Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

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Choosing a pre-school

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Newborn reflexes

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Pelvic floor exercises

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Antenatal Classes

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  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Parenting with Cancer

Parenting with CancerInternational Cancer Survivors Day is a celebration of life in which participants unite to show the world that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive.

A cancer survivor is anyone who has heard the words 'you have cancer' - from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.

According to CANSA, 1 in 4 South Africans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes. Although early diagnosis and better treatment mean that more people are surviving cancer, at the same time, an increasing number of people are diagnosed and desperately need the support, hope and nurturance of their families and communities.

Parenting with Cancer

While sharing that you have cancer is incredibly difficult, it is information that your children need to know. One of the most important factors to take into account is your child's age. Always be honest with your child and provide them with information that they are able to understand, so that they can prepare themselves for the changes that will happen in the family. Younger and older children will have very different concerns and need their parents in different ways. Up until the age of 8, young children do not need too much detailed information but older children, between 8-12 and teenagers, will need to know more.

Helping your children cope with your cancer diagnosis:

1) Provide information in words that are easy for children to understand. You may wish to set up a quiet time when you won't be disturbed and may prefer to talk to each child separately. This will allow you to gauge their reactions more accurately and may encourage them to ask more questions, if there are no distractions or other people around. Plan how you will talk to each child and think of how you will answer their questions in a serious but thoughtful way, which they can understand. This initial conversation is very important, as it forms the groundwork for an open line of communication in the future. It signals to your child that they can come to you about their needs, fears and concerns in the future. Keep up this bond by checking in with your children regularly; especially during and after cancer treatment, it will be a great source of comfort to them.

2) Provide your children with the facts, in the most positive way possible. All children require basic information; the type of cancer such as breast or lymphoma, where the cancer is situated in the body, how it will be treated, and how your cancer diagnosis will affect their lives.

Explaining what cancer is to a child may seem daunting at first. In younger children, discuss how the body is made up of various parts and how these parts perform certain functions. Explain that when a person has cancer, something has gone wrong with one of these parts and it is not doing what it is supposed to do- so that one part of the body is no longer normal. Over time, a lump or tumour has developed, or in the case of lymphoma or leukemia, a bunch of bad cells has started to grow. These bad cells or a tumour should not be there, so you need surgery or treatment to either take it out or stop it from spreading to other parts of the body. Your child may not have any questions at first but encourage them to come to you, any time, if they think of anything.

Older children, can generally understand a more complex discussion. They may show an interest in seeing pictures of cancer cells or reading up about cancer treatment. Let them know that you are always available to answer any of their questions.

Visit for a list of words to describe cancer and its treatment.

3) Reassure your child that it is normal to experience mixed emotions, such as neglect, anger, fear or worry. Encourage them to talk to a grown-up they trust, like their other parent, grandparent, teacher, counsellor or family friend. Suggest they talk to a friend whose mom or dad has also had cancer

4) Reassure your child that there are other children whose parents are fighting or have survived cancer, and that they are not alone. According to ABC news, nearly 18 million children under the age of 18, have a parent who has or has survived cancer.

5) Children sometimes feel a sense of guilt and blame themselves for their parent’s illness. As parents know, children often engage in 'magical thinking'- they believe that they are the centre of the world and that they can make all kinds of things happen. Tell them that your cancer diagnosis is not their fault and explain that the causative factors involved in cancer are often very complex and sometimes even doctors aren't entirely sure what causes it.

6) Reassure your children that cancer is not contagious, like a cold or flu. You can't catch it from talking to your mom or dad, nor from hugging or kissing. They may mistakenly believe that they can catch cancer, or that everyone dies from it, or that their other parent will get it too. Explain that doctors know more about cancer today than they did previously and that there are treatments that can cure many cancers. Emphasize that people can live with cancer instead of dying from it.

7) Explain to your child, that cancer or cancer treatments may make you look or act differently sometimes. Certain treatments may make your hair fall out and even though you may be bald for awhile, your hair will grow back. Some cancer fighters, may lose or gain weight, have stitches, bandages or scars from surgery, or their skin may turn red or appear sunburnt from radiation treatments. From an emotional view point, explain that you may feel extremely tired, cranky or sad sometimes, and that this is normal. But no matter what, even if you act differently for awhile, they must remember that you are their parent and that you love them.

8) Prepare your child for certain changes and explain that things may be different for awhile and you may not be able to do all the things you normally would. For example, other people may need to take them to school and extra-mural activities. There may be times where you feel too tired to do certain things and may require hospitalization.

9) Reassure your child that you will still spend time with them and that you can do other things together, such as playing a quiet board game, reading or watching their favourite TV program. Sometimes parents just want to snuggle up with their children and find out how their day went.

10) Depending on their age and maturity level, it is completely acceptable to share your emotions with your children and this may encourage them to share theirs. It is ok, for example to tell them that you are angry, scared, disappointed or sad that you have cancer.

11) Listen to and answer your children's questions as best as you can, with their age and maturity in mind.

12) As you obtain more information and gain more knowledge as your treatment progresses, relate this information to your children. Ask friends, family, counsellors and medical professionals for help in this regard.

13) Try to keep your families routine as predictable as possible, this will provide you all with a greater sense of security.

14) Parents often worry that their cancer experience will destroy their children's ability to enjoy life in the future, especially if their illness is terminal. Healthcare experts who work with families dealing with cancer have found that children can and do go on to lead normal lives, enjoy themselves and be happy, even if they have to cope with the loss of a parent. Having a parent with cancer is only one part of a child's life and development and does not, by itself, lead to lasting damage in adulthood. It is possible that your children have had many years with you before you were sick and if they are very young, memories of your illness will fade into the background. The essence of parenting is to love your children and make them feel secure, despite the stress that cancer may cause to you and your family.

15) People often believe that if cancer is terminal, it means that it is incurable and that the person is dying. In reality, just because an illness cannot be cured, it doesn't mean that it cannot be treated. In many cases, cancer can be treated long term, whereby the aim is to control the symptoms. Based on the symptoms of physical decline in your body (weight loss, increased pain, and tiredness) and your medical teams guesswork based on past experience, you may be given an idea of how long you are expected to live if you have terminal cancer. Most cancer survivors try to be realistic about their futures and know that their time is limited, while simultaneously trying to focus on the present and live each day to the full. Parents may find it exceptionally difficult to know when or how to prepare their children for death. It is important to have taken some time to come to terms with your own emotions, as much as possible, before you tell your children. Oncology social workers, psychologists and counsellors are trained to assist families facing a serious illness, allow them to assist you in this regard.

16) Children need to be told about their parent's terminal illness, in order to prepare themselves. One of the roles of being a parent is to help our children understand the world and help them deal with the uncertainty of the future. The pain of losing you is likely to be worse if they are not prepared and some children interpret not being told, as being excluded or not an important part of the family. Other children develop the impression that death is so terrible, that they may not know how to cope with it or that they were not told because their parents death was their fault. Be honest with you child and help them make sense of this critical life experience. Because a child's concept of time is often very different from an adults, talk to them gradually and when you know that this will happen in the near future, begin discussing death with your child. Possibly ask them what they understand about your illness and how things are going. Children are generally aware that things have deteriorated and tend to react to what they see and experience.

17) If a parent is terminal, it is extremely difficult to explain the concept of death to a young child, especially if they have been told that treatment will control or get rid of the cancer. You can begin by asking your child, how they think mommy or daddy is doing? Children often sense that the situation is more serious based on how their parent is acting, the way they look and how little they are able to partake in family activities. The first thing that a child needs to understand is that there has been a change in their parent's response to treatment. The doctors have tried their best treatment and medicine but the cancer is not going away. Ask your child what they think this means. Children often have fears that they are too afraid to verbalize, do they think their parent might die? Children, depending on their age, often find it difficult to understand what death means. Explain that when someone dies, it means that you will never see that person physically again, but they will remain in your memories and heart. Young children in particular, may need this conversation repeated several times and they may ask the same questions over and over, as if the conversation had never happened. Although this is a painful process for the adult, it is a gradual process that helps the child to accept the painful truth that they will be living without one parent. Initially children may react with disbelief, they may wonder 'why is this happening to me?', or become angry with the parent who is sick- this is normal. To minimize feelings of abandonment, tell your child what arrangements have been made to provide for their care and security.

For age specific advice on how to tell your children about cancer or in the case of terminal cancer, understand death, see

In the wise and moving words of a wife, mother and breast cancer survivor: "Even when I am weakened, nauseous and fatigued, I cannot stop being my children's mother. I cannot stop loving them, caring about them, fretting about them, working to support their emerging precious selves. But, as I said, my instincts are often denied. I really have had to let so many things go…The things that I normally manage that are part of my normal rhythms as a mother, have fallen by the wayside… Although my parenting has been restricted, i can still check in with my children…It pains me that I can't engage with their concerns and fully protect them from the horror of what is happening to me. They see me and know that I suffer…What I often wonder, is my goal as a parent through this time? How I am I to help the children make sense of this experience? The best I can come up with is that it is my obligation to listen and be as honest and hopeful as I can. I learnt…that there is always something to hope for no matter what course the cancer takes…So this is an opportunity to teach them, in a vivid way, the importance of love, generosity and hope…I hope that they can see how these acts of loving kindness are fundamental to a community and that they will be eager to give to others when the opportunity arises. I hope they see that my appearance can change, but my love for them never does. My love for them endures even in these circumstances…I hope they learn the importance of us sticking together as a family…I hope they learn how to live life with joy, because only if you have been in a difficult place filled with grief do you learn the gift that is health and normalcy to the point where it can bring you true contentment and happiness."

(Replicated from ttp://

Cancer facts:

According to the World Health Organization:

  • There are more than 100 types of cancer, that can affect any area of the body.
  • In 2004, cancer was responsible for 13% of deaths worldwide, this equates to 7.4 million people.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide.
  • More than 70% of all cancer deaths occur in low and middle income countries.
  • Worldwide, the 5 most common cancers that kill men are; lung, stomach, liver, colorectal and oesophagus.
  • Worldwide, the 5 most common cancers that kill women are; breast, lung, stomach, colorectal and cervical.
  • Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer.
  • Cancer is the result of a change in one single cell. The change may be a result of external agents or genetic factors.
  • One fifth of all cancers are caused by infection. The human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer and the hepatitis B virus causes liver cancer.
  • A third of all cancers could be cured if they are detected early and treated adequately.
  • All patients experiencing extreme or chronic pain could be helped, if current knowledge about pain control and palliative care were applied.
  • More than 30% of cancers could be prevented by; stopping tobacco use, engaging in physical activity, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and preventing infections that cause cancer.
  • Deaths from cancer worldwide are predicted to continue their increase, with an estimated 30 million deaths in 2030.



Anal Canal Cancer Support Group

Contact person: Gail Silberman

Tel: 082 600 8901

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Bosom Buddies

Contact person: Christel Klima- 011 787 6443

Tel: 0860 283343

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Breast Health Foundation

Contact person: Louise Turner

Tel: 011 482 9492/ 076 479 0400

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Campaign for Cancer

Fax: 086 684 8187

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Cancer Coping Kit

Contact person: Bev Du Toit- 073 235 1571

Denise Bernstein- 082 454 3950


Tel: 011 648 0990

Add: 19 St John's Rd, Houghton

Can survive Cancer Support Groups

Contacts: Helpline 073 975 1452

Olivier- 083 640 4949

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CHOC- Childhood Cancer Foundation of South Africa

Tel: 0863 111 3500

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Family Cancer Program & Cancer Genetic Clinic

The Division of Human Genetics, School of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Witwatersrand an National Health Laboratory Services

Tel: 011 489 9224

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Hospice Witwatersrand

Tel: 011 483 9100

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50 Second Ave, Houghton

Let's Talk About Cancer

Contact person: Bev Du Toit

Tel: 073 235 1571

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

LifeLine Johannesburg

LifeLine Johannesburg Counselling Line: (011) 728 1347

LifeLine Johannesburg Office: (011) 728 1331



Look Good, Feel Better

Tel: 011 795 3927


Mastique Lingerie

Tel: 071 299 8563

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Mike and Liz Hairpieces

Tel: 011 782 3907/9

Fax: 086 618 1135

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Moments in Time

Tel: 011 465 9815

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PLWC- People Living With Cancer, JHB

Helpline: 073 975 1452

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Reach For Recovery

Contact person: Antoinette Reis

Tel: 011 648 0990

Cell: 072 849 2901

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SA Inherited Disorders Association

Tel/Fax: 011 489 9213

Cell: 084 200 1988

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Special Lady

Office: 011 489 9213

The Sunflower Fund

Toll Free: 0800 12 10 82

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Tel: 021 701 0661


(Replicated from Coping with cancer: resource list Johannesburg- compiled by People Living With Cancer & the Can Survive Cancer Support Group)

International cancer organizations & resources: