We know that a diagnosis of cancer can be scary. We hope this section will help your child get answers to their questions.
Cancer isn’t something you caught and isn’t caused by something you did, thought of doing or dreamed of doing. It just happened. It’s not like a cold that you may have caught from your friend. Some grown-ups get cancer from bad habits such as smoking, but this is not why kids get cancer. Nobody caused your cancer and nobody could have stopped it from coming. It just happened.
No one knows why some kids get cancer and others don’t, but remember you didn’t cause it! You might have lots of feelings when you find out you have cancer, such as like you did something wrong, or wanting to pretend you didn’t hear. It is okay to feel sad and cry. These feelings are a way for you to say how you feel inside.
Your life will change because of your treatments. You will have to go to the clinic or the hospital for chemotherapy. You may go to the clinic as often as three times a week or you may only go once in a while. The number of times depends on the type of cancer you have and the type of treatment that you need to fix your cancer.
You might have times during your treatment when you can’t do some things you used to be able to do. This is usually because of your blood counts being low. But, there will be other times when you can do normal kid things and there will be many things that don’t have to change at all.
The doctors and nurses know that getting stuck in your arm can hurt so they try to make it easier on you by putting special tubes into your body. Both of these tubs are put in during surgery so you will be sleeping. Once you have your tube, you won’t have to get stuck in the arm very much. Through these tubes you can get your chemotherapy, fluids, platelets and blood. These tubes also can be used for getting blood out of your body when the doctors need blood to check your counts. There are three types of special tubes that they can put in. You only get one of them…a broviac catheter, an implantofix or a PICC.
Chemotherapy (pronounced Kee mo) is special medicines used to treat the cancer. Chemotherapy medicines are very strong. Chemotherapy can be given by pills or in liquids in your mouth, by medicine into your veins (IV), by medicine into your muscles (IM), or by medicine into your spinal fluid (IT).
Doctors have found that using more than one kind of chemotherapy works better than using just one. The amount of chemotherapy you will receive depends on how tall you are and how much you weigh. That is why the nurses measure you when you come to the clinic or hospital.
Radiation is a special kind of treatment that you cannot see, feel or touch. It is given by big machines and is like a beam of light. Like many of the tests you have had, it doesn’t hurt. The machines do make a lot of funny noises. The doctors will use a special pen to make marks on your body. These marks mark the spots where you need your radiation. You need to keep your marks clean and dry. For your radiation treatment, you will lay on the table of a big machines. This machine will be moving over and around you as it aims itself at your marks. You need to be very still while the machine is on.
An echocardiogram is a test that looks at your heart to see how it is pumping. For this test the person doing the test will put some stuff that looks like clear jelly on the end of a long wand and press that against your chest. This will show a picture of your heart pumping on a TV screen. This test does not hurt, but sometimes they have to press hard on your chest to get a good picture on the TV. They usually have another TV that you can watch cartoons or movies on while having this done. This test should take about 20 minutes. It is very important for you to stay still. Your mommy or daddy can stay with you during this test.
Sometimes it is necessary to take a special look inside your body. This can be done by a really neat test called a CT scan. For this test you sometimes have to drink some red liquid called contrast to help us get a better look at the inside of your body. The people who do the CT scan sometimes also have to put some medicine in your tubie. You will then lie on a table and a very largemachine will move all around your body to take pictures. Your job for this test is to try to stay as still as possible. It doesn’t take very long and it does not hurt! Your mom or dad can stay with you during this test.
Sometimes a CT scan is not the very best test to see the inside of your body and you will have another test called an MRI. This test uses a large machine that usually is kind of loud and it may take a little longer. If you like music, you can pick out some songs for them to play during your test. Your most important job for this test is to try to stay as still as you can. If you need to move or something itches, you can tell the person doing the test and they will help you. This test does not hurt.
A bone scan is a test especially made to look at all your bones at once. It is a little different than an X-ray. The person doing the test will use your tubie to put a medicine in your body that makes your bones show up on the film. Like the other tests, you will lie on a table and try to hold very still. This test takes about an hour or an hour and a half, but it does not hurt and your parents can stay with you. A renal scan is done just like a bone scan but we will be looking at your kidneys.
Bone marrow cells are the cells that make your blood cells. These cells are inside your bones. A bone marrow aspirate is a test that is done so that a doctor can look at your bone marrow cells to see if there are any cancer cells there. The bone marrow test is usually done in your hipbone. The hipbone is close to the skin and there is a lot of bone marrow there.
Some cancer cells can hide in your brain and spinal cord. There is fluid that flows through your brain and spinal cord that is called cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF. Sometimes cancer cells sneak into this fluid and can cause headaches, vomiting or blurred vision. For this reason, medicine needs to be put into the CSF to damage those cancer cells that are present or to prevent them from getting in there later. Medicine is put into your spinal fluid by a spinal tap procedure.