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Balancing Illness and Parental Demands: Coping with Cancer While Raising Minor Children.

Cancer is particularly challenging for patients who also are juggling the demands of raising minor children. Their unique context requires a delicate balancing act between the demands of the illness and protecting the children. Specific suggestions focus on access to care and tangible support, including child care, transportation, coordinating appointments, and additional home-based services for parents and their children.
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Purpose
To explore the cancer experience of parents and their perceptions of supportive strategies to assist them with illness- and family-related challenges.
Method
Following approval from the institutional Research Ethics Committee, a qualitative, descriptive study was conducted in the outpatient cancer clinic of a large McGill University–affiliated cancer care center in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Patients were eligible to participate if they (a) had at least one minor child living with them (younger than 18 years), (b) had been followed at the cancer clinic within the previous year for a first cancer diagnosis, and (c) were able to speak English or French
Results
Three main categories emerged: (a) parental self- activated strategies, including maintaining child routines, selective disclosure, strength and positivity, adapting to illness-related physical changes, and connecting with others who are similar; (b) tangible social networks that meet transportation, child care, meal care, and psychoemotional support needs; and (c) suggestions to enhance person and family-centered care, including information to benefit the children, coordination of appointments, optimizing timing for support services, and the need for more tangible support.
Conclusion
Coping with cancer while raising children requires delicate balancing of illness and parenting demands. Tangible support systems must include access to childcare services, home healthcare services, and transportation solutions.
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