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cancer and your family


Cancer affects the whole support network. While every family has its own quirks, strengths and issues, there are some common things that often happen when cancer turns up.

how parents are affected

No matter how old you are, your parents are likely to be extremely worried or downright terrified. They may try to hide this from you or cope by smothering you with care and attention. They’re likely to feel helpless at times, so it’s important to remember that any smothering behaviour comes from a good place, no matter how frustrating it might be.


Don’t forget, the Redkite support team are here for parents, brother and sisters, grandparents, and anyone else who might need extra support as you go through cancer treatment.

helping your parents

Sometimes you may cope with your cancer better than your parents do. You might even have to take on a parenting role at times. It can help to:

  • Remind your parents that you have skills and experience that you can draw on
  • Let them know what you want
  • Show them how involved you are in your treatment decisions
  • Set good communication patterns
  • Set boundaries if you need to

Things won’t always be perfect, but ideally each person in your family and support network will have something they can do to help.

your parents' relationship

You might be worried about the effect your cancer is having on your parents' relationship. For some parents, an experience like this can make them even closer, but for others it causes great stress with time apart from each other, possible financial strain and other worries.


We regularly run support groups for parents where they can discuss their worries in a supportive environment. They can also talk one-on-one to our support team for individual support.

brothers and sisters

No matter how good or bad your relationship was with your siblings before, chances are cancer is going to cause some tension.


It's likely that their life is also going to change as a result of cancer. It may be something like missing their regular activities, or even not seeing one parent for a long time while they stay with you during your treatment.


Your siblings might be feeling anything from guilt, fear, anger or jealousy. Giving them information and involving them in discussions will help. You can also let them know you understand that they have their own life and that it’s okay to get on with it. If your siblings would like to talk to someone outside the family, the Redkite support team are here for them too.

if you have children

You might be dealing with cancer while trying to be a mum or dad to a little person. This adds a whole new layer of complexity and different challenges. You’ll be managing who looks after your children while you’re in hospital, explaining to them what’s happening and avoiding infection when your immune system is compromised.


There are organisations that offer specific support for this situation, like Mummy’s Wish. The Cancer Council has some terrific resources for helping children understand, and Redkite’s Book Club also has some great titles you can borrow.


Redkite’s support team is also here to help with information, counselling, financial assistance to help you find ways to communicate with and support your child.

Last updated September 2015.