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How to Raise a Young Cancer Warrior

How to Raise a Young Cancer Warrior
Zackery Hurtz

When dealing with children with cancer the goal is usually to mask and hide the big scary facts. Most of these masked facts aren’t things adults know how to handle so they keep them from their children but this is the wrong choice. Please tell your children what’s going on with their own lives, minds and bodies during the battle with cancer.
I grew up with cancer and brain tumors and my dad and grandparents included me in almost all medical appointments and surgical consultations. This helped make what I was going through more logical and I knew why I had my head ripped apart and skillfully put back together. These appointments and meetings with doctors gave me a voice to ask questions and a lot of times I was asking questions my family couldn’t think of or didn’t want to ask.
At age six I was diagnosed with a brain tumor after already dealing with cancer at age two. My family was growing use to this sort of life in some ways and even I was forced to adapt to this hospital life style. You might think telling a young child that they’re going through something most adults can’t handle is brutal or that they’re going to drop out of school for a little while is dream crushing. the truth is that if you build a relationship with your child on falsehoods when the time comes you’ll have done more long term damage to the kids spirit.
As a family you’re all going through this together facing the unknown and facing the possibility of death. If you build a false foundation you start increasing the stress of the adults which trickles down to the dude or dudette fighting for their lives and this puts unneeded stress on their minds and bodies. open your minds and arms as a family and take the walk together down the road and in the end you’ll have a strong supportive network to fight the good fight. Allow the child to take part in his or her diagnosis and keep in mind that over sheltering can damage the immune system on a mental and physical level.
I do not hold my Dad and Grandparents responsible for my forced growth from child to adult at age six, the only thing to blame for this is cancer, tumors and any other life threatening disease. You aren’t protecting your children by lying to them or faking hope until it becomes real, instead you’re causing long term psychological damage and as I said before pushing a wedge between yourselves during an already stressful time. Surround yourselves with good memories, positive and uplifting books, movies and music. I’m not saying go crank up religious music but you should enjoy music together and allow songs to become anchors for the good times. Every time you hear that song you’ll flash back to the time spent together as a family.
When you as a kid know something isn’t right with your body it casts big shadows over everything you do. Why am I in school learning about something that won’t save my life, why can’t I be home playing with my dog and visiting with my family and what’s the point of doing chemo if I’m only getting sicker? the distraction method parents use to take away the sting of the needle doesn’t work in real life, you always know that you’re sick which means you can’t go outside and play or you can’t go swimming and hang with friends.
I loved watching stand up comics when I was feeling down or uncomfortable inside my own skin. About ten minutes into the show I’d be feeling better and laughing by fifteen minutes. Its the small things in life that make you smile, puppy breath, reading a great science fiction novel, reading Lord of the Rings, creating gifts to give to your friends and playing an instrument. My Dad asked me if I wanted to learn to play an instrument when I was fighting the brain tumor in 1996 and I said yeah that sounds fun. So I chose the piano because I’d heard it was one of the harder instruments to learn and I figured if I could learn to play the piano I could play everything else no problem. that logic actually worked later on in life and I picked up guitar and bass in my early twenties.
Channeling feelings of anger, confusion, frustration and fear into creative outlets really helped me work through the problems I was facing. I learned how to make bracelets, necklaces and I started telling myself stories in the theater of my mind. this is where I realized I wanted to be a writer and tell stories from different angles. I had access to lego’s and would bust out some interesting models that would impress quite a few people. I had access to different magnetic toys and building sets and that took up a good chunk of my time in the hospitals while I was being filled with life saving poison.
To the people who created Lego’s, Knex, Magnetics and Erector Sets I owe you a huge Thank You and my Dad would agree. I spent day after day building space ships, buildings, vehicles and whatever else could be spit out of my creative mind. toys like these keep the fingers moving and the brain building vital connections which help keep some of the downsides to chemo under control.
I’m going to wrap this up but I will write more on being a child diagnosed with cancer and brain tumors in up coming articles and videos. If you have questions please feel free to contact me via social media or E-mail.

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