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Talking To Children and Family

Talking to children and family

Talking to friends and family

Ovarian cancer affects everyone in the family as well as your network of close friends – and they may all react differently. The people closest to you may experience a range of emotions similar to yours including anger, sadness, denial, fear, anxiety, guilt, loneliness and simply feeling overwhelmed.

You may find it very difficult to tell your friends or family that you have ovarian cancer. You may worry about how people may react, and you may be concerned about protecting their feelings and emotions. It is up to you to decide who you wish to tell, and how much detail to share. You may find it helpful to speak with a trusted loved one, your GP, counsellor or a social worker to figure out the best way for you to communicate this with others.

The people close to you have the challenge of wanting to be strong for you while dealing with their own sense of shock. Some relationships will become stronger through the challenges you face. Value these relationships and the closeness you can enjoy together. Other people may not be able to cope with your cancer, and you may grow apart from these friends.

For some people, there is a period of adjustment where they don’t know the right things to say or do. As they adjust to your news, they may want to reach out and help.

Communicate as honestly and openly as you can so your partner, family and friends know how you are feeling and what you need. When you lead the way, others realise they also have permission to share their feelings and needs.

Partners, family and friends of women with ovarian cancer need to know:

  • How important they are to the woman diagnosed with ovarian cancer

  • How to communicate and what they can do to help

  • What not to do

  • How to care for themselves during this difficult time

More information

  • You may with to direct your family and friends to more information on ovarian cancer, so that they can better understand what you may be going through. We have a range of support and information resources specific to ovarian cancer and its diagnosis, treatment and where to find further support.

  • Our ovarian cancer support nurses are available to speak with on the information and support Helpline on 1300 660 334 (Monday-Friday during business hours AET) or by emailing support@ovariancancer.net.au

Talking to and caring for children

It’s a natural instinct to want to protect children of any age from upsetting news. There is no perfect time to tell your children about a cancer diagnosis, and when and how you tell them will depend on many factors such as their age, temperament, how they are responding to any changes they have observed and other things that are happening in their life at the same time.

Sometimes it isn’t one conversation, rather a series of smaller conversations over time to give children time to process information and ask questions. Remember you are the expert and secrecy can sometimes make things worse.

Usually children are aware that something stressful is happening in the family. Having conversations with your child gives them the opportunity to ask questions and have their own feelings acknowledged.

If you don’t feel able to tell your children by yourself, you may like to ask your partner, a grandparent or another loving relative or friend to help. Some helpful points to build into conversations with your children (depending on their age) include:  

  • Reminding your child that they did not cause your cancer and they can’t make it go away. 

  • Cancer is not contagious: they cannot catch it by touching you or being close to you.  

  • You are going to have treatment and your doctors are going to do everything they can to help you get well.  

  • It is ‘normal’ to have side effects from treatment – like feeling tired and losing your hair.  

  • Life at home will be different, but they will always be cared for and you will always love them.  

  • Explain cancer and treatment in words your child can understand.

If you are worried about your children and how they are coping, talk to a health professional which can include your GP, a psychologist or another member of your treating team.

More Information

There are many sensitively written and practical resources to help you and your children.  

  • The Cancer Council’s Talking to kids about cancer is a helpful and thorough booklet with suggestions of how to approach conversations visit www.cancer.org.au or call 13 11 20 to order a free copy.  Talking to Kids About Cancer

  • CanTeen, has produced a helpful booklet ‘Now what? Dealing with your parent’s cancer’. Canteen is also a counselling service for 12–24 year-olds who have a parent with cancer. The service allows young people to talk to a professional face to face, online or over the phone.

  • Coping – Talking to Children about Cancer - NCI

In this video, Kasie Ryan discusses the challenges of talking about her ovarian cancer diagnosis with her children, the importance of her family support network and the difficulties o adapting to a new routine during her treatment.

Want to talk?

Ovarian Cancer Australia's Helpline is available to call 9am - 5pm AET Monday to Friday 

Acknowledgement flags

Ovarian Cancer Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where our office is located, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation and we pay our respects to Elders past and present.