Planning Your Child’s Eye Cancer Care: A Step-by-Step Guide to Confident Treatment Decisions

Monday May 23, 2022

Parents face many decisions about their child’s retinoblastoma treatment.  The experience can be complex, highly emotive, and stressful.  WE C Hope CEO Abby White introduces our new comprehensive guide to making treatment decisions, a tool to help parents navigate the process and make the best choices at every stage of their child’s eye cancer journey.

Text reads “Retinoblastoma Treatment Decisions 12 Step Guide”. The background is a blue painted wood table. To the right of the text, a pen rests on the blank open page of a notebook. Around the notebook sits a pair of glasses, a cup of coffee, and a small plant with green leaves.

Complex and Highly Emotive Decisions

When your child has retinoblastoma, you must make critical decisions about their medical care, even before the cancer has been diagnosed.  Making decisions about retinoblastoma treatment can be confusing and emotionally overwhelming.  You may be reeling from news of the diagnosis or relapse, and very anxious about your child’s wellbeing.  You will likely be given a lot of detailed information in a very short space of time, and you will need to make major decisions about your child’s care quickly.

Treatment decisions may include:

  • Identifying the best treatment facility and retinoblastoma team.
  • Choosing between two or more treatments.
  • When cancer is advanced and/or the eye is blind, deciding whether to remove your child’s eye (enucleation) to protect their life and wellbeing.
  • When cure is unlikely, deciding whether to begin or continue intensive treatments, or prioritise quality time, comfort and wellbeing.

The decisions you make will influence everything from overall wellbeing of your child and family to the quality and cost of care, and the potential for cure.  Taking time to make the best possible decision is vital.

Decision Making Preferences

Parents who make treatment decisions jointly with their medical team are more satisfied with the medical experience and outcome, and less likely to feel regret.

Research shows that:

Many Factors Shape Our Decisions

Parents must consider a range of factors to make confident treatment decisions, and reduce the risk of decisional regret.  These include:

  • Your thoughts and feelings.
  • Your decision making process.
  • Knowledge and understanding of retinoblastoma.
  • Detailed evaluation of benefits, risks, and side effects for all treatment options.
  • Awareness of how your child can be supported to cope with each option.
  • Knowledge and understanding of how your child’s future may be affected.
  • The emotional, practical, and financial cost of each option.
  • Personal preferences, beliefs, values, and goals.
  • Disagreements and conflict.

We recommend you do all you can to actively engage with your child’s medical team through every decision.  Addressing all considerations can help you make the best treatment decisions to protect and save your child’s life, preserve their wellbeing, and possibly save eye and sight – if safe to do so.

Treatment Decision Making: 12 Step Guide

Our comprehensive guide will help you:

  • Identify, gather, and evaluate all the information you need.
  • Navigate conversations with your medical team, family and friends.
  • Make confident decisions that support your child’s complete wellbeing throughout treatment and beyond.

This guide contains a lot of detailed information, and we understand that the thought of going through 12 steps can feel daunting, especially during such an emotionally charged time.  However, each step is designed to provide clear, manageable, and supportive guidance alongside the medical information you are receiving, to ensure you make the best decisions for your child’s health and wellbeing.

You don’t have to tackle everything at once.  Approach each step as a small, achievable goal.  By breaking down the process, we aim to make it more manageable and less overwhelming.  The guide is structured to help you build your knowledge and confidence gradually, one step at a time, while supporting you to make timely decisions for your child and family.

Take a deep breath – you can do this! Here’s a quick snapshot of what to expect from each step:

Decision Making Guide introduction

  1. Acknowledge your thoughts and feelings: Recognize your emotions and understand their impact on your decision-making.
  2. Understand your decision-making style: Learn about your natural approach to making decisions and how to best use it.
  3. Find your expert team: Identify and connect with the right medical professionals for your child.
  4. Understand shared decision making and informed consent: Know your rights and responsibilities in the treatment process.
  5. Set an intention to make balanced decisions: Focus on making well-rounded decisions that prioritize your child’s overall wellbeing.
  6. Learn about retinoblastoma: Gain a solid understanding of the disease and its treatment options.
  7. Evaluate your options: Carefully consider all available treatments.
  8. Consider your values and goals: Align your decisions with your family’s values and long-term goals.
  9. Manage disagreement and conflict: Navigate and resolve any conflicts that arise during the decision-making process.
  10. Make your decision: Choose the best treatment option for your child.
  11. Review your decision: Reassess your choice with the medical team to ensure it’s the best path forward.
  12. Support your child – and yourself: Establish and maintain emotional and practical support for your family throughout the journey.

This guide will empower you to navigate through this very difficult time with more ease.  Each step has a specific purpose, helping you make holistic, informed decisions for your child’s complete wellbeing – now and throughout their life.  By taking it one step at a time, you can feel more in control, calm, and confident in your choices and plans.

Always put your child’s needs first, always ask questions, and always make your decisions in full discussion with experienced retinoblastoma specialists who know your child’s specific case history and your family.

Text reads “Retinoblastoma Treatment Decisions – read the 12 Step Guide”. To the right of the text, a lantern with lighted candle and heart-shaped cut-outs casts a heart-shaped rosy-gold glow on the dark blue wood wall behind. The wall forms the entire background of the image.

About the Author

Abby’s father was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma in Kenya in 1946. Abby was also born with cancer in both eyes. She has an artificial eye and limited vision in her left eye that is now failing due to late effects of radiotherapy in infancy.

Abby studied geography at university, with emphasis on development in sub-Saharan Africa. She co-founded WE C Hope with Brenda Gallie, responding to the needs of one child and the desire to help many in developing countries.  After receiving many requests for help from American families and adult survivors, she co-founded the US chapter to bring hope and encourage action across the country.

Abby enjoys listening to audio books, creative writing, open water swimming and long country walks.

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