Have a Two Year Old & Looking for Cancer Advice

Updated on October 02, 2008
T.W. asks from Phoenixville, PA
20 answers


I have a recent cancer diagnosis and looking at a long road ahead for treatment. I started chemo last week and have a very energetic, affectionate two year old son. I'm wondering if any of you have gone through cancer treatments with such a young child in the house or if you know anyone who has?

Since he's too young for my husband and I to explain exactly what's going on, it'd be really helpful to know how other people have approached this situation. I'd also like some advice on how to handle the inevitable exposure to kid germs (especially with cold season starting!) while dealing with a reduced immune system. He's in daycare two days a week and we want to keep him in his regular schedule as much as possible. He's dealing with so many changes right now, we want him to be able to enjoy a couple of days of fun with his friends. We're also fortunate to have family close-by for support.

The bottom line is I want to be able to give my son as much affection and attention as I can while doing what I need to do to fight the cancer. It's a serious diagnosis that will involve some separation as treatment progresses and reduce my energy levels as time goes on. I want to make sure I can still meet my son's current needs AND do everything I can to make sure I'm around for him for a long, long time to come.

Any advice anyone could share on this issue would be greatly appreciated.

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So What Happened?

I just wanted to thank everyone for all of the well wishes and good advice. It's all really helpful. We do have support through our church, family & friends and everyone is offering help. Now I just have to make sure to ask! =) I'll be sure to keep everything posted in mind & check out the October issue of "Family Circle" too.

I don't have breast cancer, but I do appreciate the info. that was posted. Hopefully the breast cancer info. will be of help to someone else who needs it. Thanks again everyone! Your good thoughts and prayers mean a lot!

T. W.

More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

God bless you. I will pray for you. The advice I am going to give is taken from my experiences with my son who has leukemia, my SIL who had Hodgkins and a friend who is battling cervical cancer.

Frequent hand washing and hand santizing is important - for everyone. Insist that everyone wash their hands upon entering your house.

Don't be afraid to hurt anyone's feelings by opting out of gatherings if someone who is attending is or has been ill recently. I realize that isn't always possible, but our rule of thumb was to err on the side of caution. We found everyone to be understanding. Even if nobody was sick at the time, we opted out of holiday gatherings during cold and flu season to avoid any germs the 12 nieces and nephews might have been carrying.

Talk to your oncologist about possibly taking antiviral medication.

Accept help from others to run errands, make meals, handle household chores so you can save your energy to fight your illness and spend quality time with your family.

Nap when your son does and also when he is at daycare. Save your energy for family time.

I remember when my son was going through the most difficult phases of his treatment and he was often neutropenic we weren't allowed to have plants in the house because they could harbor mold that could make him sick.

Check with the American Cancer Society and other such organziations. They have good informational booklets about caring for yourself emotionally, physically, nutritionally, spiritually, etc.

Look into local support groups for yourself and your family. Gilda's House is one that offers many different types of support and social events. They have quiet rooms, rec rooms, etc. Many people find it to have a very nurturing atmosphere.

Look for something positive in your life each day - your son's smile, the sunshine, a good medical report, a kiss from your husband, comfortable pj's. ;) It will help to keep your spirits up in light of the battles you are facing.

If you have any questions please send me a message. If I think of anything else, I'll contact you. I'll be praying for peace and strength for you and your family.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Hi T.,
I don't have any experience with this but I wanted to wish you the best of luck and stay strong! You will beat this. My prayers are with you.


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi T.,

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and my then 2-year-old niece lives with my parents. My mother has been like a second mother to my niece and it was difficult for her to step back and spend less time with her. However, she found that although my niece was so small she was very good at understanding when my mom was tired or in pain after surgery. My niece understood age appropriate vocabulary that my parents used to explain my mother's need to go to medical appointments, take naps, and slow down a bit. My niece still played with my mother, but she would bring her toys to her and engaged in less running around with her. Having other members of the family step in and help was essential and keeping a schedule was also helpful. I think helping your son understand that mommy might be a bit more tired, but just as interested in everything he does and just as loving as before will make a significant difference--you are already demonstrating that by looking ahead at how you will manage the situation. I think that just helping your son understand that you are still available to him will be important. Sometimes families opt to not tell their children what is happening because they believe the child is too small. It is okay to tell your child that mommy needs to see the doctor because she is not feeling good and the doctor is helping mommy feel better. That is a frame of reference he will understand. Also, helping your child know what he can expect (to the extent possible) will be helpful. For example, once you have a chemo schedule you can plan activities for him with someone else and then he knows that when mommy goes to the doctor he goes to school or grandma's house or something similar. Good luck with everything. It is a long road, but with support from friends and family and what seems to be a strong will to suceed I believe you will do very well.



answers from Philadelphia on

I want to lend my support and best wishes. My mother had cancer when I was 11, and it is a difficult thing for a child, but as young as your son is he will adapt to the situation and you'll probably be surprised at how much he understands. he'll understand that sometimes you'll only be doing quiet play with him, or simply be there watching her play. Remember that quality time does not have to mean being very active. sometimes we had to wear gloves and masks around my mom when her immunity was especially low - a 2 year old may see this as 'playing doctor'. Anyway, please know that my thoughts are with you. Be strong. Everything will work out with your son.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 40. My children were 5 and 10. I'm 11 1/2 years out and feeling fine. This will be a tough period for you, but there are cures out there.

You need to keep your child's life as normal as possible. I would suggest keeping his routine. When you go through treatments, you might ask friends and family to pitch in. I couldn't have done it without them. Talk to your doctors about immunization shots. It will not affect your child but when they receive them, it can affect you. Talk to the oncologist. If anyone asks if they can cook dinner for you, you let them. You need as much assistance as possible to keep yourself well rested and healthy. There are days that you will feel lousy and the next day not. If they give you anti-nausea drugs, TAKE THEM. Don't wait to see if you will get upset. If a support group or a religious group will help, take the time for it. Everyone reacts differently to these situations. There are many special men out there but sometimes, they do not deal with this very well. My husband used to ask me "why aren't you smiling." I couldn't. They are worried about you and aren't always so good with you not being your normal self.

Good luck with your chemo and keep your chin up. You have to fight - no one can do it for you. Many people are walking around that wouldn't be without today's science. I'm one of them.



answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't have any advise about your 2 year old and caring for him.
I don't have cancer but did barely survive an organ loss, had a 2, 3 and 13 year old at home and my husband was at the time dealing with some of his own severe health issues.
Bring in as much help as you can, meals, one day of laundry help, a break of child care when possible. It is so important for YOU to take exceptional care of you so you can be here for your little person for a very long time.

I am on the east end in Wilkins. If there is something I could do even the smallest thing like sit in the other room and play with clay with you son I will be happy to donate a bit of time so you can do what you need to to be well.
you can goole my name or business name and it should pull my number should you choose to take me up on the offer.

I lived in bed for 3 months and had 9 long months of recovery. It is my turn to help another.

Best wishes and praying for you now.




answers from Philadelphia on


and God bless you sweetheart - you got alot of good advice from the other girls. Join a support group, they can do wonders. The more you tell your self you will be fine...you will be! Positive thinking - do it all the time. :]
My thoughts and prayers are with you - the treatment and Docs can do it all these days.




answers from Pittsburgh on

First of all let me say that I am wishing you the best of luck with your chemo and cancer treatment. Be sure to talk to your oncologist about the concerns you have regarding your son and resistance to germs. I know there are drugs they can give to boost your immune system along with chemo. Ask about them. And -- As simple as is sounds, hand washing is an excellent way to reduce the spread of germs!
I know you have some rough days ahead of you and there will be days you will have low energy and will need to focus on yourself and your healing, but when you have the energy--lavish it HUGELY on that little boy! His love and affection will surely be an effective treatment for you. Don't be afraid to lean on your friends and relatives to pick up the ball when there are times you just are not able to tend to him. He will still feel surrounded by love and attention. Specifically tell your loved ones what they can do to make life easier for you: meals, help with laundry or cleaning. Family and friends always want to help but sometimes are at a loss for what to do specifically.
Sending prayers and God's Abundant Blessings to you!



answers from Philadelphia on

Family Circle actually has a whole section on breast cancer (Oct issue). There is the journal of one woman's journey from diagnosis to her all clear. She too had a young child. It was very interesting. If you cannot find it online, let me know and I will scan it and email it to you, if you would like.

I believe AstraZeneca has a lot of info on their website as well. My husband worked on arimidex when it went public and I know that is where he directed both of my aunts when they were diagnosed with breast cancer. Good luck to you. Sounds like you are up for this fight. xx



answers from Pittsburgh on


I just read your post and wanted to wish you well on your journey battling cancer. There are some excellent books out there (Bernie Siegel is a great authur about how your positive attitude can help fight cancer - I also like the Chicken Soup for the Soul series for short inspirational stories - one pertains to fighting cancer).

Yesterday Oprah's show was dedicated to women and breast cancer - you may want to check out her site for resources if its breat cancer you are fighting www.oprah.com.

Best of luck...you will be in my thoughts and prayers. Fight hard!




answers from Philadelphia on

i, too, send my thoughts and prayers to you and your family. i can't imagine what you are going through but hope that you are surrounded by good friends and family to help see you through this. there are also social workers at most cancer centers who may have an ear to lend about questions you may need to process (in addition to other places in case you need an unbiased place to bounce things off of). there is no one right answer but more what works for you and your family. a lot of the advice the other moms have posted is all wonderful - i also want to add that, regardless of what you do, know that kids are very perceptive and aware of and capable of a whole lot more than most we realize. be as open as is age-appropriate and engage your son in what's going on. it will help him and you feel more connected and secure during such a scary time. keep using this forum for reaching out and support and take good care of yourself, as has been said...



answers from Allentown on

Hi T.,
I don't have experience with this, but I did just want to reach out and send my support. Good luck getting through this hard time, I know you're probably more concerned with how your child will manage during your treatment than how you will manage, but don't forget to take care of yourself as things get tougher and to ask for lots of help.

take care,



answers from Philadelphia on

I wanted to tell you that i am wishing you nothing but positive thoughts. I have an autoimmune disease and one of the things i do is have a big hand sanitizer by the back door. I tell the kids to use it before they come inside. I know that i cannot possible compare to cancer....but i would like to reassure you that the kids do understand. They can sense when i am having a tired day or a lot of pain. They are pretty good about watching movies on those days and keeping it low key. I hope that everything works out for you. ...and like the other post said...don't worget to ask for help when you need it!!



answers from York on

Dear T.,
If you have a local MOMS Club chapter, I would recommend joining and asking for some help. My chapter is reeling with issues similar to yours. We have a mom who is mid-way through chemo treatments for breast cancer, and another mom who found out last week that the stroke she had a few weeks ago was likely caused by a Stage 4 tumor that they found on her brain. You didn't mention if you have any type of support in place, but if you do, now would be the time to reach & and ask for help. Give people the blessing of helping you during this time. If you have a church or religious affiliation, find out how they would be willing to help & how often. If you have family members that live locally, ask them to help also. Don't feel bad about asking for help ~ the mom in my group that has breast cancer said that at first she felt bad asking for help, but then she realized how much we WANT to help her. Often there's not much we can do ~ babysit her kids, sit with her during chemo, take her to appointments, make meals, help with the housework ~ but it's all the "little things" that she's just too drained to do sometimes. Since you've already started chemo, hopefully you won't run into the problem that she had ~ apparently, her insurance company decided that anti-nausea meds aren't "necessary" (I guess the powers that be have never had to go through chemo w/o them, or they might feel differently!) I'll be praying for you & your family. God bless you!



answers from Lancaster on

I don't have much advice as I know nothing about your situation but I want you to know that you are in my prayers. You and your family. Love yourself, your husband and that little boy of yours! There is healing in prayer even if you are not 'religious.' Pray.... miracles do happen every day.
Good luck and God Bless You!



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi, I don't have any experience with cancer, but I'm pregnant now with a 1 year old (I'm a stay at home mom - so I am with him all day). My son is very energetic & doesn't stop moving. This pregnancy really wiped me out (energy wise). I'm tired a lot. We've baby proofed our entire first floor & put gates on the stairs. When I'm tired I just lay on the living room floor (w/pillows & blankets) and let my son play. He will often bring books & toys to me and we will play where I am. I know he's safe, he's having fun with his toys & when he wants me, he can come to me. Occassionally, if I'm really tired I'll put on one of his movies. We'll cuddle on the floor or in my recliner & often I'll fall asleep while he watches. Kids are low to the ground, you can do a lot of stuff with them, with out ever getting up.
Good luck.



answers from Pittsburgh on

No advice, but just wanted to say I'm sorry about your diagnosis and wish you good luck. Take all the offers of help you get, and hire stuff (cleaning, etc.) done as much as possible.

You don't say what kind of cancer you have, but I just wanted to let Mamasource moms know that they can help other women going through breast cancer by going to "armyofwomen.org" and signing up to participate in studies to help understand/treat/and prevent breast cancer. They need lots of healthy women to understand why some of us get breast cancer and others don't.



answers from Philadelphia on

I don't have any advise on your specific situation, but I just want to wish you the best on your recovery. Hopefully this will be a time to bond with and enjoy your son when you are tired you can cuddle more and watch tv or listen to music together.

Take care of yourself and be well.



answers from Allentown on

Good Luck with your treatment and remember you have to come first.

Make sure you both are up to date on vaccines and also get flu and pneumonia shot.

Make sure you have help just in case. Depending on what your treatment is and how your body reacts is unknown.



answers from Philadelphia on

T...best of luck with your treatments. Maybe you can find someone to come into the house the week of and/or after your chemo treatments while your energy is still low to be a 'mom's helper' so you are still there to play a little but also get some rest. I would call on all of your support systems to help with meals the week of your treatments, is there a mom at his daycare that could help carpool on your tougher weeks?

The kid germ thing will be tough....Maybe look into various herbs and viatmins to support your immune sytstm. There is a great line of vitamins and herbal products www.newchapter.com you maybe able to read up on their website to find some additional immune support.

My heart goes out to you. I'm sure this must be a very difficult time right now.

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