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Q. My cousin found out that his 4-year-old daughter has brain cancer and it could be terminal. What can I do or say to help him (and his family) through this difficult time?


It can be hard to know what exactly to say or do when a loved one is facing cancer, especially when you are supporting both the parents and a child through a difficult time.

What can I say? Parenting a child with a serious illness can be a painful and isolating experience, so being available to listen, talk, and giving your cousin the opportunity to discuss his feelings and fears, if he wants to, can be helpful. Giving him time to talk about everyday things can be just as helpful too. Your cousin will probably best know the emotional and developmental needs of his daughter, so it’s okay to ask him how best to support her through this. CancerCare’s fact sheet “What Can I Say to a Newly Diagnosed Loved One?” offers additional tips for being supportive to a loved one facing cancer.

What can I do? Ask your cousin what would be most helpful to him during this time. If the family has many practical caregiving needs, they may appreciate help from family and friends. My Cancer Circle™ is an online resource where you can create a community for your cousin’s family and organize support.

Care for yourself. While your cousin is facing difficult times, it is important that you recognize how an illness in the family may be affecting you too. Make sure that you take time to care for yourself, so you can be a stronger source of support for the family.

Get informed. For more information on brain tumors and what to expect during treatment, both the American Brain Tumor Association and National Brain Tumor Society offer invaluable information. The National Children’s Cancer Society is also a good resource for children facing cancer and their families.

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