always dance around the room and sing crazy songs. Now she can’t do anything anymore.”

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 isn’t 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, go to a beautiful spot in the woods or on the beach in your head. Feel the warm sand, can you hear the waves?

Stomachache and headache
Sometimes you´re so tired or so anxious that you get stomachache or a headache. That’s quite normal. Don’t go and think that you are ill too, but try to have some time out 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.

Different from your brother or sister
Maybe you react differently from your brother or sister. Maybe your brother wants to talk about it all and you really don’t. Or maybe your sister wants to go to hospital and you´d rather not. That is all okay, because everybody deals with it in her/his own way.

Be happy, don´t give up and be strong
Actually 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 at the moment? Let´s hope next year you will!


To tell or not to tell?
Most children find it hard to tell that their mum or dad has cancer at school. Still it’s important that you do, because then the teacher will know why every now and then you can’t concentrate. Ask your mum or dad to tell the teacher.

Your classmates
Try to talk about it in your class sometimes, because then other children will know what it’s like at home. Tell them that your mum or dad often has to go to hospital, that being bald or wearing a wig is part of it, that having cancer isn’t at all nice. Do you find that difficult? Ask your teacher for help!

Don’t think about it for a moment
You may not think about it at school. That’s nice, because then you can focus on other things. You may also have to think about it at school. Then your head is simply too full and you can no longer do that math problem or language lesson. Tell the teacher and come up with a solution together.

To console
Are you sometimes sad at school? That is also part of it. Tell us what you feel and the teacher can probably help you.

Cancer swear words
They sometimes say that swearing doesn’t hurt, but that’s not true. Do you also explode when cancer swear words are used? Don’t do it, just say you don’t want to hear it. Call it stupid. Go to your teacher. Don’t kick or hit, but do something about it!

Giving a talk
Have you ever thought about giving a talk about cancer? Of course you know a lot about it now. Make a list of things you want to say. Look for brochures and pictures. Ask the nurses in the hospital for an IV bag, plasters, gauze or other material. Use what is on this site or send us an email. It’s sure to be a great speech!

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
(doesn’t matter who with!)

Write about it
(how about a diary?)

Draw about it
(and send your drawings to us!)

Write a poem

Hit a cushion hard

Cycle against the wind

Hit a punch ball
(ask for one for your birthday)

Kick against the wall
(mind your toes)

Listen to your favourite music

Play the drums


Play computer games

Do you know any other things that might help or do you have something to say too? Click on the bulletin board or send us an e-mail.

Talk about cancer

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 fathers and mothers 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 they still think about it often. Then they go for a walk, cycle, draw, play sports or do odd jobs in the garden. 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 make sure 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. That’s all good.

Not getting better anymore

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. This means your father or mother can live for a very long time!

The cancer cells must of course be closely monitored. So your father or mother will often have to go to the hospital. And maybe your father or mother 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.


When your father or mother 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 father or mother will die and how that will happen. Talk about it with your parents or the doctor.

It’s nice to keep doing things. Read a story, bake muffins, make a smoothie, maybe make a video as a memory.

Bulletin board

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

[click on an image to enlarge]

[click on an image to enlarge]


Not yet available in English.

Boeken & films


Voor alle kinderen die een vader of moeder met kanker hebben.

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Alles wat ik voel

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Het Klokhuisboek over kanker

Uitleg over kanker, reacties van andere kinderen, grappige weetjes, chats, mailtjes en heel veel praktische informatie.

De club van ons

Invulboek voor ouder en kind om herinneringen op te schrijven, foto’s en briefjes in te plakken en geheimen te delen.

Hotel De Grote L

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Kleine Monnik

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Overal en ergens

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Lucas en de ziekte kanker

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Stijn (6) tekent over zijn moeder die borstkanker heeft; een boekje om zelf mee aan de slag te gaan. Te bestellen via boekmama2021@gmail.com

Een zoen zo groen

Sprookjesachtig prentenboek over een meisje met een moeder die een boze knoop in haar lijf heeft.

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Voorleesboek voor kinderen van mama’s die een borstamputatie ondergaan.

Ik ben Jack

Waarin Jack verschillende situaties meemaakt die met kanker te maken hebben.

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Heeft je vader of moeder kanker? Dan is dit boek iets voor jou. In dit powerboek maken de dieren je sterk.


Als dit prachtige, veelkleurig vogeltje door het land vliegt, brengt ze vrolijkheid en energie aan alle dieren die ze tegenkomt.

Doe-boek papa/mama

Informatief werkboek van het Erasmus MC voor kinderen van wie een vader of moeder kanker heeft.

Doe-boek opa/oma

Informatief werkboek van het Erasmus MC voor kinderen van wie een opa of oma kanker heeft.

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Een moeder met een zakje? Dat klinkt wel een beetje raar. Weet jij wat een stoma is? Lees dan dit boekje maar!

Papa, hoor je me?

De vader van Polle is overleden en ligt in de kamer. Polle praat tegen hem en vertelt hoe zijn vader steeds zieker werd.

Mama heeft kanker

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Christiaan is met opa in het park. Ineens komt hun gesprek op de dood.

Mama’s borst is ziek

Een beeldend en vernieuwend prentenboek, hoopvol met hier en daar een knipoog.