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What I Wish I'd Told Everyone After My Daughter's Cancer Diagnosis

The most helpful emails in health
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Dear Friends, Family, Neighbors, Acquaintances, and the Community:

My child has been diagnosed with cancer. We’ll be in the hospital for months during treatment. Away from home.

I know this news has shocked and upset you, but please don’t cry on my shoulder as I am unable to support you. Cry with me but not to me.

We appreciate your thoughts even if I don’t reply to your texts, emails or messages. Answers to questions are hard to form in my mind, but I might manage a yes, no or thanks.

Until we set up a social media portal to make news updates to you all, we’ll filter information through a designated person at home, who will then, in turn, forward it on to you.

Yes, you can fundraise for us even if I say no. I have no concept of the financial hardships ahead of us.

Think for me as my brain will be mush. Go ahead and empty our fridge at home. Turn off the hot water. Mow our lawns. Collect our mail. These things won’t cross my mind. I will be in shock.

Want to visit in three hours, three days, three weeks or three months’ time? Do it. Make plans. Come and see us. But as time will lose all meaning, I won’t be able to commit to availability until “the moment.”

I’ll be tired. Bone-achingly, mind-blowing tired. I’ll appreciate your presence even if I’m not up to talking much. Perhaps you might offer to sit with my child. Perhaps I might take you up on it, so I can I leave the hospital for some fresh air, a shower, sleep, a break.

Although an adult is expected to be with my child at all times on the ward, parents aren’t provided any meals. I’ll be hungry. Receiving your nutritious baking, ready-made meals and fresh fruit will be a blessing. Oh, and a good caramel latte would not go amiss.

That was a sad story about your hairdresser’s cousin’s neighbor’s sister who had a totally different cancer than my child. And died. But no, no, no. Absolutely inappropriate.

Please don’t think of me as rude or ungrateful if I don’t personally or publicly thank you for your well-thought-out gift, letter or card you sent to us. I can have faith in your altruism if you can have faith in the postal system.

A hug or your silent company will be of more value than a thousand meaningless words or forced conversation.

I will have limited access to sleep, time, peace, head space, food, technology, Wi-Fi. Thank you for your understanding and support and love.

From a Parent of a Child Newly Diagnosed With Cancer

Follow this journey on Facebook at Quinn’s Quest.

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Originally published: March 14, 2016
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