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Resources

Relapse

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of any medical team, cancer cells sometimes survive treatment and reappear. This is called a relapse.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of any medical team, cancer cells sometimes survive treatment and reappear. This is called a relapse.

If a relapse happens, this doesn’t mean the diagnosed child or young person had the wrong treatment, that they did something wrong, or that it’s anyone’s fault. Cancer cells are tough and sometimes they do survive treatment.

The thought of after treatment, when they aren’t getting chemo and the cancer has a better chance of returning, actually scares me more than the chemo and treatment process. It feels like the journey is never really over. So while people tell me we will get through it, I’m feeling like we will always be fighting, worrying, and going through it.
A young person going through cancer

Fear of relapse

After childhood cancer, many families fear cancer coming back, also known as relapse or recurrence. This fear is completely normal, but you may want help in navigating how to deal with this fear and ensuring it doesn’t control your life.

You may also want to look at the section on coping with feelings. This applies to siblings too, and Cancer Advisor has a range of resource available to help children with cancer and their siblings expressing emotions, including fear.

Offers some suggestions on how parents can balance their fear of relapse with their family’s desire to have a ‘normal’ life:

  • Some degree of worry, nervousness and anxiety is normal. However, if these feelings start to interfere with your child or family’s daily life or coming to appointments, it’s time to talk to your healthcare team. You can also see what other support services are available to you.
  • Remember, your child has gotten through cancer treatment; take note of the resiliency and coping skills of your child and your family
  • Ask for help from your support community when you need it.
  • Be aware of triggers for anxiety related to the cancer experience, including the anniversary of your child’s diagnosis or completion of treatment, upcoming scans or blood tests and scheduled appointments. Pull out the things that help you de-stress during these times.
  • Explore deep breathing techniques, journaling, mediation and mindfulness as ways to help manage your thoughts and concerns. Teach these to your child.
  • Encourage your child to continue to live their life: go to school, engage with your family and friends, try a new hobby, or perhaps give back to the cancer care community by being a buddy or peer support. This goes for parents and siblings too.
  • Seek out help and support from family, friends, clergy, support groups, and social workers.
  • As much as possible, try to put this fear in the “backseat”. Help your family get back to enjoying life and each other. Acknowledge the experience, but don’t let it control the future. If cancer does come back, your family will deal with it. For now, enjoy life!

Further treatment for relapse

Children and young people who have already gone through treatment know how hard it can be, so they may worry whether they can go through it again. 

While it’s often difficult and emotional facing another round of treatment, it may help to remind the child or young person and the people around you that this time, you have experience on your side, and everyone knows how strong they can be. Everyone knows much more than they did before, including what helps day-to-day, and where you go for support.


know that this time, you have experience on your side, and everyone knows how strong they can be


Support during relapse

Along with your medical team and hospital social worker, the Redkite support team is here for you if you are facing a relapse with information, support, and financial assistance. We can also connect you to other organisations that can help.


Whats next?

Even if you’re just worried about the possibility of a young person relapsing, feel welcome to contact us to talk this through on 1800 REDKITE (1800 733548) or support@redkite.org.au

Request help or information

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Other childhood cancer support services

A list of childhood cancer support services in Australia

Other childhood cancer support services

A list of childhood cancer support services in Australia