Parents With Cancer: Millions of Patients Juggle Chemotherapy and Childrearing

"Cancer can be a very stressful experience for children in the household," Weaver says, and often, the parent might not even know the extent of the strain that is put on the child. Past research has found that kids often don't speak up and say that they're struggling, trying not to overload or worry their parents, she says.

Even after loved ones go into remission, the fears about cancer can stay with a child.

"My oldest daughter has had the family to talk to about [my cancer throughout the process], but even now she still has questions. She asked me the other day if she was going to get cancer now -- that was really hard for me," Alloway says.

Parents With Cancer: an Underappreciated Struggle

Support groups can be a place for kids to express their feelings about their parents' cancer without fearing that they will burden their families. But while the online community has a thriving support system, there aren't that many in-the-flesh support groups.

"Support groups aren't that easy to find," Alloway says. "I wanted my daughter, my husband, and myself in one, but I didn't find any for people our age in our area."

Having extended family members, friends, and neighbors around to help out with their kids was essential in coping through the treatment stage, say Noble and Alloway.

Currently there are no standards of care guiding oncologists on how to help cancer patients with young children, says Dr. Nathan Pennel, Alloway's doctor and assistant professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

"There's a saying among oncologists that families get cancer, not just patients. That's especially true with younger patients who have children," he says. "There should be some kind of formal plan, so that doctors know how to advise patients on how to cope with treatment while raising their kids."

"Because cancer is thought of as something that happens to the elderly, this is an underappreciated issue."

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