Grandparents often play a critical role in supporting the family through their journey with retinoblastoma.
You will likely want to do all you can to help your family, but remember that your personal wellbeing is very important too.
Reducing your own stress will enable you to offer better practical and emotional support while protecting your physical and mental health.
Learn About Retinoblastoma
Cancer is common, and often fatal, among older people. but childhood cancers are very different. Treatments had terrible side effects 50 years ago, and children rarely survived. Today, 96% of children with retinoblastoma treated in developed countries survive, and many medications exist to reduce side effects such as pain and nausea.
Learning about retinoblastoma can reduce potential confusion, fear and negativity. You can find out about this unique cancer and its specialized treatments in the Medical Care section of this Rb Resource. If your questions are not answered on this website, ask your child or your grandchild’s doctor for clarification.
Look After Your Health
Many grandparents feel their own needs must come second to those of the rest of the family. However, this can quickly cause you to become rundown, overstressed, and less able to help.
Do not neglect your own well-being, especially if you already have health issues. Continue to take prescribed medication and keep doctor appointments, especially for routine screening tests.
Get Sufficient Rest
If you live close to your grandchild, your life may rapidly fill with child care, running errands and hospital visits. Yet the demands of your regular life will continue, especially if you are still working.
Take time to assess what you can do in addition to your own commitments and needs, so you don’t run yourself into the ground. Discuss this with your child and her partner, and work out how that fits with their needs. Don’t feel guilty about saying you can’t help every time.
Strong feelings of grief, anger, fear and concern for your grandchild and her family are very natural. Many grandparents feel they must shoulder these emotions privately, but this can be very damaging to you and your family.
Keeping your feelings to yourself can put you under unnecessary strain. This increases the risk of projecting your feelings onto your child. For example, feelings of anger, fear and helplessness often manifest as damaging criticism of the child’s parenting style or treatment choices.
Stagnant thoughts often grow bigger than they need be. Giving them a voice can prevent or reduce their damaging effects. Share your feelings with a friend or professional counselor, or write them down. Allow yourself to cry too – tears can be very cleansing.
Seek activities and places that bring you peace, and let them rejuvenate you. Join your child and her family in learning some relaxation exercises, or listen to calming music. Exercise releases tension and keeps your body healthy. Many people find it focuses the mind and dramatically reduces stress.